plastic pollution

Groups say banning plastic straws, stirrers ‘not enough’ to reduce plastic pollution

Iya Gozum
Environmental advocates demand urgency in expanding the list of banned single-use plastics in the country

Environmental groups on Thursday, February 4, welcomed the inclusion of plastic straws and coffee stirrers to the National Solid Waste Management Commission’s (NSWMC) list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAP), but said more must be done to reduce plastic pollution in the Philippines.

“This mandate has been sitting for two decades, banning straws and stirrers alone is not enough. Our time is running out, we need to stop the plastic pollution at source. Our oceans are wallowing in plastics,” said Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, vice president of advocacy group Oceana Philippines. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday, February 3, announced that plastic straws and coffee stirrers have finally been included in the NEAP list.

In effect, plastic straws and coffee stirrers may soon be banned as part of the implementation of Republic Act (RA) No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

“This is long overdue and we need to catch up with the demand of solid waste management in our country,” Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said in a statement.

This is the first time the NEAP list was released, even though a provision in RA 9003 instructs the NSWMC to formulate and regularly update such list. RA 9003 became law in 2001.

Youth advocates slammed the “turtle-pace formation” of the NEAP list in light of the looming climate crisis. 

“With the worsening of the climate crisis, we can’t respond to environmental concerns with the current speed we are doing right now,” said Xian Guevarra of Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines.

In a separate position paper submitted to the NSWMC on Tuesday, February 2, Oceana Philippines International, the local government of Ormoc City, Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines, Ecowaste Coalition, and 40 other civil society groups called for the immediate expansion of the NEAP list to include the proposed items below:

  1. plastic labo bags
  2. plastic bags including oxo-degradable plastics
  3. plastic cutleries: spoon, fork, and knives
  4. plastic straws
  5. plastic stirrers
  6. plastic bottles
  7. plastic cups and plates
  8. thin plastic take-out containers
  9. styrofoam or polystyrene food containers
  10. sachet, packaging, or products that are multilayered with other materials

Plastic straws and stirrers are among the top plastic items that end up in oceans, together with other plastic packaging such as wrappers, bottles, and containers. 

According to coalition Break Free from Plastic’s 2020 brand audit report, only around 42% of the Philippines’ plastic trash are recyclable.

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Meanwhile, a 2019 report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) – a worldwide coalition of environmental groups – said Filipinos use about 60 billion sachets per year.

The alliance also found that 60% of discarded plastic items were produced by only 10 companies, and that an average Filipino uses 591 sachets, 174 shopping bags, and 163 plastic labo bags yearly.

While the Philippines is yet to pass a law banning plastics, there are already several bills pending before the Senate and the House of Representatives seeking a ban on single-use plastics in restaurants.

Senator Cynthia Villar and Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Representative Rufus Rodriguez had also filed separate bills seeking to hold companies liable for the plastic waste they put out into the market.

At least 53 local governments had also passed resolutions urging the NSWMC to include single-use plastics in the NEAP list. – Rappler.com

Iya Gozum

Iya Gozum is a member of Rappler's digital communications team. When off the grid, she’s either a hundred/thousand meters above sea level – or dreaming about it. You may email her at iya.gozum@rappler.com.