Green enterprise finds new function — and home — for plastic waste

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 19 2022 01:55 PM | Updated as of Mar 20 2022 07:40 AM

Stacked eco-boards are stored inside The Plastic Flamingo upcycling factory in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Stacked eco-boards are stored inside The Plastic Flamingo upcycling factory in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

DENR chief backs ban on single-use plastics 

MANILA—A social enterprise in Muntinlupa launched Friday a recycling line that would turn plastic-sachet waste and food wrappers into eco-boards or panels — similar to plywood — in a bid to block tons of plastics leaking into the environment. 

The Plastic Flamingo, or The Plaf, kickstarted the recycling line with the help of shipping logistics firm CMA CGM, in what is considered the first in the Philippines, its founder Francois Lesage said. 

This aims to boost the value of single-use sachets, which advocates and green campaigners have said are challenging to recycle because of its material, since some include a metallized part.

"We are now empowered with new capabilities and resources to transform the almost-impossible-to-recycle plastic sachets into products like eco-panels which can be used to build shelters," Lesage said.

"The new recycling line also translates into value for waste pickers to collect the plastic wrappers to be recycled."

Eco-boards, the officers said, could substitute for plywoods widely used in construction and housing, with waste sachets literally finding a new home. 

Erica Reyes, the Plaf's chief operating officer, said the manufacturing involves compression molding or the application of heat and pressure. Their recycling line can process up to 4 eco-panels in an hour, she added. 

The Philippines is one of the biggest plastic polluters on the planet, contributing over a third of the plastic waste in the world's oceans, a study this year found.

A study by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) in 2019 showed that 164 million pieces of sachets are being used by Filipinos everyday, or nearly 60 billion pieces annually. 

Plastic labo bag use, meanwhile, is at 45.2 million pieces daily in the country alone or over 16 million yearly. 

STOP PLASTICS, 'PITY THE WORLD': DENR CHIEF

Even before this, the firm has been transforming plastic waste into construction materials or furniture, with products ranging from planks, stools, and recently coasters, through plastic extrusion. 

These products are directly sold to companies for now. 

The manufacturing plant can upcycle up to 2,000 tons of plastic waste annually, Lesage told ABS-CBN News in an interview.

Green firm finds new use — and home — for plastic waste 1
Green firm finds new use — and home — for plastic waste 2
Green firm finds new use — and home — for plastic waste 3

Workers remove excess plastic shreds from a freshly pressed eco-board inside The Plastic Flamingo upcycling factory in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers put the shredded plastic sachets into a heat press inside The Plastic Flamingo upcycling factory in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers remove excess plastic shreds from a freshly pressed eco-board inside The Plastic Flamingo upcycling factory in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

The Plaf and CMA CGM aim to stop 120 tons of plastic waste from leaking into the ocean within the year, the officers said during the launch. 

"As part of the strategy to protect biodiversity . . . [We want] to minimize our impact which our shipping corporation may have on the environment," CMA CGM General Manager Yeya Berjaoui said, noting that sachets and wrappers are hard to recycle.

"This is why we have decided . . . to stop transporting plastic waste by sea to deter such wastes from being exported to destination where sorting, recycling, and recovery cannot be assured."

Jorge Emmanuel, adjunct professor of environmental science and engineering at the Silliman University, earlier this month told ABS-CBN News that to address the plastic problem, its production should be gradually phased out.

While recycling can address the problem in the short term, something must be done to guarantee that its production would not go out of hand, he said.

"Recycling is not the solution. It does have . . . play an important role for the interim, for the recyclable plastics that can be safely recycled. We cannot stop the production of plastic tomorrow," he said.

Environment Secretary Jim Sapulna on Friday, meanwhile, supported calls to ban single-use plastics because the pollution has been "uncontrollable." 

"I myself, the DENR is supporting the bill banning the use of small plastic, ano. Kasi iyan ang hindi natin naku-control – shampoo, sabon, all of these things, hindi natin naku-control ito," he said in a televised briefing.

"Kaya sana, maipasa po iyong bill ng ban on plastic. Maraming nagla-lobby na hindi. Sana maawa po tayo sa ating daigdig, ano. Nag-iisa itong daigdig natin na sisirain natin. So I support fully the ban on plastic."

The House of Representatives in July last year passed a measure that seeks to gradually phase out the production, sale, and use of single-use plastics. 

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