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EPR: To reduce plastic waste

/ 05:04 AM September 23, 2021

Last May, I cited a report that the Philippines accounts for 36 percent of the plastic thrown into the world’s oceans and that the Pasig River is the biggest plastic-emitting river — in the world! Aside from the Pasig, six other rivers in the country are among the top 10 plastic polluting rivers globally: Tullahan, Meycauayan, Pampanga, Libmanan, Rio Grande de Mindanao, and Agno. What a shameful thing to report.

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Clearly, addressing the country’s plastic problem should be high on the national agenda. But it isn’t. Countries around the world are introducing mandates for companies to not only be responsible for the products they sell, but for what happens to them, and their packaging afterwards. It’s called extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Worldwide, there are at least 400 EPR systems in operation for a variety of product categories. Most European countries have mandatory EPR in effect. Japan and South Korea have both seen success in implementing EPR.

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The Philippines should make the EPR mandatory too. And Congress has the power to do that. Sen. Cynthia Villar has filed Senate Bill No. 1331 to institutionalize the practice of EPR in waste management among producers, distributors, and retailers. The EPR practices and activities that the Senate bill seeks to enforce include re-designing the packaging of plastic containers to improve their recyclability or reusability; adoption of alternative delivery systems to allow consumers to buy products using refillable containers; and initiating campaigns to encourage consumers to avoid single-use plastics and to voluntarily bring these plastic products to identified collection facilities.

The House of Representatives, recently passed on third and final reading House Bill No. 9147 seeking to phase out different single-use plastic products within one to four years depending on their classification. Under the bill, the producers and importers of single-use plastics are required to adopt EPR programs within two years from its enactment.

But, important as it is, it would be better to enforce the EPR gradually to avoid overwhelming our waste management systems and to give time to assess what changes might be needed. It could cover producers and importers with an annual turnover of more than P100 million for the first few years before including the rest.

There is one company in the Philippines that has already adopted EPR—Nestlé, one of my clients. It has been successful in reducing plastic waste through a plastic neutrality program that takes back as much plastic as it puts out into the market thereby ensuring there’s no additional pollution of our land, or the world’s oceans.

Nestlé adopted the EPR framework for plastic waste to become plastic neutral. And has achieved plastic neutrality since August 2020, the first multinational fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) company to do so. Since then, they have collected more than 27,000 metric tons of plastic waste. It has four partners: two domestic nongovernment organizations (Plastic Credit Exchange and Pure Oceans) and two cement companies (Republic Cement and CEMEX Holdings Philippines). The partners collect plastic waste while the cement companies co-process the collected waste in manufacturing cement, with minimal emissions.

The company has also become the first FMCG firm to shift to paper straws and has begun to use paper bands on products. It has also developed solid waste management education modules endorsed by the National Solid Waste Management Commission that is taught in partnership with the Department of Education through the Nestlé Wellness Campus program. These modules are used for Grades 1-10 students in more than 13,000 public schools nationwide. Teaching the kids environmental responsibility will save the world (no exaggeration). It is also collaborating with Save Philippine Seas in helping encourage its employees and consumers to adopt sustainable lifestyles through a series of webinars.

Environmental protection is everyone’s responsibility. It’s time for the private sector to do its share in ensuring that future generations still have a viable place to live in. Nestlé, by voluntarily adopting EPR, has shown that it is doable. Other companies must follow. The government now needs to make it mandatory by passing the EPR law on plastic waste.

Email: [email protected]
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TAGS: extended producer responsbility, Like It Is, Pasig River, Peter Wallace, plastics pollution
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