Deadline for ban to phase out plastic bags and styrofoam drawing closer / Task force monitors compliance
Due to a spate of heavy flash floods, several major cities in the Philippines recently upped efforts to ban the use of plastic bags and styrofoam. In 2003, the country’s financial capital Makati City passed a resolution on the “Use of Environment-Friendly Materials,” which prohibits the sale, use or distribution of plastic bags as primary or secondary packaging for dry goods, or as secondary packaging for wet goods. The bill, which provided for a 9-year allowance to enable the affected parties to deplete their existing inventories and prepare for the phase-out, also prohibits the sale, use or distribution of styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials used as containers for food, drinks, dining utensils and beverages.

Although establishments were required to submit a quarterly report of their stocks of non-biodegradable materials such as thin film, single-use and carry-out plastic bags, the Department of Environmental Services (Makati / Philippines) says none of them complied. The law posits that instead of plastic materials, establishments should provide paper, cloth or basket/woven bags made from biodegradable materials.

On 26 June, Makati City sent out 45 monitoring teams from its Plastic Monitoring Task Force (PMTF) to inspect 738 establishments in the city. “We are now in the ninth year of implementing the ordinance, so we believe we have given establishments enough time to prepare for the full phase-out being required of them," said mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay. He added that a new executive order has extended the deadline for a complete ban to 20 June 2013.

Typhoon “Ondoy”, which hit the island state in September 2009, claiming hundreds of lives in the capital Manila and causing massive property damage, was another factor encouraging the authorities to act as Local Government Units (LGUs) found that the huge volume of plastics in the drainage systems was preventing the storm waters from receding. Standing water also poses other health risks – it is the main breeding ground of dengue-carrying mosquitoes and leptospirosis causing rats.

Natural catastrophes and health factors alone, however, are not the only driving force behind the ban. Another major concern is the restoration and protection of the Philippines’ coastal lines and marine life. Several coastal clean-ups have been conducted in the past to clear out plastics that settled in the water beds, damaging coral and poisoning marine life. The eastern shores of the island state border the Pacific Ocean, home to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”, the size of which scientists continue to research – for more details, see of 25.08.2009.

To date, at least 17 local governments have banned or regulated the use of plastic bags in a bid to reduce plastic waste. One of the victims of flooding in the wake of typhoon Ondoy, Marikina City will impose a relevant ban on 2 November 2012. Located across the Marikina River, the city produces about 50 t of plastic waste each day, of which only 20.6% is recovered or recycled, leaving 40 t in the waste stream. Penalties for violation of the proposed ban vary and range from fees of up to EUR 100, a revocation of business permits, community service and even a blood donation of 200cc.

Not surprisingly, the prohibitions also come at a cost. According to Crispian Lao, president of the Philippine Plastics Industry Association (PPIA, Caloocan City), industry revenues have been declining. "The ban is having an effect. We were hoping to prevent what turned out to be a 25% drop in plastics consumption last year. In popular perception, plastics already have a very negative image.”
29.06.2012 [222672-0]
Published on 29.06.2012

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