Newly launched Plastics Report, grim but offers hope

Quezon City. “Plastics leak toxic chemicals into the environment and cause severe waste problems all over the world.”

“These are the two major problems associated with plastics,” said Cecilia Hedfors of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) during the launch today in Quezon City of a collaborative global report titled “Everything you (don’t) want to know about plastics” which the SSNC prepared, together with the EcoWaste Coalition, ESDO, Groundwork, and Toxics Link.

The report reviewed plastics issues from a national and global perspective, describing their life cycle, from production through the usage, up until disposal as waste, and offered recommendations and hope.

Describing how problematic plastics issues are globally, Hedfors stressed that “It is difficult to determine what plastics to avoid, as well as how to reuse and recycle them, because the additives alone, which may leak from the material, number into the thousands, and list of contents are non-existent.”

Locally, Sonia Mendoza, President of the zero waste advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition, which contributed to the study the Philippine report on plastic bags, said that “even a quick glance at the national plastics situation will merit our continued call for a national plastic bag ban as our only recourse.”

“Among a host of reasons, all efforts to ban the use of plastic bags in the Philippines are intended to address the issue of the perennial garbage disposal that adversely affect the public health, the economy and the environment,” according to the EcoWaste Coalition in the Philippine report.

“Phasing-out plastic bags seeks to prevent and eliminate rather than just manage waste after it has been created. It conserves our natural resource and reduces the need for expensive recycling technologies and the cost of waste management,” the Coalition said in the study.

From a global viewpoint, the following recommendations were put forward by the study:
  • consumption of plastic must be reduced, particularly for disposable plastics. This can be stimulated by legislation,
  • waste disposal systems needs to be developed to shift from landfilling and incineration, towards reuse and recycling,
  • a reduction in the number of mixed materials in plastics would increase the volume of recyclable plastics. This can be stimulated by legislation,
  • regulation of hazardous phthalates, bisphenols and brominated flame retardants in consumer products, and especially of those exposed to children in their everyday life,
  • gradual phasing out of other dangerous additives and components in plastics, listed in the appendix 6 in the report,
  • introduction of mandatory contents lists on plastic products.
Locally, the Philippine Report had as its specific recommendations the following:
  • A national plastic bag ban that will phase-out all kinds of plastic bags;
  • Promote reusable bags and other alternative bags using natural fibers;
  • Promote and develop the market for recycled products, including reusable bags, to improve demands for alternative and eco-friendly products;
  • Espouse take-back/collection mechanisms and recycling;
  • Support LGUs in their waste management initiatives; and
  • Impose environmental levy on plastic bags to support environmental education initiatives and activities.
The report showed that the current use of plastics is not sustainable, but offered hope by saying, “there is great potential to improve the current situation.”

The launching of the plastics report included a workshop on plastics and chemical pollution, as well as demonstration activities on plastic recycling and reuse. It was participated in by more than 50 individuals representing different NGOs and government offices, and individual guests.