3 July 2019, Quezon City. Beauty queens and grassroots activists for environmental protection today marked the 10th International Plastic Bag Free Day with a joint appeal to replace single use plastics (SUPs) such as plastic bags with eco-friendly alternatives.
To raise awareness on the environmental impacts of SUPs and the need to embrace change, the EcoWaste Coalition, Miss Earth Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation, Cavite Green Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Sagip Pasig Movement and the Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal ng Scrap sa Capulong went to Farmers Market in Quezon City to encourage consumers and vendors alike to ditch the ubiquitous plastic bags and other SUPs, which are often used for a few minutes but can last and pollute the environment for up to 1,000 years.
Joining community activists in promoting bayong and other reusable substitutes to plastic bags were Miss Air Philippines 2018 Zahra Bianca Saldua and Miss Water Philippines 2018 Berjayneth Chee.
“It’s high time for all sectors of the society to break our craving for plastic bags and other single-use disposables that have become a bane for the environment, especially our oceans which are now choking with macro and microplastic waste,” said Chee.
According to scientists, “there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic debris in the ocean. Of that mass, 269,000 tons float on the surface, while some four billion plastic microfibers per square kilometer litter the deep sea.”
“Aside from polluting the oceans, plastic bags that end up being burned or buried in disposal facilities also emit harmful pollutants that can contaminate the air we breathe and the soil where we grow our food, posing threats to human health,” added Saldua.
According to the report “Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet,” all plastic waste management technologies “lead to direct and indirect exposure to toxic substances for workers and nearby communities, including through inhalation of contaminated air, direct contact with contaminated soil or water, and ingestion of foods that were grown in an environment polluted with these substances.”
“Toxins from emissions, fly ash, and slag in a burn pile can travel long distances and deposit in soil and water, eventually entering human bodies after being accumulated in the tissues of plants and animals,” the report said.
For her part, zero waste campaigner Ochie Tolentino of the EcoWaste Coalition challenged national and local governments to ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and use of single-use disposable plastics to stem the “plasticization” of the environment.
“National and local authorities need to enact aggressive measures to fight plastic pollution that will hopefully bring about deep changes in the way producers and consumers think, behave and live,” said Tolentino.
“We urge the 18th Congress to end the production and consumption of SUPs by enacting a national law complete with an ambitious phase-out plan toward a society free of SUPs such as plastic bags, straws, stirrers, cutlery and polystyrene beverage and food containers,” added Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation.
While pushing for behavioral and policy reforms, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Mother Earth Foundation also emphasized the need for industries to switch to sustainable packaging, design toxic chemical additives out of processes and products, and assume full responsibility for the retrieval and recycling of their goods at the end of the product life cycle.
The Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the Mother Earth Foundation are members of the Break Free from Plastic Movement, a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution.