#2030Now: Plastic pollution not just an environment problem

Pauline Macaraeg
#2030Now: Plastic pollution not just an environment problem
Participants of the 2019 Social Good Summit say the plastics problem in the country must also be treated as a social and economic issue

MANILA, Philippines – How can we, as a community, reduce plastic waste?

This was one of the problems posed to the speakers and the audience at the 2019 Social Good Summit: #2030Now #InsightforImpact at the De La Salle University (DLSU) in Manila on on Saturday, September 21.

In one of the morning huddles, the panelists on zero waste said the plastics problem required a complex solution. “Plastic is not an environment problem, but a social and economic problem,” said Angela Chen, co-founder and CEO of education platform Eskwelabs.

The plastics problem in the country persists despite the existence of a landmark environmental law, Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000. A widely-cited study on ocean plastics ranked the Philippines as the 3rd biggest plastic polluter of the oceans – next to China and Indonesia.

DLSU Professort Dr Eric Punzalan, who was part of the technical committee that crafted RA 9003, said the country has “very good laws,” but falls short in implementation.

“We need to educate ourselves, be wise, read everything we can about chemistry and the science of plastics, and then run for office,” Punzalan said.

Dr Alvin Culba of the National Academy of Science and Technology agreed, and said that the Philippines needs more scientists and technologists in Congress. 

Plastics and consumerism

“Consumerism drives a lot of problems,” Punzalan said, citing the buying habits of consumers as the driving force in the country’s plastic pollution.

At the individual level, Meah Ang See of the Buhay Zero Waste online community said everyone can start with one simple step: refusing to buy things, or the first tenet of the 5 Rs of going zero waste.

“Refuse to buy new things, because a new item is carbon footprint,” See said, adding that going zero waste shouldn’t be about metal straws or purchasing alternatives.

But more than consumers, Culaba believed that the issue stemmed from the producers. “Plastics will never go away. The problem of plastics is at the production level, not post-production,” he said.

Xin Yi Wong, sustainability manager of global clothing brand H&M Southeast Asia, said corporations acknowledge this. H&M, for its part, has taken initiatives to promote and practice sustainability, like producing garments using recycled PET bottles. Rappler.com

Add a comment

Sort by

There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is digital forensics researcher for Rappler. She started as a fact checker and researcher in 2019, before becoming part of Rappler's Digital Forensics Team. She writes about the developing digital landscape, as well as the spread and impact of disinformation and harmful online content. When she's not working, you can find her listening to podcasts or K-pop bops.