MANILA — The environment department said Tuesday it was studying the use of starch from tropical root cassava to replace single-use plastic, a ban of which President Rodrigo Duterte was considering.
The Philippines is the 3rd biggest source of plastic leaking into the oceans, following China and Indonesia, according to a 2015 report pollution study.
"Iyong single-use plastic po natin, ang nakikita po nating alternatibo sa kasalukuyan is iyong cassava, plastic na puwedeng gawa sa cassava starch," said Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda.
(For our single-use plastic, an alternative we see is cassava, plastic made of cassava starch.)
Single-use bags are common fixtures in local markets, while plastic water and juice bottles also pile up as trash in landfills and waterways. Product sachets are also typically made of laminated plastic and aluminum, making them difficult to recycle.
In Indonesia, cassava bags can be burned without harming the environment and will not harm marine creatures that accidentally consume it. The containers, however, cost twice as much as plastic bags, according to an Agence France-Presse.
The environment and agriculture departments will work together to increase cassava production and cut its price, said Antiporda.
Other alternatives considered over the years were not feasible, he said, without giving additional details on what these were.
If the government fails to ban single-use plastic, its use could be taxed, Antiporda said.
"Kailangan magkaroon ng buwis iyang mga 'yan para bayaran naman nila ang pagsira nila sa ating kalikasan," he told radio DZMM.
(There should be a tax on that so they could pay for the destruction of our environment.)
Some local governments already ban single-use plastics through ordinances, mandating stores to charge if customers prefer plastic bags.
The government should encourage consumers to come up with cheap plastic alternatives like old clothes sewn into bags and Tawi-Tawi province's use of baskets woven from banana leaves, said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of green group Ecowaste Coalition.