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Ban on single-use plastics in gov’t approved

By: Jhesset O. Enano - Philippine Daily Inquirer February 25,2020 - 08:21 AM

| Inquirer Photo

MANILA, Philippines — The National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) has approved a resolution that mandates the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to prepare and to implement the banning of “unnecessary” single-use plastics in all government offices.

Under Resolution No. 1363, signed by Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu on Feb. 12 and made public on Monday, the DENR will come up with specific guidelines for national agencies, local governments and all other government-controlled offices to prohibit certain plastic items in their workplaces.

These include plastic cups less than 0.2 millimeters in thickness, drinking straws, coffee stirrers and disposable forks, spoons and knives.

Plastic “labo” and thin-filmed sando bags, which are lower than 15 microns, are also identified as unnecessary plastics.

For and against

Eight member-agencies of the commission voted in favor of the resolution: the DENR, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, League of Cities of the Philippines, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Philippine Information Agency and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

Representatives of the recycling industry and the manufacturing and packaging industry voted against the resolution.

The Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry abstained.

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said the commission was still considering imposing penalties on violations of the ban.

Environment groups, however, criticized the resolution, saying it had loopholes that may lead to the more frequent use of plastic packaging.

Von Hernandez, global coordinator of the Break Free from Plastic (BFFP) Movement, said the ban did not cover single-use plastic bottles and styrofoam cups, which were among the top polluting items found by green groups.

“[It is also] practically unimplementable, as who will measure the thickness of bags and cups?” he said. “Experience in other countries have shown that this type of policy approach has resulted in the production and proliferation of more plastic bags in commerce and the environment.”

Hernandez also took issue with the term, unnecessary plastics, saying that the process had been rather arbitrary.

‘Balanced judgment’

But Antiporda, who oversees solid waste management and local government units, said the eight plastic products identified were done so with “balanced judgment.”

“It was the decision of the NSWMC to come up with a balanced judgment single-use plastics by taking into consideration that we can only ban those that have available alternatives,” he said.

EcoWaste Coalition said the DENR and the NSWMC should release a list of “nonenvironmentally acceptable packaging and products (NEAP),” which EcoWaste said is the responsibility of those agencies under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

“It has been 19 years since the law has been adopted … [but] until now, they just keep on studying it,” Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste national coordinator, said in an interview.

“The NEAP list, once released, will benefit all, not just government offices, and will push manufacturers to opt for alternative packaging and delivery systems,” she said.

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