MANILA, Philippines - If you live in Muntinlupa City, you better bring your own bag the next time you shop.
Last Tuesday, the city started implementing Ordinance No. 10-109, which prohibits the use of plastic bags on dry goods, regulates their use for wet goods, and prohibits the use of styrofoam or styropor, usually used for foodstuff.
Such a move is the first in Metro Manila, prompting Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Francis N. Tolentino to laud the city.
"I laud the City Government of Muntinlupa, under the visionary leadership of Mayor Aldrin San Pedro for initiating this bold move for the sake of our environment," Tolentino said.
The MMDA chairman added that he would push for the adoption of this measure by other cities and one municipality comprising Metro Manila. He also encouraged other mayors throughout the country to do the same.
"The MMDA strongly encourages local government units to adopt similar strong measures such as these to combat the dangerous effects of environmental degradation which leads to massive flooding and climate change," Tolentino said, noting that the damages wrought by typhoon Ondoy on Metro Manila and its neighboring towns and cities reached up to $4 billion. "The tragic loss of lives and loved ones is unquantifiable," he added.
The Muntinlupa City Council noted that flash floods in the city were due to disposed plastic bags and other non-biodegradable containers clogging the canals, 3 creeks, 11 rivers and other waterways that all drain into the nearby Laguna Lake.
Those caught violating the ordinance will be meted a fine. Business establishments found guilty of violating it may have their business licenses cancelled for up to one year.
Polystyrene "styrofoam" containers are usually used for drinks and food. It is a petroleum-based plastic with insulation properties.
Manufacturing styrofoam pollutes the air and creates large amounts of solid and liquid waste. In 1986, it was reported to be the 5th largest creator of hazardous waste, according to a US Environmental Protection Agency report.
Not only is styrofoam bad for the environment, it may also cause harm to humans and animals.
According to an MMDA statement, "toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain, especially when heated in a microwave. These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems."
When dumped as litter, polystyrene foam may also cause choking and clogging of digestive systems in animals.
In fact, Portland and Orange County, California in the US, as well as Taiwan, have already banned the use of polystyrene foam.