Group hails impending plastic bag, styro ban in Manila

THE EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network promoting sustainable lifestyle and zero waste, lauded the looming citywide ban on plastic bags and polystyrene containers in Manila.

Manila City Ordinance 7393 once approved by the City Council and signed by Mayor Alfredo Lim will ban the use of plastic bags for dry goods and regulate their use for wet goods, and altogether bans polystyrene as container for food, produce and other products.

The ordinance will also prohibit business establishments from offering or selling plastic bags as primary or secondary packaging for dry goods, and disallow barangay collection of discarded plastics unless these are first cleaned and dried.

The ordinance, sponsored by Councilors Jocelyn Dawis-Asuncion, Cristina Isip, Numero Lim and Ma. Sheilah Lacuna-Pangan and co-sponsored by 34 other councilors, was scheduled for third and final reading yesterday, July 24.

However, the City Council decided to defer its approval pending the publication of an erratum to rectify an error in the published text of the draft ordinance.

“We laud the Manila councilors for crossing party lines to ensure broad support for this timely environmental policy that promises a cleaner and non-toxic future for the  city’s residents.  Through this ordinance, Manila joins an expanding league of local government units that have taken bold action to beat the plastic bag  scourge,” said Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation and head of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics.

Among a host of reasons, the proponents pointed to the “urgent need” for the authorities and the people to address the perennial  garbage disposal and flood woes afflicting the city and adversely affecting the public health, the economy and the environment.

“It is high time that Manila imposes prohibitions on the use of plastic bags to stop the practice of indiscriminate disposal of this material and protect what remains of our environment,” said District II Council Numero Lim, one of the sponsors.

Discards survey conducted in 2006 and 2010 by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Greenpeace found plastic bags comprising 51.4 and 27.7 percent respectively of the flotsam in Manila Bay. Plastics in general, including plastic bags, made up 76.9 and 75.55 percent respectively.

“The approval of the ordinance and its enforcement will be a splendid gift by the government and people of Manila to Manila Bay as the iconic, but severely polluted water body undergoes cleanup and rehabilitation,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Since a ban on plastic bags does not necessarily mean a shift to paper bags, the proposed ordinance provides for the promotion of ecological packaging from indigenous materials and a “Bring Your Own Bag/Bayong” program.

The  Department of Public Services  is tasked to conduct feasibility studies and livelihood projects for the production and distribution of natural replacements for plastic bags and polystyrene containers such as packaging materials made from banana, bamboo, buri, pandan, water hyacinth and other native materials.

“The promotion of such indigenous replacements to plastic bags and polystyrene containers will not only create job prospects for Manila’s residents, but could even spur sustainable economic activities in our rural communities,” observed Vergara.

To show the huge economic potentials of going ecological with bayong, the EcoWaste Coalition cited a study by the Department of Trade’s Bayong Development Project saying that “if every family above the poverty threshold buys a bayong at P100 per year, the domestic demand shall reach P1.3 billion annually.”

“It is further estimated that 40% of the total or P520 million will redound to the labor sector, numbering 16,000 nationwide,” according to the DTI.


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