Environmentalists Cite Manila City Council for Early “Christmas Gift” to Mother Nature

(Froilan Grate)

Zero waste advocates gave a resounding thumbs up to the Manila City Council for pulling the plug on unchecked consumption and disposal of plastic bags and polystyrene containers.

On Tuesday, July 31, the City Council approved on third and final reading City Ordinance 7393 banning the use of plastic bags for dry goods and regulating their use for wet goods, while also banning the use of polystyrene and similar materials for food, produce and other products.

As soon as the presiding officer, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, banged the gavel and announced the adoption of the ordinance, representatives of the EcoWaste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation, Zero Waste Philippines and Bukluran, proudly carrying some bayong, honored and thanked the councilors with a standing ovation.

They later gave the handwoven bayong made of palm leaves and water hyacinth to Vice Mayor Moreno and the councilors as token of their appreciation for Manila’s environmental action.

Sponsored by Councilors Jocelyn Dawis-Asuncion, Cristina Isip, Numero Lim and Ma. Sheilah Lacuna-Pangan and co-sponsored by 34 other councilors, the ordinance will take effect one year after Mayor Alfredo Lim has signed it.

“We congratulate the people of Manila and their elected representatives for passing the ordinance, which is undeniably an early Christmas gift to Mother Nature. By nipping wasteful consumption in the bud, we give a new lease of life to our plastic-strewn surroundings, creeks and rivers and to Manila Bay itself,” said Sonia Mendoza, Chairperson of the Mother Earth Foundation.

For his part, Edwin Alejo, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “City Ordinance 7393 will greatly reduce the volume of plastic and polystyrene garbage that fills the bins and dumps, clogs our drainage, renders our water bodies biologically dead, and poses danger to humans and animals, too. Hats off to the Manila City Council for seriously advocating for environmental stewardship through waste avoidance and reduction.”

Alejo added that consumers should really rethink their use of plastic bags to protect the environment from further degradation.

“If one consumer will stop using plastic bags and use reusable bags instead, he or she can save over 20,000 plastic bags in his/her lifetime. Aside from helping protect the environment, this would also mean greater financial savings for consumers and taxpayers who unknowingly pay for every plastic bag used and discarded, including the costs for their cleanup and disposal.”

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the success of Las Pinas City in reducing their waste volume by 37% through the strong-willed implementation of their “Plastic Regulation Ordinance,” combined with values formation campaign on the benefits of waste reduction, segregation at source and recycling.

For Ofelia Panganiban of Zero Waste Philippines, City Ordinance 7393 has the potential of unleashing people’s ingenuity and creativity in finding ecological replacements for the ubiquitous plastic bags and styro containers.

“The ban, we hope, will lead to a greater awareness about our shared responsibility to protect our environment and boost the culture of creatively reusing what we have and reducing what we throw away to the bare minimum,” she said.

Panganiban noted that convenient carry bags can be fashioned out of used shirts and pants, old bed sheets, blankets and pillow cases, empty flour and rice sacks and even retired school bags.

City Ordinance 7393 has tasked the city government to promote a “Bring Your Own Bayong/Bag,” or BYOB campaign, and the use of indigenous materials for plastic bag replacements.

The ordinance also prohibits business establishments from offering or selling plastic bags as primary or secondary packaging for dry goods, and further disallows barangay collection of discarded plastics unless these are first cleaned and dried.


Note: According to http://www.plasticpledge.org/, each individual uses 22,176 bags in an average lifetime.