EcoWaste Coalition Urges Filipinos to Help Duterte Government - One Bag at a Time

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watch group on chemicals and wastes, urged the public to support the effort of the Duterte government to protect the ecosystems by simply saying “no bag, please.”

As the International Plastic Bag Free Day is observed today, the group rallied the people to shun disposable bags to reduce plastic garbage and pollution that will surely eat up a huge chunk of the government’s budget.

“Shifting from disposable to reusable bags will substantially cut the waste volume and save hundreds of millions of pesos in disposal costs, which can be diverted to improve public services for the people,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“In lieu of plastic or paper bags, we request the public to keep a stack of bags and containers that can be reused over and over again rather than becoming litter in the streets or the oceans,” she suggested.

“The government can help the public move away from disposable to reusable bags by banning the giving of plastic bags for free and by banning plastic carry bags, particularly the single-use, nationally,” she added.

The group cited figures from the National Solid Waste Management Commission’s website showing the projected waste generation in 2016 at 40,087 tons per day for the entire country and 9,213 tons per day for Metro Manila.  Plastics constitute at least 25 per cent of the generated wastes.

To give an idea as to the costs involved, the group cited a Commission on Audit report indicating that Metro Manila’s local government units spent over P4 billion pesos for solid waste management in 2012.  Metro Manila’s waste generation then was 8,601 tons per day.

“This does not include the tens of millions of pesos used by the Metro Manila Development Authority year in and year out to de-clog our esteros of plastic waste and other rubbish, which comes from the agency’s own budget allotment,” Tolentino clarified.

“There is no estimate as to how much is spent to get rid of the plastic discards polluting our beaches and coastlines,” she added.

The EcoWaste Coalition also expressed concern over the spillage of plastic trash in the rivers, seas and the oceans, warning that “the plasticization of our waterways and water bodies is a disturbing reality for our fish-eating nation where fishing is also a major source of livelihood.”

Tolentino recalled that a 2014 waste audit conducted at the Manila Bay by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace and the Mother Earth Foundation showed that plastic materials was 61.9 percent of the discards collected, with plastic bags topping the list at 23.2 percent and followed by composites or plastic wrappers at 18.8 percent.

The group said that a recently-published study by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation has indicated there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 unless the world takes action.

The group further expressed serious concern over the consumption by marine organisms, who mistake them for food, of minute pieces of plastic containing extremely toxic substances.

According to the report “Contaminants in Marine Plastic Pollution: ‘The New Toxic Time-Bomb’ by the National Toxics Network of Australia, “marine plastics and in particular microplastics, provide a global transport medium for the most toxic chemicals into the marine food chain and ultimately, to humans,” including persistent bioaccumulative toxins (PBTs) and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, “plastic waste causes financial damage of US$13 billion to marine ecosystems each year.”