Asean joins movement to beat plastic pollution

Asean Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) Executive Director Dr. Theresa Mundita S. Lim lauded the Asean member-states (AMS) in their continued efforts in reducing plastic waste in the region.

“The home of ACB, Los Baños, Laguna, is the first ever municipality in the Philippines that regulated the use of plastic bags through Municipal Ordinance 2008-752. Now, the town also prohibits the use of plastic straws, plastic cups and plates through Municipal Ordinance 2014-1316, titled ‘The Expanded Plastic Ordinance of the Municipality of Los Baños,’” Lim said in the ACB news release. “These conservation efforts are being replicated by other towns and cities in the country.”

“The Centre joins the movement against the use of plastics, supports the [Asean] member-states’ initiatives in banning plastic use and in strictly implementing waste-management laws and policies,” she added.

Reducing plastic wastes in the Asean region

Brunei Darussalam aims to stop the use of plastic bags in supermarkets by 2019, and shoppers are encouraged to use reusable eco-friendly bags for grocery shopping. Major supermarkets that joined the Beat Plastic Pollution initiative are considering it to be part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR).

In Cambodia major supermarkets charge KHR400 ($0.10) per plastic bag to reduce its wasteful use. Lao PDR also encourages the public to use recyclable bags, which are being sold in downtown cafés and markets.

Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia also implement bans and taxes on the use of plastic bags.  In Singapore, one of the world’s giant players in the fast food-chain industry, with 84 restaurants in the country, announced the banning of plastics—lids and straws—for dine-in customers on June 20.

A line of mini-marts and convenience stores in Thailand—with 11,000 stores—implements the “Say No to Plastic Bag” campaign to uphold policies in line with the international environmental standards. The Thai government’s national agenda aims to promote the importance of reducing the number of plastic bags to lessen the harmful effects to the environment.

Large businesses and enterprises in Vietnam also introduced eco-friendly bags for shoppers, and the government imposes environment tax on plastic bags, which is VND40,000 ($1.76) per kilogram, ACB said.

On June 12 the Philippine government, through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, urged the general public to avoid using disposable plastic products that clog waterways, cause ocean pollution and poison marine species.

“Plastics, particularly those for single-use packaging, have greatly contributed to the degradation of the environment. Plastic pollution continues to poison our oceans and injure marine life. When not properly disposed, they clog waterways and cause flooding,” said Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu.

Public markets and large supermarkets in some cities and municipalities practice the “Bring Your Own Bag”—a campaign aimed to encourage consumers to bring a reusable bags when shopping.

“If you can’t reuse it, refuse it.”

This is the global call to stop using single-use plastic materials as the Asean celebrates this year’s World Environment Day with the theme, “Beat Plastic Pollution.”

While plastic provides a significant number of uses in people’s daily lives, it poses greater threats to biodiversity and environment.

The bags, which are usually used in just a few minutes or hours, take centuries to decompose. Before being decomposed, the plastic wastes pile up in the lands and easily wash up into streams and rivers until they reach the oceans; polluting waters, destroying aquatic habitats and, eventually, killing marine species.

The problems caused by the proliferation of plastic wastes include: clogging of waterways; causing serious flooding and landslides; health problems due to the ingestion of harmful chemicals like benzene and styrene; loss of marine biodiversity caused by water pollution; air pollution by burning plastic wastes; and economic damage to marine ecosystems, to name a few, the news release said.

The ACB was established in 2005 by the Asean member-states as a response to biodiversity loss in the region. It supports and coordinates the implementation of activities in the Asean leading to the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, for the benefit of the region and the AMS.

Image Credits: Mark Demayo