Amid calls to end drug-related killings, a waste and pollution watch group has called attention to another type of “killing” that has to stop now.
The EcoWaste Coalition, in observance of the National Cleanup Month, asked the government, industry and the citizenry to stop the killing of the world’s oceans, citing the dumping of millions of tons of plastic waste that is contaminating the marine ecosystems and lethally threatening aquatic organisms.
To prevent plastics and other discards from spilling from land to water courses and bodies, the group advocating for a zero waste and a toxic-free Philippines called for the genuine enforcement of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
The group pressed for the active implementation of R.A. 9003 as the Manila Bay Coastal Cleanup and Brand Audit organized by various green groups gets underway from September 11 to 20 at the Freedom Island in Parañaque City.
The nine-day cleanup and audit is organized by the Break Free from Plastic Movement, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, Samahan ng mga Nananambakan sa Dumpsite Area, Samahan ng Muling Pagkabuhay Multi-Purpose Cooperative, and other groups.
“As we help in picking up the garbage along the polluted coastline of Manila Bay, we want to call attention to the urgent need to enforce R.A. 9003 in all local government units (LGUs) and component barangays to curb global plastic pollution that is killing the oceans,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coaltion.
R.A. 9003, among a long list of prohibitions, forbids and penalizes littering, open burning, open dumping, the manufacture, distribution or use of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials, and the importation of toxic wastes misrepresented as “recyclable.”
“The national and local governments, businesses and industries and all other waste generators, including the households, must strive for the ‘adoption of best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management excluding incineration’ as required by R.A. 9003 and as recommended by the United Nations,” she emphasized.
“A national legislation banning single-use plastic bags and mainstreaming eco- alternatives is one of the key environmental policies that the country needs to adopt,” she pointed out.
The United Nations Environment Assembly, which includes the Philippines as represented by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), had pointed out that “(waste) prevention and the environmentally sound management of waste are keys to long-term success in combating marine pollution.”
The UN Environment (formerly the United Nations Environment Programme) had also recommended a ban or phase-out of thin film, single use plastic bags that choke marine life.
The EcoWaste Coalition lamented that the 16-year old R.A. 9003 remains poorly enforced with many LGUs failing to halt acts prohibited under the law from the ubiquitous littering to the non-closure of polluting dumpsites, and falling short of higher waste diversion targets.
For example, Metro Manila, which spends billions of pesos for garbage hauling and disposal, has a waste diversion rate of only 37%. Waste diversion covers activities such as segregation at source, recycling, composting and other practices that reduce or eliminate the amount of wastes sent to disposal facilities.
According to the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), the metropolis produces 9,499 tons of waste per day with per capita generation estimated at 0.265 to 1 kilo/person daily.
Metro Manila’s waste is comprised biodegradable (44.32%), recyclable (31.64%), residuals (23.68) and special (0.36%) wastes.
Plastics constitute 17.86% of waste generated in Metro Manila as per the MMDA’s Waste Analysis and Characterization Study.