MANILA (UPDATE) — Environmental groups on Tuesday called on government to ban companies from using sachets to package their products to reduce plastic waste in the country.
While some companies have made efforts to stop using plastic packaging, government regulation would be more effective to address the problem rather than relying on voluntary commitments, said Miko Aliño, program manager of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific.
"We're recommending the government to phase out the use of sachets ideally in 3 years. Hopefully that would give time for businesses to rethink and put more investments in redesigning products and delivery systems," Aliño said in a virtual press briefing.
Some 164 million sachets are used and thrown away each day by Filipinos, or 59.8 billion per year, according to a 2019 GAIA report.
GAIA and environmental network Break Free From Plastic also urged government to support alternative delivery schemes, such as zero-waste stores and refilling stations, where customers can bring their own reusable containers so they could get refills on basic commodities such as oil and soy sauce, among others.
Zero-waste stores that reject sachets and promote refilling have already been established in some parts of the country, according to Break Free From Plastic national coordinator Rei Panaligan.
These include stores in Quezon City, Taguig, Makati, Cebu City, Davao City, Baguio City, and Dumingag in Zamboanga del Sur.
A survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations in 2019 showed that 6 out of 10 Filipinos support a nationwide ban on sachets while 7 out of 10 are in favor of buying condiments in recyclable containers instead of sachets.
ADDRESS THE PRODUCTION SIDE OF THE PLASTIC PROBLEM
Aliño noted how most efforts in addressing plastic pollution focused on collecting waste rather than reducing the production of plastics.
"If we don't produce these materials in the first place then we don't have to deal with the leakage, we don't have to deal with lots of cleanups," he said.
The groups also called on government to pass a law on extended producer responsibility (EPR), which will hold companies accountable for the disposal and recycling of their products.
"People are being blamed for the plastic waste, especially consumers. And the burden and responsibility on managing the plastic waste falls [on] the cities and the local government units," said Panaligan, as he explained that there should be a "change in narrative" in addressing plastic pollution.
"The burden of that should fall into the industry and the manufacturing because that's the waste of the product," he added.
Sen. Cynthia Villar has filed a bill on EPR, which remains pending at the committee level.
The groups also recommended that companies fully disclose the amount of plastics they use, and for government to come up with guidelines on safe disposal of sachets and environmentally-friendly packaging.