Plastic pollution

DURING a Cabinet meeting last month, President Duterte floated the idea of banning the use of plastics when the issue of environment and climate change resiliency was discussed. What happened to this? Has there been legislative action to prevent and reduce plastic pollution?

Banning plastics, particularly single-use plastics or SUPs, will have a tremendous impact on the country’s humongous waste production estimated at over 40,000 tons per day of which a huge portion is comprised of plastic residuals.

SUPs are plastic-based materials created to be used once before they are disposed of or recycled such as bottles, cutlery, cups, sachets, stirrers, straws, and the omnipresent plastic bags and polystyrene containers or Styrofoam. Banning them will mean less throwaway plastics being produced, consumed and disposed of, less fossil fuels used and less greenhouse gases emitted, less plastic waste dumped or incinerated, and less plastic spilling into our water bodies and harming aquatic life.

Yes, a national ban on SUPs can address the plastic pollution crisis. For this, a law is needed to stimulate and strengthen actions by local government units to address the menace of disposable plastics. 

The 2018 United Nations report on SUPs identified some of the environmental problems associated with plastics, including plastic bags clogging waterways and exacerbating natural disasters, plastics being ingested by marine animals who mistake them for food, and toxic emissions from the burning of plastic wastes. Styrofoam products, which contain carcinogenic chemicals like styrene and benzene, are highly toxic if ingested, damaging the nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs. The toxins in Styrofoam containers can leach into food and drinks.

It is estimated that roughly two-thirds of all plastic ever produced has been released into the environment and remains there in some form — as debris in the oceans, as micro- or nanoparticles in air and agricultural soils, as microfibers in water supplies, or as microparticles in the human body.

The scientific truth is that plastic slowly fragments into smaller particles where they contaminate the air, water, and soil, accumulate in food chains, and release toxic additives or concentrate additional toxic chemicals in the environment, making them bioavailable again.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Banning SUPs will help in curbing the chemicals and plastics choking our fragile environment.


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