FOOD and plastic groups have called for cooperation among the government, business and consumers to solve the country’s perennial plastic waste problem in a holistic way.
During the 3rd General Membership Meeting of the Philippine Chamber of Food Manufacturers, Inc. (PCFMI) held recently in Pasay City, PCFMI Chairman and President Elizabeth M. De Leon-Lim emphasized that plastic wastes are an urgent environmental issue that concerns everybody.
“We believe that collaborative and collective actions toward the complex and urgent issue of plastic wastes are necessary, requiring the involvement of all stakeholders in the public and the private sectors,” she said.
Plastic materials have brought immense convenience to the peoples’ lives. Nevertheless, they have contibuted also to the crisis the world faces at present—the climate change.
Citing the Geyer, Jambeck, and Law study in 2017, Philippine Plastics Industry Association (PPIA) President Vicente Co Lee revealed that the world produces more than 400 million tons of plastics annually, and 36 percent of which are used in packaging.
For food manufacturers, Lim said that they recognize the importance of packaging that provides consumers “safe, high quality products that have reasonable shelf lives, and are affordable,” especially in the kind of economy the Philippines has.
“Therefore, we must exercise due care in the search for packaging alternatives,” she said.
At present, the use of biodegradable plastic bag is widely enforced in the country, alongside the paper bag as an alternative, given the various environmental policies in place on both national and local scale.
Contrary to the rational of these policies, their ecological effects were disputed by a study of the De La Salle University in 2016.
Based on the research dubbed “Life Cycle Assessment of Carrying Bags Options For Metro Manila”, reusable (non-woven) bags have the least impact on the environment, followed by plastic.
Paper has the highest score per its effect and contributes a lot to flooding than plastic, it added.
Despite the results, paper remains popular as a better alternative than biodgeradable bag and plastic.
“It’s not for the plastic industry to [dictate]. We’re just here to present reality,” he said of the DLSU study. “It’s just a conscious decision of the consumer. Again, the best solution, of course, is not to waste any packaging, whether it’s paper, reusable bag, plastic, or even bottles.”
The PPIA president stressed that a ban or policy reforms are not the solutions to get rid of plastics.
“It’s not needed yet. They have to be implemented thoroughly and more data should be gathered before we decide on what to change [in existing environment laws and ordinances],” Lee said.
He also sees no reason for amendments in legislations even if their industry attributed them to the 20 percent decrease on demand for plastic over the past recent years.
“That’s the reality. So we have just to adjust,” Lee said, conceding that while some plastic manufacturers had closed shop some now also produce paper bags.
Addressing the country’s solid waste problem is here to stay, but for Lim, the ways to deal with it are on hand and that should be taken by all the stakeholders.
“There is a need for various efforts: To innovate with regards to packaging materials; to level up solid waste management with a circular approach that includes collection, recovery, and recycling; and to embrace attitudes and behaviors that eventually will bring about a waste-free environment,” she said.