Greenpeace: Unbridled and irresponsible plastic production is the problem
I was concerned by your paper’s editorial, “Mindset change on waste management,” (6/18/23). While it’s good that Philippine Daily Inquirer used its voice to call attention to the serious problem of increasing waste in the country, the article, unfortunately, chose to point fingers at people while largely making no mention of the primary responsibility of companies and their outsize role in producing the thousands of tons of plastic waste the entire country is dealing with right now.
Yes, solid waste generation is increasing in the Philippines, but this is largely driven by the increase in the production of single-use plastics—not because of improper waste disposal. This mindset puts the burden of the plastics problem on local governments and communities that are engulfed by all the waste—while the industry responsible for churning out all the waste is basically scot-free.
The reason why plastic waste is increasing is that there are no laws that mandate companies to reduce their production. Our extended producer responsibility (EPR) law is so flawed it only mandates plastic collection (“recovery”) by companies, rather than reduction of production. Recovered plastics are then allowed to be burned or melted for other uses, creating more pollution. The law calls this “recycling,” but in actual fact (and the industry knows this) the majority of all plastics, especially sachets, are virtually unrecyclable. And yet the government has not mandated companies to reduce plastic production. No surprise that the EPR law was warmly welcomed by companies—and unfortunately, even by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
This is where a mindset shift needs to happen. We’ve been conditioned to think that throwaway plastic packaging is normal and (as your editorial suggests) we only need to dispose of it properly. This thinking has prevented large-scale innovation through systems where products can be sold and delivered with minimal or no disposable plastic. And this thinking has also allowed companies to continue manufacturing pollution in the form of sachets and other packaging, without being held accountable for this atrocity.
To be sure, Filipinos need to learn and practice waste segregation as enshrined in Republic Act No. 9003. Households are mandated to sort waste, and local government units (LGUs) are mandated to ensure there are systems in place for sorted waste, such as functioning materials recovery facilities, and even municipal systems for food waste collection and centers for composting or biodigesting. Waste pickers can have a big role to play here, as well as in collecting sorted recyclables such as paper, cardboard, metals, and glass. These systems badly need to be put in place.
But more than behavior and lifestyle changes from people, we need companies to change their harmful and exploitative behavior of using plastic pollution to ruthlessly amass profits. After all, the plastic crisis runs deeper than waste, because at its root is a throwaway culture perpetuated by companies that produce and consume single-use plastic in massive amounts. Businesses peddling sachets and other flexible packaging have to take responsibility for the plastic they are producing. There has to be more corporate accountability and action beyond waste recovery because no amount of waste management can solve the plastic crisis or match the upward spiral of plastic production.
Ordinary Filipinos have always been at the receiving end of the “walang disiplina kaya puro basura” blame. But on the other hand, are companies actually doing anything? No fast-moving consumer goods company has ever moved to substantially reduce their plastic production in the Philippines. Even with all the dire warnings about plastic pollution, their production volumes continue to increase, and they’ve never paid their share of the costs of plastic waste management that is shouldered by people and LGUs. Where does the burden of responsibility lie? Is bad waste management our biggest problem, or is it unbridled and irresponsible plastic production? You decide.
zero waste campaigner,