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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines ― An international study on plastic pollution has shown that the Philippines is the world’s leading contributor to plastic pollution in the oceans, with an average of 3.30 kilograms per person per year.
Utility Bidder, an independent United Kingdom-based organization dedicated to identifying gaps in the market and providing efficient, transparent services to help businesses find the best utility tariffs, commissioned the Plastic Polluters study, and released it in September. The group was originally known as Business Energy Consultant established in 2009.
As part of the study, the group monitored countries that emit the most waste per capita into the oceans, countries with the highest likelihood of plastic waste emissions, nations with the most mismanaged waste, and those exporting the largest quantities of plastic waste.
The study’s findings indicated that the Philippines ranked first as the country with the highest plastic waste emissions into the ocean per person each year, at 3.30 kg.
Suriname in South America ranked second, with 2.89 kg per capita per year.
Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean took the third spot, with 2.55 kg per capita per year.
Fourth and fifth were Saint Lucia in the Caribbean Sea (2.45 kg per capita per year) and Malaysia in Southeast Asia (2.29 kg per capita per year), respectively.
“The study revealed that more than 350,000 tons of plastic waste enter the ocean from the Philippines annually,” read part of the study.
This 350,000-ton figure from the Philippines accounts for 36% of the world’s total plastic waste, according to the study.
The data left the head of the Cagayan de Oro City Local Environment and Natural Resources Office (Clenro), Armen Cuenca, disheartened.
“That is so sad to know,” Clenro chief Armen Cuenca told Rappler on Tuesday, October 10.
In Cagayan de Oro alone, Cuenca pointed out that their data indicate an alarming increase in waste being dumped into the city’s sanitary landfill, which has now reached an average rate of 45,000 cubic meters per month.
The study by Utility Bidder showed the alarming yearly increase in plastic waste entering the world’s oceans, posing a severe threat to marine life.
While the Philippines holds the top rank as a plastic polluter in the study, Utility Bidder cites the country’s efforts to mitigate the likelihood of plastic waste emissions.
In September 2021, the Philippines began implementing an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program to address environmental concerns related to product packaging and waste.
EPR is a policy approach that holds producers accountable for their products’ entire life cycle, including disposal and recycling.
In the Philippines, EPR initiatives primarily targeted addressing the growing issue of plastic pollution and enhancing recycling rates.
The key components of the Philippine EPR program included:
- Mandatory reporting – producers and manufacturers were required to report data on the types and quantities of packaging materials they used.
- Financial responsibility – producers were expected to financially contribute to the recycling and disposal of their product packaging materials. This financial obligation aimed to encourage producers to adopt more environmentally friendly packaging and invest in recycling infrastructure.
- Recycling targets – the government established recycling targets for various types of packaging materials, and producers were obligated to meet these targets.
- Waste reduction measures – producers were encouraged to implement measures to reduce the amount of packaging material used in their products, such as using lighter materials and more recyclable options.
Cagayan de Oro’s solid waste problem
In Cagayan de Oro, the possibility of waste emissions into the ocean is of great concern, given that the city’s solid waste has increased by 52% over the past five years.
Based on Clenro’s data, the city’s garbage volume rose from 300,890 to 573,863.30 cubic meters annually, from 2017 to 2022.
To combat the garbage problem, the city council approved the Integrated Solid Waste Management Ordinance (13378-2018) in 2018.
Under this ordinance, Clenro has been tasked to ensure that residents properly dispose of their trash to avoid penalties and sanctions.
Violations under the ordinance include the following:
- The use of plastic cellophane, except for items exempted by the ordinance.
- Littering, which entails disposing of garbage in public places, including cigarette butts.
- Illegal/bulk dumping, which involves discarding trash in non-designated areas, whether public or private.
- Open burning of garbage, including dried leaves.
- Failure to segregate trash.
The ordinance also reminded the city’s 80 barangays to establish materials recovery facilities (MRF) accessible to their constituents.
Clenro’s penalty matrix is as follows:
- Issuing plastic bags carries a penalty of P3,000 per plastic bag issued by the establishment.
- Illegal or bulk dumping results in a fine of P5,000 or three months imprisonment or both.
- Littering, open burning, and unsegregated garbage violations incur fines ranging from P500 to P2,000 or one to five days of community service.
Since 2020, Clenro has taken action against 1,308 violators for using single-use plastic, 127 individuals for littering, 84 people for illegal dumping, 74 individuals for open-pit burning, and 118 violators for dumping unsegregated garbage.
The city has also begun implementing its 10-year solid waste management plan, which aims to reduce the city’s garbage volume. One of the goals is to reduce the monthly garbage volume from 33,000 cubic meters this year to 30,000 cubic meters monthly by 2024 through waste diversion and the construction of recycling facilities.
“We have partnered with UN Habitat for the Healthy Ocean Clean Cities Initiative and World Wide Fund for the Clean Ports Project,” Cuenca said.
This partnership involves activities like organizing waste pickers at the city’s old dumpsite into a cooperative to produce “eco-bricks with laminated plastic as one of the components” and having a plastic densifier for recycling plastics into other products.
Cuenca also said that in the first quarter of 2024, Clenro will be implementing the Trash Trap along Bitan-ag Creek.
“We are also exploring the ultimate solution for our solid waste, which is waste-to-energy,” he said. – Rappler.com