Better than paper and plastics
Over a year has passed since the implementation of an ordinance of Muntinlupa City, which bans the use of plastic packaging by business establishments. Las Piñas has followed suit, and Marikina City will do likewise starting Nov. 2 this year (Inquirer, 5/22/12).
It looked like a good decision. After all, plastic has a bad reputation of being one of the worst pollutants. Add this to the fact that the Philippines is a tropical-climate archipelago, making plastic a threat to marine wildlife, sewage systems—not to mention its being a major contributor to the flooding of residential areas.
Yes, I admit that, at first, I was heartened to hear that such a ban was to be enforced. But it turns out that there are also many disadvantages in using the brown paper bag:
• A paper bag cannot be used for packing wet items, like frozen food; or for heavy items, like books and electronic accessories.
• Though it decomposes relatively faster compared to plastic, it is not as durable.
• Producing it consumes around 20 times more fresh water than plastic; plastic needs less energy to be manufactured and recycled.
• Along with water, trees are needed to produce paper materials. This results in deforestation, which in turn leads to floods, soil erosion and decline in biodiversity.
Paper is not really a better alternative than plastic; nor is it worse. Both ultimately cause pollution, from manufacturing to disposal and recycling. Concentrating on using one over the other will not help in the effort to minimize pollution.
There can be an alternative for the consumers: reusable bags. This is by far the best alternative because of its superior durability and reusability over the other two materials. Still, people occasionally tend to forget to bring reusable bags and, therefore, are forced to choose only from the options currently available. Banning plastic materials narrows the choices down to the use of paper bags or buying a cloth bag.
The point is that the ban hinders people from exercising their free will to choose the most convenient option for them; and that the ban limits their choice to the “side effects”/disadvantages of using paper bags.
I therefore suggest that the customers be given three choices: a paper bag, a plastic bag or a reusable bag. However, to limit the use of plastic and paper packaging, business establishments should ask a peso or two every plastic or paper bag they hand to their customers. This should make people more conscious of bringing a reusable bag with them whenever they go shopping, besides discouraging them from using paper or plastic.
—PAUL ARISTOTLE CARRERA,
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