EcoWaste Coalition Backs UNEP’s Call to Ban Plastic Bags

Quezon City. A local waste and pollution watchdog has joined a top United Nations official in calling for a ban or phase out of single-use plastic due to the dangers they pose to the marine environment. The EcoWaste Coalition expressed unity with the plea made by Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), in conjunction with the World Oceans Day, who said that “single-use plastic bags which choke marine life should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere,” stressing that “there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them any more, anywhere.”

“We are one with UNEP and the ocean conservation groups in pressing for bold global and local action to save our marine ecosystems from further destruction due to plastic bags, cigarette butts and other garbage,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said. “Knowing that prevention is more effective and less costly than remedial action, we urge the government to impose an immediate phase out on single-use plastic bags to protect the oceans and spur lifestyle change,” he said. The EcoWaste Coalition last Monday proposed to the National Solid Waste Management Commission to phase out and ban single-use plastic products and packaging that have low or non-existing recycling levels. The call for banning the ubiquitous plastic bags comes amid a new report that names plastic as the number one marine litter, which poses hazards “because it persists so long, degrading into tinier and tinier bits that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web.” UNEP and the Ocean Conservancy released on June 8 the report “Marine Litter: A Global Challenge,” which drew attention to the “environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problem” caused by marine litter. Marine litter as defined in the report is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment. The report’s findings indicate that despite several international, regional and national efforts to reverse marine pollution, alarming quantities of rubbish thrown out to sea continue to endanger people’s safety and health, entrap wildlife, damage nautical equipment and deface coastal areas around the world.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has been actively campaigning for “bayong” and other reusable alternatives to replace disposable bags, will mobilize concerned groups and individuals to urge the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to act on UNEP’s plea. “We will launch a signature drive that will petition the government to unilaterally ban plastic bags, promote ecological substitutes and practices, and incorporate marine litter prevention and reduction in the national solid waste management strategy,” Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said. The major land-based sources of marine litter, according to the UNEP report, include wastes from dumpsites located on the coast or banks of rivers; rivers and floodwaters; industrial outfalls; discharge from storm water drains; untreated municipal sewerage; littering of beaches and coastal picnic and recreation areas; tourism and recreational use of the coasts; fishing industry activities; ship-breaking yards; and natural storm related events. The major sea-based sources of marine litter include shipping (merchant, public transport, pleasure, naval and research vessels) and fishing (vessels, angling and fish farming) activities; offshore mining and extraction (vessels, and oil and gas platforms); legal and illegal dumping at sea; abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear; and natural disasters. “We now know how the pervasive plastic pollution is killing or maiming the wildlife, ruining the beaches and threatening the livelihood of our fishers and coastal communities. The time for decisive and vigorous action is now,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.