Aside from practising physical distancing to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, an environmental health group reminded market-goers to make it a habit to bring reusable bags and containers for their essential purchases during the enhanced community quarantine.
“Please bring reusable bags for dry goods, and reusable containers for wet goods whenever you go to the public market or supermarket,” reminded Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, “to reduce your use and disposal of paper and plastic disposables during the COVID-19 health crisis.”
Bayong, tote bags and other do it yourself (DIY) reusable carry bags can be used for fruits, vegetables, grains, canned and bottled goods and other dry purchases, while pails, casserole pots, coolers and ice cream containers can be used for meat, poultry and fish.
The group aired its latest plea for reusable bags and containers after finding lead, a toxic metal, in some brands of single-use plastic (SUPs) bags that are also used as containers for food.
“A chemical screening conducted by our group prior to the COVID-19 lockdown found lead in the range of 184 to 3,485 parts per million (ppm) in 17 out of 39 brands of locally-manufactured yellow plastic sando bags,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
The samples were obtained on March 4 to 6 from various packaging stores located within and around the public markets in Divisoria, Paco, Pritil and Quiapo in the City of Manila, and subsequently screened for lead using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.
According to the XRF screening, plastic bag brands bearing the names Alas, Bandera Saturn, Centrum, Genius, Mercury, Palengke Queen, Pinoy Brothers, Runner, Season, Shure Finest, Sonic, Star Bucks, Swimmer, Tulip, Unique, Victory and White Dove contained lead above 100 ppm. Mercury had the highest lead content at 3,485 ppm.
Plastic bag brands ABC, Aqua Boy, Bandera Sun Moon, Bandera Tamaraw, Bees, Bio, Bizon, Calypso Walrus, Cheetah, Comet, Donewell, Fortuner, JR, Jumper, Mr. Divisoria, Shure Ultra, Snowbird, Speed, Starbag, Super Sonik, Supra and Top Place had low or non-detectable levels of lead.
“The low or non-detectable levels of lead on some plastic bags do not make them any better,” Dizon clarified.
“The uncontrolled production, sale, use and disposal of these SUPs, which are petroleum-based products, contribute to global warming and climate change hurting poor communities and countries the most,” he said.
According to the group, the production and sale of lead-containing plastic bags goes against DENR Administrative Order 2013-024, also known as the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which prohibits the use of lead in the manufacturing of food and beverage packaging, particularly for packaging that comes directly in contact with food.
The group also cited Article 11 of the EU Packaging Directive, which provides a limit of 100 ppm by weight for the sum of four restricted metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in packaging or packaging components.
“Our findings add to the growing body of evidence showing plastic bags are a threat to human health and the environment because of the many chemicals, including hazardous substances such as lead, that make them up,” Dizon pointed out.
“Now more than ever, we see the need for a comprehensive policy banning throw-away plastic bags to reduce their manufacture, prevent chemical and waste pollution and ensure the successful implementation of such a policy nationwide, while non-toxic reusable bags are actively promoted and supported,” Benosa concluded.