Philippine Senate bill seeks to ban plastic bags

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - A proposed Philippine Senate measure seeks to bring national efforts to do away with a major component of trash-plastic bags-closer to consumers by making it disappear in places where they will most likely encounter it.

Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on climate change, has filed Senate Bill No. 2759, which proposes to groceries, supermarkets, public markets, restaurants, fast-food chains, and department and retail stores to refrain from using plastic bags.

The idea is to curb pollution and help the country manage its ecological resources more wisely, she said.

"Plastic bags end up as litter as it makes its way to landfills, drainage and bodies of water, taking decades to decompose and damaging marine life when dumped in the sea," said Legarda.

"This issue of pollution is further aggravated by natural hazards, which have become unpredictable due to climate change," she said.

Legarda noted that at the height of Tropical Storm "Ondoy" (international codename: Ketsana) in 2009, plastic bags "worsened" the flooding in Metro Manila and "made post-cleanup very difficult."

According to a 2006 survey of EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace Philippines, plastic bags and other synthetic packaging materials comprised 76 percent of garbage retrieved from Manila Bay.

Quoting the US Environmental Protection Agency, Legarda said about 500 billion to one trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year.

A 2005 World Wildlife Fund report also showed that close to 200 different marine species die from ingestion and choking on plastic bags, she added.

Change mind-set

Legarda said it was about time companies changed their mind-set and dropped "cost-effective plastic bags" in favor of reusable bags.

"Companies must change their economic mind-set, wasteful production processes and packaging methods-from the use of seemingly cost-effective plastic bags into investing in long-term reusable and recyclable bags which are more sustainable in the long run," she said.

"As the problems of pollution, environmental degradation and severe weather shifts escalate, all sectors of society must act with dispatch. Individuals must make conscious efforts to change our daily routine and practices to produce a positive impact on our environment," she said.

Another senator, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., has filed Senate Bill No. 2749, which seeks to regulate the use of plastic bags to minimize land-based sources of pollution and protect the quality of water.

The bill advocates the use of reusable, biodegradable bags made of washable material that is lead-free, Marcos said.

"Through this bill, consumers are encouraged to reduce and eventually eliminate the use of plastic bags, thereby saving the fragile life of the environment," he said.



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