Officials mull plastic bans and other policies to implement RA 9003, curb plastic pollution
Quezon City, 31 January 2019—Hundreds of local government unit (LGU) officials across the country gathered today in a forum in Quezon City to discuss policies that will help bring an end to plastic pollution—and usher in sustainable, Zero Waste Cities in the Philippines.
The forum, held in celebration of Zero Waste Month this January and organized by GAIA Asia Pacific and Mother Earth Foundation, looked into local and national policy actions aimed at reducing single-use plastic, from material substitution by producers to outright bans in cities. Speakers from different countries also showcased success stories of Zero Waste initiatives from the European Union and other parts of the globe, as well as in the Philippines.
“Zero Waste is the key to solving the country’s waste problems,” said Froilan Grate, Executive Director of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific. “When city planners put Zero Waste into action, they can establish resilient and sustainable cities, help fulfill Sustainable Development Goals, comply with RA 9003, and transition to a sustainable circular economy.”
The proliferation of single-use plastic is one of the biggest drivers of plastic pollution. Environmental groups contend that waste should not be addressed through harmful end-of-pipe systems such as landfills and waste incinerators, but through Zero Waste systems. Zero Waste approaches address waste and resources throughout their entire lifecycle—from production to end-of-life—with the goal of waste prevention and resource conservation. In the Philippines, Zero Waste principles are at the core of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act (RA) 9003, a landmark law on resource and waste management.
At the forum, GAIA Asia Pacific launched the report “Enabling sustainable cities through Zero Waste: A guide for decision- and policy-makers.” Although RA 9003 was signed into law in 2001, many cities and municipalities are still struggling with compliance. GAIA believes that there is a lack of information available to local and national government officials about practical strategies and policies that can help them fully implement RA 9003. The paper aims to give local government leaders and national lawmakers recommendations for policies that put Zero Waste in action and effectively implement RA 9003 while demonstrating that Zero Waste is both practical and achievable.
Several local governments are already pioneering Zero Waste programs through cost-effective investments in decentralized waste collection, composting, recycling markets, and waste management infrastructure. Experiences of Philippine cities have shown that as long as the right strategies are in place, cities can set up Zero Waste systems that will enable successful implementation within a period of as short as six months, while also achieving significant savings in waste management costs.
However, cities continue to struggle in managing non-recyclable waste, mostly single-use plastics such as sachets and other packaging. The cities of San Fernando in Pampanga, and San Carlos in Negros Occidental, for example, are implementing strict and effective plastic bag and styrofoam regulations, but these remain a problem.
Marietta Lomocso of San Carlos City’s Environmental Management Office, shared: “With strong political will and stakeholder engagement, our plastic regulation reduced residual waste by half.” But, she said, challenges persist. “Businesses from neighboring cities bring in plastic packaging because they are not familiar with our plastic regulation. And, we still need to deal with the remaining 50% non-recyclable waste that we collect.”
GAIA maintains that businesses need to be part of the solution of reducing plastic waste by not producing single-use packaging and items in the first place. Leaders in national government agencies must also realize they have a crucial role to play by enabling strong policy support at the country level; for example, through mandating extended producer responsibility (EPR) policies, and a national ban on single-use plastics.
Delphine Lévi Alvarès of Zero Waste Europe shared the experience in the European Union (EU) where similar policies are being implemented at a regional level. Europe’s shift to a sustainable circular economy is mandating member countries to pursue reduction, reuse, and recycling as priority actions for waste management. Lévi Alvarès said that more than 400 cities and municipalities in the EU have commitments to become Zero Waste Cities. She also explained that producers are obliged by law to cover the costs of plastic waste management and that certain single-use plastics are being phased out as the region pursues a sustainable circular economy. “Zero Waste initiatives in countries like the Philippines are sending a strong message to Europe that the plastics issue must be addressed at the global level. Major manufacturing industries based in Europe and other countries in the global north should eliminate single use plastics in all regions where they work, including Asia.” she said.
GAIA’s Zero Waste Cities Forum is part of several collaborative dialogues among local government officials in the Asia Pacific region to share experiences about Zero Waste implementation strategies. Outside the Philippines, several cities in the region have hosted, or expressed their interest to host, their own Zero Waste Cities events, including Bandung, Indonesia (Zero Waste Cities Conference 2018) and Penang, Malaysia (Zero Waste Cities Conference 2019 later in the year). GAIA, in partnership with grassroots organizations, has been supporting cities in pursuing ecological strategies to promote segregation and reduce waste volumes, specifically plastic pollution, to reduce and eventually eliminate dependence on harmful end-of-pipe waste disposal systems.##
The report “Enabling sustainable cities through Zero Waste: A guide for decision- and policy-makers.” is available here.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Sherma Benosa, Communications Officer, GAIA-AP, +63 917 815 7570, email@example.com
The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) is a global network of more than 800 grassroots groups, NGOs and individuals. We envision a just, zero waste world built on respect for ecological limits and community rights, where people are free from the burden of toxic pollution, and resources are sustainably conserved, not burned or dumped. We work to catalyze a global shift towards ecological and environmental justice by strengthening grassroots social movements that advance solutions to waste and pollution. www.no-burn.org
Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) is an NGO that works to promote education and awareness of the people on environment protection and proper waste management, reduction of waste, segregation at source composting and recycling towards a zero waste society. http://www.motherearthphil.org/
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If your bathtub was overflowing, you wouldn’t immediately reach for a mop — you’d first turn off the tap. That’s what we need to do with single-use plastics.
