Philippines can unlock up to $1.1 billion from recycling plastic yearly: World Bank

Jessica Fenol, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 01 2021 11:23 AM

Marine debris end up at the breakwater near the Manila Yacht Club while overlaying of dolomite continues on the other end of the shore as part of DENR’s Manila Bay rehabilitation project. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA - The Philippine government should work with the private sector and other stakeholders to unlock the potential of up to $1.1 billion (P53.4 billion) per year in material value from recycling plastic, a World Bank report released this month showed. 

To date, only $246 million (P11.9 billion) per year is being tapped since the country only recycles a part of its single-use plastic wastes annually, the World Bank's Market Study for the Philippines: Plastics Circularity Opportunities and Barriers said. 

The Philippines in 2019 recycled some 28 percent of key plastic resins, the study showed. At the same time, 78 percent of material value of plastics was lost to the Philippine economy every year, the World Bank said.

"Fully addressing this market opportunity will require public and private sector investments to improve waste collection/sorting, an enabling environment to improve recycling economics, and
other systemic interventions," the report said.

Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand are losing an equivalent of $6 billion per year, or 75 percent of material value, when single-use plastics are not recycled as new materials, the report said.

“These studies show that there is an untapped opportunity to reap environmental and economic benefits with clear and complementary interventions from the private and public sector," aid World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand Ndiamé Diop.

Diop added that "mismanaged plastic waste" across the 3 countries also threatens economic sectors including tourism, fisheries, impacting livelihood and infrastructure.

Globally, 4.8 to 12.7 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans every year with Asia contributing over 80 percent of this marine leak, the World Bank said. The Philippines is among the top contributors to marine plastic wastes, it said.

In addition, the coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a headwind in global plastic recycling efforts, a report showed.

Demand for plastic gloves, face shield as well as takeaway food packaging, among others, has intensified while syringes are also now in demand due to the global COVID-19 vaccine rollout on top of the usual plastic wastes consumed on a day to day basis.

Coffee cups with discarded face masks and gloves are pictured in Berlin's Neukoelln district on March 22, 2021, amid the ongoing coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic. Photo: David Gannon/AFP

About 64 million sachets are used in the Philippines daily, based on the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. Retail or "tingi" is a way of life for poor Filipinos who only have funds for single-use quantities.

"This has led to an increased awareness towards plastic waste management, bringing the topic of plastic pollution to the forefront of consumer consciousness in the Philippines," the study said. 

A National Plan of Action on Marine Litter by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with the help of UNDP Philippines, is being developed. 

It also has a national waste diversion rate plan of 80 percent by 2022, according to the National Economic and Development Authority, the group said.

In order to reap the economic benefits of plastic recycling, the World Bank recommended the following:

• Increase sorting efficiency of post-consumer collection of plastics
• Set recycled content targets across all major end-use applications
• Mandate “design for recycling” standards for plastics, especially for packaging
• Encourage increase in recycling capacities (mechanical and chemical)
• Implement industry-specific requirements to increase waste collection rates
• Restrict disposal of waste plastics in landfills and phase-out non-essential plastic items

“These studies serve a critical need for country-specific data on how plastics are produced, used and managed in Southeast Asia. They clearly highlight the importance of managing plastic waste as a valuable resource, and not solely as a waste management problem,” said Asia Pacific Regional Industry Director Manufacturing, Agribusiness and Services at the International Finance Corporation Rana Karadsheh.

The study highlighted the need to address marine debris and the promotion of "plastic circularity" or the ability to produce plastics that can be reused thus reducing wastes and preserving resources, it said. 

The European Union and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also have an agreement to promote the circular economy.

Several brands operating in the country have also committed to contribute in plastic recycling efforts and in promoting environmentally sustainable business growth. 

-- with a report from Reuters

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