“A ‘divorce from the bag’ is the way to go if the country is serious about ‘solid waste avoidance and volume reduction through source reduction and waste minimization measures,’ which is among the policies enshrined in the almost 15-year old Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003,” expressed Sonia Mendoza, President of EcoWaste Coalition.
“Plastic bags are a headache when you look at it from a zero waste perspective,” she continued.
“One is because after you are done managing the other waste types, one still wonders what am I to do with these plastic bags?,” she lamented.
The coalition quickly pointed out the following, among many reasons, when asked why do away with plastic bags:
a) Plastic bag use encourages the throw-away habit, which is among the enemies of zero waste.
b) Plastic bags remain among the top 10 discards found in beaches all over the world, according to Ocean Conservancy’s 2014 international coastal clean-up report.
c) Plastic bags do not bio-degrade. They simply break down to tiny plastic bits which readily soak up toxins, then contaminate soil, waterways, and animals upon digestion.
d) Plastic bags are hardly recycled. Environmental Protection Agency estimated that in the United States alone, of the 3,960,000 tons of plastic bags, sack and wraps produced in 2008, 90% (3,570,000 tons) were thrown away.
e) Plastic bags cannot truly be recycled, rather, they are merely downcycled into products that are of low quality, necessitating the destructive extraction of more virgin materials to make new ones.
f) Environmentally acceptable alternative bags are not hard to find. Reusable bags, like cloth bags and the good ol’ “bayong”, can eliminate thousands of plastic bags. Estimates have it that plastic bag consumption worldwide lies somewhere between 500 billion and 1 trillion pieces annually, almost a million every minute.
“However you look at it, plastic bags suit the title non-environmentally acceptable packaging,” Mendoza exclaimed.
RA 9003 enjoins the National Solid Waste Management Commission in Section 29 to prepare a list of non-environmentally acceptable products/packaging (NEAP) for prohibition according to a schedule 1 year from the effectivity of the law.
“More than 13 years after, the NSWMC sadly has not produced any such NEAP list, where plastic bags fit very well,” emphasized Mendoza.
For 3 years already, in 2006, 2010, and 2014, surveys of Manila Bay’s trash conducted by EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, and Mother Earth Foundation continued to show that plastics topped the list of the bay’s marine debris, majority of which are plastic bags.
“Our 2014 survey of Manila Bay debris showed that plastics topped the list at 61.9%, of which plastic bags comprised the top 23.2%,” declared Mendoza.
“Independence from plastic bags is what this country needs among others,” she said.
It’s a relief that many continue to get into the list of local governments which have decided to do away with plastic bags,” she added.