Plastic was never recycled at a high level, and it’s even worse since 2018, when China closed its doors to imported mixed plastic waste. U.S. recyclers have shifted exports to countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, but those countries lack the capacity to handle the volume we’re sending, which has brought them new environmental problems.
Moreover, despite our willingness to move plastic waste around the world, only about 9% of the plastic ever made has actually been recycled. We just keep making more of the stuff. If your bathtub was overflowing, you wouldn’t immediately reach for a mop — you’d first turn off the tap. That’s what we need to do with single-use plastics.
Berkeley recently passed a law that moves us a step closer to that, and it’s something that should be replicated across the country. The ordinance does not simply ban plastic foodware, leaving businesses to replace it with other throwaway materials: It rejects throwaway culture altogether.
Beginning immediately, Berkeley will require that accessory items such as utensils, straws, lids and sleeves be provided by request only and that food vendors have compost bins for all customers. In January 2020, the city will also require that all disposable takeout foodware be Biodegradable Products Institute-certified compostable and that vendors charge 25 cents for hot and cold takeout cups. If a customer brings a reusable cup, the charge is not applied. And by July 1, 2020, the ordinance will require that all eat-in dining be on reusable foodware.
These are groundbreaking shifts away from our culture of overconsumption. The Berkeley ordinance stands in stark contrast to a recently announced industry initiative calling itself the “Alliance to End Plastic Waste” and funded by companies including Exxon, Dow, Shell, Chevron Phillips and Procter & Gamble. The industry alliance has promised to invest $1.5 billion in its efforts over five years for things such as encouraging more recycling. But at the same time, the Guardian has reported, some of the companies involved are investing more than $180 billion in new plastic manufacturing facilities.
It’s not that there isn’t still a role for recycling in efforts to reduce trash. Cans, bottles, paper and cardboard are highly recyclable.
But we need to be more realistic about the kinds of plastic that can be effectively collected, processed and then reused. Single-stream recycling, which co-mingles different materials for collection, is convenient, but it leads to increased contamination and thus lower quality recyclables.
Even with increased investment in sorting, recycling will never be able keep up with all of the new types of plastics on the market or the ever-increasing flow of plastic waste. We need to prioritize reduction and reuse, making recycling the last option, especially for single-use items.
That’s why the Berkeley ordinance is so important. It recognizes the need for a fundamental shift in how the things we buy are packaged and served, and that’s the only way we can begin to make a dent in the plastic pollution crisis.
Annie Leonard is executive director of Greenpeace USA. Martin Bourque is executive director of the Ecology Center, which launched the nation’s first curbside recycling program. They are Berkeley residents.
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(Photo by MPCA Photos)
This press release was originally issued by the Rethink Plastic alliance. The European policy alliance of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.
Brussels, 30 January 2019 – The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.
The European Chemicals Agency says that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products leak into the environment yearly, are impossible to remove and last for thousands of years. The scale of the problem is dramatic: six times the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 10 billion plastic bottles, the agency says. Microplastics accumulate and persist in the environment, one of the main reasons why the agency concluded it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, the strictest set of chemical laws in the world.
The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.
Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, said on behalf of Rethink Plastic: “The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us. It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight, but is a necessary step.”
The ban is part of the EU plastics strategy that saw Europe become the first continent to start banning many types of single use plastic by 2021.
Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
+32 2 736 20 91 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer, European Environmental Bureau
Alice Bernard, Lawyer, Chemicals, ClientEarth
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FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Read the proposal and the annex.
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Quezon City, 29 January 2019—As National Zero Waste Month draws to a close, thousands of individuals from different environment, religious, and other civil society groups marched today around the Quezon City Elliptical Circle to demand the responsible government agencies to protect our right to clean air and healthy ecology, and to register the groups’ dissent on the pending bills on Senate promoting waste incineration.
The Walk for Clean Air called on the government officials and lawmakers to uphold the ban on waste incineration enshrined in the Clean Air Act (RA 8749) and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (RA 9003). The groups were reacting to recent policies and positions of the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources, Energy, Public Works and Highways, and Science and Technology, which contravene the ban. The peaceful walk was held as the Philippine Senate sets public hearings on House Bill 6893 and Senate Bills 2076 and 506, which all seek to repeal the ban and facilitate the entry of waste incineration into the country. The groups contend that waste incineration is an unsustainable system for managing waste and resources, negatively impacting people’s health and livelihoods, the environment and climate, and the economy.
