Plastic widely used in DENR’S own backyard
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has joined the campaign against single-use plastic items, but in its own backyard, plastic is still widely used, the Inquirer has learned.
Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu urged the public to avoid using products in single-use plastic packaging, such as PET (polyethylene terephthalate) water or soda bottles and grocery bags that, he said, largely contributed to the pollution of the world’s waterways.
“It is high time we refrain from using disposable plastic products that are used for minutes, but persist in the environment forever,” Cimatu said in a statement.
But at the canteen inside the DENR central office in Diliman, Quezon City, food items in plastic packaging are widely sold. Vendors said they were not informed about the department’s latest campaign.
‘Beat Plastic Pollution’
The DENR said it had stepped up its campaign in line with the observance of June as Environment Month in the Philippines, pursuant to Proclamation No. 237. This year’s theme for World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution.”
The Philippines ranked third, next to China and Indonesia, among countries with the highest ocean plastic pollution, according to a 2015 study conducted by the University of Georgia in the United States.
Cimatu appealed to businesses to eliminate single-use plastic packaging, especially with the onset of the rainy season in the country.
“Plastics are nonbiodegradable, which means that they do not decay and become absorbed by the environment. Once discarded, plastic is likely to end up in oceans after being washed down rivers, flushed down toilets, or windblown from dumps,” he said.
Cimatu said manufacturers and food outlets could reduce plastic waste by using reusable alternatives, such as eco-friendly tumblers and ecobags.
But its own canteen personnel seemed unaware of the DENR’s “beat plastic” campaign.
They still sell food packs in single-use plastic containers and to-go rice meal packs at the canteen.
Drinks, such as purified water, flavored soda and juices, are also sold in single-use plastic bottles. Outside the canteen, however, is a bin for recyclable PET bottles.
“We have not been told this is already prohibited, so we continue using them. Besides, where are we supposed to put the food we sell?” said one crew member.
No national law
Director Eligio Ildefonso, chief of the solid waste management division of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), said the DENR could not impose the eradication of single-use plastics because of the absence of a national law.
The EMB is still holding public consultations with various sectors regarding the crafting of a proposed law banning plastics, he said.
A number of cities and towns across the country, however, have passed ordinances banning plastics in their localities, Ildefonso said.
In an effort to contribute to the no-plastic campaign, he said employees at the DENR central office were being encouraged to bring their own food containers or reusable water bottles.
“Sadly, not everyone is cooperating,” he said.
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