Threats to public health and environment listed

In file photo: Barangay staffer Mercedes Balangui, 52, at the Barangay Ugong, Valenzuela City materials recovery facility with a collection of plastic wastes under May Balik! Sa Plastik

Glass, metal and plastic straws pose huge threats to public health and environment and have been listed as top candidates for inclusion in the list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAP).

During a public consultation organized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) last January 2, Reynaldo Esguerra of the Department of Science and Technology-Industrial Technology Development Institute (DOST-ITDI) presented the results of a study conducted from October to December 2020 that focuses on the assessment of single-use plastic straws.

The DOST is a member of the National Solid Waste Management Council (NSWMC), which is tasked to come up with a NEAP as mandated by Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2001.

Straws are commonly used for soft drinks and coffee stirrers and its equivalent alternative materials.

A commonly used and better alternative for glass, metals or plastic straws are now available. Some nongovernment organizations and environmental groups are also introducing bamboo or paper straws.

Titled “Findings on the Assessment Conducted on Certain Products for Inclusion in the Non-Environmentally Acceptable Products List,” the study came up with a the rapid risk assessment on four items—glass straws, metal straws, plastic straws and paper straws.

Glass straws posed the highest score with 25 points followed by metal straws, 23; plastic, 17; and paper straws, 10.  Esguerra said the higher the score, the greater the risk.

Meanwhile, a wood stirrer has a risk assessment score of 10, and 16 for plastic stirrers.

Environmental groups have been prodding the DENR to come up with a NEAP for possible inclusion in a nationwide ban to be imposed by the agency.

Acknowledging that the establishment of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging materials as mandated by Republic Act 9003 is “long overdue,” an official of the DENR assured that the issue is not being completely overlooked.

DENR Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units (LGUs) Concerns Benny D. Antiporda assured participants of an online public consultation held by the DENR recently that the NEAP will not be left behind.

The online public consultation with various stakeholders aim to identify single-use plastic items that will be included in the NEAP.

The NSWMC, chaired by Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu, organized the visual consultation which was joined by 169 representatives from local government units, private sector, and key stakeholders from civil-society groups, including Ecowaste Coalition and Oceana Philippines, known vocal critics of ocean plastic pollution.

Antiporda, also NSWMC alternate chairman, said conducting the consultation is “a key moment on our work on NEAP,” noting that coming up with the list of NEAP is anticipated.

Antiporda expressed optimism over the formulation and adoption of the list of NEAP due to the renewed vigor to engage stakeholders in implementing Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 under President Duterte’s administration.

He also assured those in the public consultation that the NSWMC will remain transparent on the recommendations in the NEAP list.

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