Waste picker and community member Joan Amitan of Nagkakaisang Lakas ng Mamamayan ng Longos (NLML) said that building waste incineration facilities will paralyze their families’ income. “Sumasali po kami sa martsang ito para tutulan ang pagpapatayo ng mga mapaminsalang waste incinerators. Maliban sa mga panganib na maaari nitong maging sanhi sa aming komunidad at sa aming pang-araw araw na ikinabubuhay, binabalewala rin nito ang aming kontribusyon sa epektibong pagpapatupad ng segregation ng mga basura,” said Amitan of NLML.
Aside from the threats to the livelihood of the people, communities who marched during the said activity reiterated the threats of putting up waste incinerators to our climate and to the health of the people.
“Typhoons and other human-induced disasters have been devastating our country ever since time immemorial. By putting up waste incinerators, we are just intensifying our vulnerability by adding more harmful pollution in the environment,” said No Burn Pilipinas Campaign Manager Glenn Ymata.
No Burn Pilipinas said that by strengthening the implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, our government can lead us to an environmental and sustainable approach in managing our wastes.
“The leaders of our government are not just expected to make promises to their constituents. It is part of their mandate to implement and execute the laws enshrined in our constitution and it is about time they give importance to the only thing that is left free for the people—the air we breathe,” Ymata added.
Ymata also called out government officials who have pending waste incineration proposals in their areas. “Despite the presence of the provisions that prohibit waste incineration in RA 9003 and RA 8749, these local unit leaders still have the guts to propose putting up such harmful facilities. This is nothing but a disservice to their people and a clear violation of the law,” he said.
Waste-to-energy incineration has already been proposed in Manila and Iloilo. Recent proposals also surfaced in Baguio, Quezon City, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Cebu City, and in Davao City. No Burn Pilipinas note that these proposals are illegal and that government officials should not be encouraging the violation of national laws.
Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition said it is “zero waste or zero votes.” Lucero mentioned that if leaders running for the congress seats still refuse to adopt zero waste approaches for their areas, said groups will aggressively call for zero votes for them for the upcoming national elections.
“We are calling on the senators, especially Senate President Tito Sotto, to read up on our laws and reject all policy proposals and amendments that will violate our current laws protecting the clean air including his bill to overturn the incineration ban. These bills are business proposals for harmful facilities, and are not alternative solutions that protect the interests of the Filipino people,” Ymata concluded.
No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of civil society groups who are advocating Zero Waste technologies and are calling on the government to uphold the ban on waste incineration. The vision of No Burn Pilipinas is a Philippines free of waste incineration and pursuing the Zero Waste approach, and where the linear economy has been replaced by a sustainable and just circular model. The vision ensures that the health and well-being of communities are safeguarded and the environment protected.
Glenn Ymata, 0917 837 7625: Senior Program Officer
Zaira Baniaga, 0939 707 1589: Media Liason
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Quezon City, January 21, 2019–Environmental groups today trooped to the Department on Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) calling Secretary Roy Cimatu to respect the law and refrain from issuing the pending waste-to-energy guidelines which includes sections pertaining to waste-to-energy incineration.
The groups, under the alliance No Burn Pilipinas, said issuance of such guidelines is a violation of the Clean Air Act and RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“DENR is busy doing everything else but their mandate. Waste incineration is banned under the Philippine law. Issuing guidelines that contradict with the existing policies can only cause confusion to the people especially the local government units,” said Glenn Ymata, Campaign Manager of No Burn Pilipinas. “What the DENR should be doing right now is implementing the Clean Air Act and coordinating with the local government units in making sure that the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act is being followed,” Ymata added.
Groups reiterated that right to balanced and healthy ecology is clearly stated in the Philippine constitution, and that the DENR has its written mandate to protect the public and the environment—which all will be violated and neglected once waste-to-energy guidelines are issued.
No Burn Pilipinas, together with its community partners globally and from different areas in the country remain firm on its stand against waste incineration saying that it violates the right of the people to breathe clean air and for a healthy environment.
“We already have the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act that leads us to an environmental and sustainable approach in waste management. Building waste incinerators is definitely a big step backward for us,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition. “We have model communities who can prove that the Zero Waste approach is the only way to go towards a successful waste management. Practices in said areas should be replicated, strengthened, and mainstreamed. This should also serve as a reminder to our dear secretary that issuing waste-to-energy guidelines invalidates the efforts of these communities,” added Lucero.
Lucero argued that the DENR has been employing a quick fix solution to the waste problem without even fully enforcing the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. Groups also called out the National Solid Waste Management Commission for doing nothing for the past 18 years.
Said groups also trooped to Quezon City Hall to oppose the construction of waste incineration facility in Payatas.
“If only DENR sets as an example of following what’s written in our laws, local units like Quezon City should have not thought of having waste incineration facility in the first place. They have to do their job now and stop violating the laws,” Ymata concluded.
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