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EcoWaste steps up call for ban on plastic bags; manufacturers hurting

The EcoWaste Coalition on Wednesday called on the government to enact a nationwide ban on the use of plastic bags to reduce waste generation, flooding and marine pollution.
“Plastic bags are the embodiment of an antiquated, throw-away mentality that we need to urgently address,” Sonia Mendoza, EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Head on Plastics, said in a statement.
“Through our action today, we ask the national government to enact laws and policies that will reinforce the initiatives of visionary LGUs (local government units) and eventually wean us from plastic bags,” she added.
On Wednesday, the coalition led more than 500 students, school officials, parent-teacher officers, beauty queens, environmentalists and supporters from the national and local government in a march along the vicinity of J.P. Laurel High School in Tondo, Manila, demanding decisive action from the national government against the use, sale and distribution of plastic bags.

Impact on labor
But the industry—already hurting from an enforced plastic ban in several cities—is instead calling for stricter implementation of Republic Act 9003 or the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, with the  Philippine Plastics Industry Association Inc. (PPIA) saying a nationwide ban will have an adverse impact on factory workers.
"Malaki ang impact sa labor sa plastic industry. About 175,000 laborers will be affected. 'Di naman sila pwedeng ilipat sa ibang trabaho dahil skilled workers ang mga ito," Stevenson Tavera, assistant to the PPIA president, told GMA News Online.
With the plastic ban in some cities in Metro Manila, he noted that 20 percent of the total workforce may be laid off from their jobs.
Ten out of the 17 cities—Makati, Marikina, Malabon, Taguig, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Quezon, Pasig, Muntinlupa, and Las Piñas—have passed ordinances banning the use of plastic packaging. The municipality of Pateros has also banned plastic bags.
But instead of advocating the ban, Tavera said ecological groups and the government should focus on strengthening RA 9003.
"Kahit naman anong itapon mo, magbabara yan. Ang plastic, lumulutang yan kaya hindi ito contributor sa siltation. Binibili ng plastic group ang mga plastic wastes para i-recycle," Tavera said.

EcoWaste, however, noted that recycling plastic bags does not necessarily reduce wastes as "it just manages the plastic bags that have already been created.”
“Recycled plastics still make its way back to the consumers’ buy-use-dispose loop, thus adding more plastics in the environment. What we need to do is to avoid its usage in the first place,” Mendoza said.
"Proper waste management, segregation at collection, bakit hindi 'yun ang i-advocate nila? Discipline in disposing waste and anti-littering ang dapat ma-impose ng LGUs sa mga tao," PPIA's Tavera said. 
“By outlawing the use of plastic bags and other non-ecologically sound packaging materials, we substantially reduce our waste generation, thereby, cutting waste management costs, and lessen related environmental risks such as flooding and marine pollution from happening as plastic bags usually end up littering the streets and dumpsites, at the same time, polluting our waterways such as rivers and seas,” Mendoza said.

Manila joins the ban
The cities of Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela, San Juan, Parañaque, and Manila, meanwhile, have yet to impose plastic bans.
In Manila, City Ordinance 8282 bans the use of plastic bags for dry goods and regulate their use for wet goods, and polystyrene (Styrofoam) as food and produce container starting September 2013.
EcoWaste also cited Manila Councilor Numero Lim, one of the decree’s sponsors, as saying “the ordinance also prohibits business establishments from offering, selling, or using plastic bags as primary or secondary packaging for dry goods, and forbids barangay collection of discarded plastic unless... pre-cleaned and dried.”
In 2006, 2010, and 2011, audits by Greenpeace, EcoWaste, Mother Earth Foundation, and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives revealed plastic products—led by plastic bags—were the highest contributor in terms of garbage volume in Manila Bay and Laguna Lake.
Separate surveys conducted by the same group showed plastic bags accounted for 51.4 percent of the detritus in Manila Bay in 2006 and 27.7 percent in 2010. — VS, GMA News