Banning single-use plastics to solve PH pollution problem

By Catherine Teves

March 15, 2021, 5:26 pm

MANILA – Climate Change Commission (CCC) Commissioner Rachel Anne Herrera sees the need to harmonize parameters for banning single-use plastics (SUPs) nationwide to better address pollution linked to these disposable items.

"I think it's urgent there should be a national policy on this," she said.

She said some 489 cities, municipalities and provinces in the country already have respective SUP-related ordinances.

Such ordinances, however, may be covering different kinds of SUPs so what is banned in some areas might not be prohibited in others, she noted.

That makes it difficult to address pollution particularly as SUPs may end up in waterways that usually traverse to different LGUs -- transporting such items possibly to where these are banned, she continued.

"There should be uniform, unified, collaborative approach so everyone gets benefits of the plastics regulation or ban," she said.

She urged LGUs to continue addressing the SUP problem in respective areas of jurisdiction while awaiting the national policy on these.

Tackling Plastic Pollution' is the theme of this year's World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), an annual President John F. Kennedy-inspired observance that puts the spotlight on consumers' power, rights and needs.

This year's WCRD observance on March 15 aims to help raise awareness about plastic pollution and engage the world's consumers on adopting and promoting sustainable practices to help address such problem, noted Consumers International (CI), the global consumer group membership organization that announced such theme.

“Plastic pollution is one of the most pressing issues facing our planet," CI Director General Helena Leurent said in her 2021 WCRD message.

Among common SUPs are plastic grocery bags, bottles, straws, containers, cups, cutlery as well as packaging for food and other merchandise.

Some 95 percent to 99 percent of plastics used are made of petrochemicals, noted Herrera.

Continuously producing plastics won't help the country reduce its emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), she said.

Experts said GHG emissions accumulate in the atmosphere and trap heat, raising global temperature that changes climate.

Increasing frequency of extreme weather events as well as rising sea level and temperature are climate change's impacts on the Philippines, they said.

Studies show sachet packages are among the top SUPs polluting the Philippines.

Herrera noted in 2019 alone, the country used and disposed about 164 million sachets.

"It's really a big problem," she said.

Aside from polluting the environment, she said plastics threaten health as well.

Plastics break down into microplastics or fragments of plastic which fish and other aquatic species can ingest, said experts.

They warned humans in turn ingest such microplastics by eating fish contaminated with these fragments.

Chemicals in microplastics can harm health, they noted.

Citing data in the "Breaking the Plastic Wave" report released last year, CI earlier said flow of plastics into oceans will triple by 2040 if there won't be major changes in relevant policies, innovation and behavior.

Studies also show by 2050, there may be more plastics than fish in oceans already, noted CI.

Some eight million tons of plastics reach oceans annually, CI continued.

"Tackling plastic pollution is a global challenge which requires coordinated, international solutions," CI said.

According to CI, President Kennedy's March 15, 1962 special message to the US Congress inspired annual observance of WCRD.

CI said in that message, Mr. Kennedy addressed the issue of consumer rights.

"He was the first world leader to do so," CI noted.

The consumer movement in 1983 first marked the date when President Kennedy delivered his special consumer rights-related message, CI said.

Mr. Kennedy served as US President from 1961 until his assassination in 1963. (PNA