The EcoWaste Coalition and allied groups specifically proposed concerted action to curb crass consumerism as manifested in the thoughtless use and disposal of plastic bags and other single-use packaging materials.
“Typhoon Ondoy taught us in a deeply painful and costly way that practices which defile and destroy the ecosystems have no place in our fragile planet and should stop,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Our addiction to plastic bags and to everything that is disposable has exacerbated the effects of the epic flood and made the post-Ondoy cleanup most difficult,” he said.
“By switching from disposable plastic bags to reusable bags and containers, we will dramatically cut our waste size, and clean out our waterways and dumpsites, which are bursting at the seams,” he stressed.
In lieu of plastic bags, green advocates recommend the use of practical reusable alternatives to plastic bags, including the “bayong” and other baskets made of biodegradable plant materials such as anahaw, bamboo, buri, coconut, isay, kalagimay, nipa, rattan and water lily.
In addition, consumers can buy or even design and sew their own reusable bags from used materials such as rice sacks, flour bags, old curtains and worn out clothes, they added.
“In remembrance of all the people who perished and suffered from the onslaught of Ondoy, we appeal to all Filipinos, consumers and retailers alike, to break the plastic habit and embrace a plastic bag-free and Zero Waste lifestyle,” said Gigie Cruz of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastic.
“We further ask the authorities to act now on our petition to forbid single-use plastic bags and not wait for the next Ondoy to strike,” she added.
In June 2009, over 100 groups and individuals signed a petition asking the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to declare a unilateral phase out of “thin film single use plastic bags to stop the plastic invasion of the environment.”
The petition initiated by the EcoWaste Coalition followed the plea by Dr. Achim Steiner, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme, to phase out or ban “thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life.”
The much-sought action versus plastic bags, the petitioners said, will have direct and meaningful environmental, climate, economic and cultural benefits.
These benefits will include the: 1) protection of the coral reefs and all marine animals from plastic litter, 2) reduction in the release of greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other harmful chemicals associated with the production, consumption and disposal of plastic bags, and 3) reversal of the “plasticization” of our lifestyle with the increased promotion and adoption of eco-friendly and non-toxic choices.
A survey jointly conducted by EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace volunteers in 2006 revealed that plastic bags and other synthetic packaging materials comprised 76 percent of the four cubic meters of garbage retrieved from Manila Bay.
Out of the 76 percent, 51 percent were plastic carry bags, 19 percent junk food wrappers and sachets, 5 percent styrofoams and one percent hard plastics. The rest of the recovered trash were rubber at 10 percent and biodegradable wastes 13 percent.