Plastic Bag Levy to Sway Consumers to Opt for Reusable Bags

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog expressed support for a bold legislative measure that will hopefully change consumer behavior and lead to reduced consumption and disposal of plastic bags.

House Bill 4134 filed by Albay representative Al Francis Bichara, if enacted, will make free plastic bags a thing of the past with the imposition of an environmental levy of P2.50 per plastic bag issued by retail outlets.

“While we find P2.50 disproportionate to the environmental and climate impacts of plastic bags, we welcome the proposed levy as this will regulate the unrestrained use of plastic bags and encourage consumers to switch to reusable bags and containers,” Anne Larracas of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics said

The plastic bag levies, as proposed by HB 4134, will accrue to the “Environmental Protection Support Fund” that will, among others, finance pollution prevention and reduction projects.

“The revenues from the collected levies on plastic bags, we hope, will be used to support ecological solutions to the waste and climate crisis, particularly in setting up community-oriented ecology centers or materials recovery facilities in place of polluting dumpsites and landfills,” Larracas added.

The EcoWaste Coalition referred to the success of Ireland in dramatically reducing plastic bag pollution with the introduction of the plastic bag levy in March 2002.

Citing information obtained from the website of Ireland’s Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that plastic bag per capita usage in the country dropped by over 90% from 328 bags to 21 when the levy took effect. Before the levy commenced, retail shops gave out more than 1.2 billion plastic bags free of charge to consumers or 328 bags per person per year.

The latest available data from the National Litter Monitoring Report of Ireland indicate that plastic litter, which used to account 5% of litter, dropped to only 0.22% (a decrease of over 95%) when the levy when into operation.

Revenues to date amount to over 80 million Euros, or a whopping 5.5 billion pesos, from the 15 cents (approximately 10 pesos) levy per plastic bag. The levy was increased to 22 cents (about 15 pesos) in July 2007.

The plastic bag levies contribute to the Environment Fund created under the Waste Management Act of Ireland, which is then used to support environment-friendly initiatives, including the implementation of waste prevention, reduction and recovery schemes, the enforcement of waste regulations, the prevention of litter and the promotion of environmental
awareness among the citizenry.

A survey on Irish attitudes and actions on the environment in 2003 further shows that 90% of shoppers used reusable or long life bags, 6% cardboard boxes, 4% plastic bags and 1% used other means to carry goods bought, indicating the law’s success in influencing consumer behavior.

“We know how slow the legislative process is and how vested interests can block progressive legislation. We hope that HB 4134 will be duly debated by the 14th Congress and even made bolder and stronger, with inputs from the civil society and other stakeholders, to effectively curb plastic bag pollution,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

A discards survey by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace Southeast Asia in 2006 showed that 76% of the garbage floating in Manila Bay were mostly synthetic plastic materials, with plastic bags comprising 51%, sachets and junk food wrappers 19%, Styrofoams 5% and hard plastics 1%. The rest were rubber 10% and biodegradable discards 13%.

For now, the EcoWaste Coalition urges consumers to say no to plastic bags and switch to reusable bayong and other reusable bags for the sake of the environment that has long been suffocating from plastic litter.

For more information about the Irish plastic bag levy, please log on to:

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376