Quezon City, Philippines (June 1, 2018) — New data from waste and brand audits conducted in five Philippine cities confirm results of earlier coastal clean-up audits that multinational brands are the country’s top sources of plastic pollution.
Environmental groups Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) and Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) presented the results of the audits in a press conference today, ahead of World Environment Day on June 5. This year’s theme is #BeatPlasticPollution. GAIA and MEF, which are part of the global #breakfreefromplastic movement, are calling on corporations to drastically reduce the production of throwaway plastic packaging as a necessary and urgent solution to the global plastic crisis.
Data gathered by MEF in the past 12 months showed that single-use plastic packaging from multinational companies (MNCs) such as Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, PT Mayora, Colgate-Palmolive, and Coca-Cola comprise almost three-fourths of all collected residual waste, or waste that can neither be composted nor recycled. The findings were based on audits conducted in Malabon and Quezon City in the National Capital Region; the City of San Fernando, Pampanga in Region 3; Batangas City in Region 4-A; Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2; and Tacloban City in Region 8.
The audit results are consistent with findings from coastal waste and brand audits conducted in Freedom Island in September 2017 which showed that the same international companies are among the top plastic polluters.
“On land and in oceans, these companies are choking the environment with their problematic packaging. It’s time we hold these companies accountable. They cannot continue raking in money and then passing on the responsibility and costs of cleaning their mess to cities and Filipino taxpayers,” said Froilan Grate, regional coordinator of GAIA Asia Pacific and president of Mother Earth Foundation.
MEF conducted the waste and brand audits as an integral component of an Asia-wide project coordinated by GAIA to develop Zero Waste model cities in the region. Waste and brand audits are conducted prior to actual implementation of Zero Waste strategies to gather data and help understand the types of waste generated by households and commercial establishments. Brand audits complement waste audits by categorizing and counting branded residual plastics to pinpoint the main producers of the waste.
Of the total waste collected in the identified areas, 61.26% is biodegradable; 19.17% is recyclable; 16.12% is residual; and 3.44%, hazardous. Of the residual plastic waste collected, a whopping 74% is branded throwaway packaging. Only 10 companies are responsible for 56% of all the branded throwaway packaging, and 40% of all the throwaway packaging was produced by the six MNCs.
“This shows that companies must be compelled to stop using throwaway packaging. Even if we ban single-use bags, plastic straws, and other problematic products, we won’t be able to curb plastic pollution if companies don’t change. They need to do their part to reduce plastic waste by shifting to innovative and ecological ways to distribute their products,” Grate added.
The proliferation and unabated production of throwaway plastic packaging is one of the biggest hurdles faced by cities and municipalities that are transitioning to Zero Waste. This can be seen in the experience of the City of San Fernando in Pampanga. The city has been consistently recognized for its strict implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (Republic Act 9003), which mandates segregation of waste at the household level. This has allowed the local government to significantly reduce waste handling costs. But City Councilor Benedict Jasper Lagman shared that the city still spends up to Php 15 million annually just to manage residual waste, composed mostly of plastic packaging.
“Despite the best efforts of our barangays to compost and recycle as much as they can, we are still left with waste that are beyond our capacity to manage,” Lagman said. “We call on companies to eliminate or redesign these problematic products and packaging. When this happens, San Fernando will truly be a Zero Waste city.”
He added: “San Fernando’s Zero Waste strategy is, at its core, the implementation of RA 9003. Together with other cities in the country that have pledged to go Zero Waste, we are showing that ecological waste management and Zero Waste is possible and can be implemented nationally. However, more support is needed at the national level, particularly with residual plastic waste. National plastic bans and plastic packaging reduction policies will help many cities implement RA 9003 and aim for Zero Waste.”
Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, said that Zero Waste is the solution to the waste problem. “Our model communities show that implementing Zero Waste programs results in huge reduction of waste management costs, cleaner and greener surroundings, and better livelihood for waste workers,” she said.
Yet, Mendoza lamented, “instead of promoting Zero Waste solutions, the government is pursuing so-called waste-to-energy incineration systems, despite the fact that such facilities are bad for public health, expensive, and contravene RA 9003 and the Clean Air Act.”
“The real solutions are right here. Zero Waste is not only possible, it is already transforming communities that implement it. Instead of looking at problematic solutions, the government should promote Zero Waste programs and come up with supportive regulations such as a national ban on problematic products and packaging, and policies to compel companies to redesign their packaging,” she added.
Zero Waste is a resource management solution that addresses the waste problem at root, ensuring resource efficiency, resource recovery, and protection of scarce natural resources. It promotes waste prevention through strategies that include waste reduction, composting, recycling and reuse, changes in consumption habits, and product redesign.
The release of the Philippine waste and brand audit results is part of a series of lead-up activities to the World Environment Day celebration by member organizations of GAIA Asia Pacific. The #breakfreefromplastic movement recently launched a Brand Audit Toolkit to encourage groups to conduct more waste and brand audits and contribute to a global database of companies responsible for the most problematic products and packaging.
GAIA is a worldwide alliance of more than 800 grassroots groups, non-governmental organizations, and individuals in over 90 countries working together to advance Zero Waste solutions. www.no-burn.org
Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) is a non-profit organization actively engaged in addressing waste and toxic pollution, climate change, and other health, and environmental justice issues in the Philippines. It is best known for its advocacy of Zero Waste through the systematic reduction and proper waste management. www.motherearthphil.org.
#breakfreefromplastic is a global movement envisioning a future free from plastic pollution. Since its launch in September 2016, over 1,100 groups from across the world have joined the movement to demand massive reductions in single-use plastics and to push for lasting solutions to the plastic pollution crisis. These organizations share the common values of environmental protection and social justice, which guide their work at the community level and represent a global, unified vision. www.breakfreefromplastic.org