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59.7B sachets may soon flood Metro

Coalition warns that lack of laws reducing consumption of single-use plastics may leave residents drowning in garbage

MANILA, Philippines — If policymakers do not push for a legislative agenda to reduce consumption of single-use plastics, Metro Manila will soon be drowning in 59.7 billion plastic sachets, a coalition of environmental groups has warned.

A plastic waste generation data report from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) showed that daily, the Philippines generated more than 163 million sachets, 48 million carrier bags, 45 million translucent or film bags and 3 million disposable diapers.

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The total number of sachets generated in a year alone could leave Metro Manila’s 63,600 hectares under a foot deep of sachets, said Beau Baconguis, GAIA regional plastics coordinator who presented the report during a forum in Quezon City on Friday.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate pledged to prioritize the zero waste vision in the 18th Congress, but he said he would need to build alliances with similar-minded legislators.

“We hope we can craft legislative measures to protect our environment. We really have to confront this problem because some of our legislators, even the executive [department], have been circumventing existing laws because they benefit from the garbage and plastic problem,” he added.

Incineration not the solution

For Paul Connett, an American environmental chemistry and toxicology expert, incineration was not a sustainable solution to the country’s waste disposal problem.

Connett said that there were associated risks that could arise from current waste incinerator proposals in Cebu, Davao, Baguio and Quezon City.

“If a politician in the Philippines talks about sustainability, talks about the need to shift to a circular economy, he cannot and should not talk about incineration. That’s pretty straightforward,” he stressed.

Connett instead pushed for community responsibility—or practicing reduce, reuse, recycle/compost—and industrial responsibility, which includes redesigning the processing and packaging of products.

“The trend in the 21st century is not to find better ways to destroy discarded materials but to stop making packaging and products that have to be destroyed—and that is the central message of zero waste,” he said.

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Connett is in the country for a week-long lecture series on emerging technologies on zero waste management, which aims to engage lawmakers, local officials, lawyers and academicians on the issue.

Devastating effect

“It’s not a question of going to Manila Bay and taking all the plastics out there and taking them to a landfill to be fed to incinerators. No. The solution is to stop making plastics which have no value and will only end up in rivers—to devastating effect,” he said.

Glenn Ymata, senior campaign manager of No Burn Pilipinas, said they welcomed the pronouncement of local chief executives in Manila, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas and Pasay to prioritize waste management in their respective areas.

“We have high hopes that these newly elected mayors will uphold the Ecological Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act in their pursuit to address the garbage woes. We also hope the others will follow suit and not succumb to quick fix and false solutions being peddled by companies proposing waste-to-energy incineration facilities in the country,” he added.

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TAGS: GAIA, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, plastic sachets, plastics pollution, single-use plastics
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