A Plastic Story

by Dianne Carmie Basilio, Jeena Vianca delos Reyes, and Alyza Leah Santos

[FEATURE] Plastic can be used for almost anything. It can be made into chairs, bags, cups, straws, and tarpaulins. However, with the incontestable number of uses of plastic, it also has a long list of negative impacts to the environment.

Local government sectors started their campaign for lesser use of plastic. Los Baños was the first municipality in the Philippines to regulate the use of plastic. During Mayor Caesar Perez’s term in the year 2008, Municipal Ordinance No. 2008-752 “An Ordinance Prohibiting The Use of Plastic Bags on Dry Goods & Regulating Its Utilization On Wet Goods and Prohibiting The Use of Styrofoam In The Municipality of Los Baños and Prescribing Penalties Thereof” was implemented to minimize the use of plastic in the municipality.

According to the official website of the province of Laguna, many cities and municipalities followed the steps of Los Baños. Some of these are San Pablo City, Calamba City, Nagcarlan, Sta. Cruz and Luisiana. In fact, the province bans the use of plastic and Styrofoam in 2013 with the implementation of Provincial Ordinance No. 11. Other places have also followed the ordinance; Lucban in Quezon and the Municipality of Muntinlupa are some examples among others.

Six years after the implementation of the ordinance, the Municipality of Los Baños implemented an expansion of the bill, Municipal Ordinance No. 2014-1316, “The Expanded Plastic Ordinance of the Municipality of Los Baños”, which prohibits the use of plastic bags, plastic drinking straws, plastic cups, plastic plates, plastic spoon and fork, and styrofoam. Consumers are also highly encouraged to bring reusable bags (ex. eco bags, baskets, bayong, etc.). At the same time, it is prohibited to use plastic banderitas and tarpaulins without the approval from the Barangay.

Hindi naman talaga siya [plastic] nabubulok eh, nagpipile up lamang siya sa sanitary landfill. Mayroon ngang mga pinto plastic, bahay plastic na din. Hindi masama ‘yon, ang problema ay yung disposal. Garbage is piling up and piling up, time will come, saan mo yan dadalhin?” said Dr. Antonio J. Alcantara, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO) designate and professorial lecturer in environmental science in School of Environmental Science and Management – University of the Philippines at Los Baños (SESAM-UPLB).

Dr. Alcantara added that plastics are a major cause of water pollution. During typhoons, plastic waste is swept into drainage systems and canals, increasing the risks of flood.

The said harm of plastics in the environment are only few of the reasons why Municipal Ordinance No. 2008-752 was implemented and later on expanded into Municipal Ordinance No. 2014-1316.

Although the use of plastic cannot be entirely eliminated, the goal is to reduce and minimize the amount of plastic garbage produced in the municipality. One of the main campaigns of the expanded ordinance is to advocate the use of reusable containers and bags. An example of minimizing the use of plastic can be choosing reusable food containers over plastic bags in storing food. It should also be strictly imposed that customers should always carry a bayong or other eco bags to lessen the need for both plastic bags and paper bags.

LB residents on “No Plastic Policy”

According to several vendors from the public market in Brgy. Batong Malake, the local government of Los Baños has done their part in disseminating the information regarding the Expanded No Plastic Policy. “Sa munisipyo [ko nalaman ‘yung tungkol sa Expanded No Plastic Policy], kasi ina-announce naman nila ‘yan, kung anong year ‘yung medyo mahigpit na [ang implementation]. May rumo-ronda rin dito na naga-announce noon, pati ‘yung garbage segregation,” Brenda Sumader said, a fruit vendor at the Barangay Batong Malake public market.

Eight after the first year of implementation of the No Plastic Policy in Los Baños, vendors from different stalls in the Batong Malake public market remain neutral regarding the said policy. “Para sa mga basura na bumabara [sa mga kanal], okay naman ‘yung No Plastic [Policy], pero mahirap din kapag minsan, hindi mai-iwasan na magagalit ‘yung mga customer na nabubutas ‘yung kanilang mga pinamili, nababasag ‘yung mga bote na nilalagay. Kailangan talaga ng plasic. Kasi minsan iniiwanan kami ng mga customer [‘pag nakitang papel yung gamit namin],” Ricky Mendoza, a vegetable vendor, said.

Sumader acknowledges the presence of both advantages and disadvantages to the Expanded No Plastic Policy. “Okay lang sa’kin [‘yung implementation ng No Plastic Policy] kasi para din naman iwas naman sa basura, ‘yun nga lang, may advantage at disadvantage, lahat naman ng bagay may advantages at disadvantages eh. Ang disadvantage ay ‘yung mga mabibigat ‘yung content ng bags mo, minsan nasisira na agad. Minsan hindi na kinakaya ng papel.

Mendoza added that he had a hard time in adjusting to the No Plastic Policy when it was first strongly implemented, especially when it came to bottled condiments like alamang and bagoong. In order to adjust to the policy, he started to sell net bags in case his buyers don’t have an eco-bag with them.

Meanwhile, as a consumer, Mary Jane Icarro, a resident from Brgy. Lalakay, said that she is neutral to the implementation of this policy. She said that the use of paper bags, especially for heavy items, during the rainy season makes it harder for the consumers. “Mas maganda ‘yung [pag-gamit ng] plastic, pero dapat po, ‘yung mga taong gagamit noon, dapat may disiplina po para hindi na pagbawalan gumamit ng plastic.”

What’s left of plastic

According to Dr. Alcantara, it is impossible to totally eliminate the use of plastic; but now that plastic waste and use are minimized, the Municipality of Los Baños wishes to do something about the plastic that is still generated. During Mayor Perez’s term in 2007-2010, plastics were recycled to become tables, hollow blocks or garden steps. However, when Mayor Perez’s previous term ended, the project was also put on hold.

Cecilio Villamor, admin aid and field supervisor of MENRO said that the research on what can be done to plastic and experiments are currently ongoing. Results from this initiative can be expected later this year.

Since Mayor Perez initiated this research years ago, the municipal office has an old machine that can shred, press, and heat plastic in order to produce a recycled product in the form of a table, hollow blocks, or garden steps. MENRO has partnered with the College of Engineering and Agro-Industrial Technology (CEAT) of UPLB to help assess the old machine and provide recommendations. Also, MENRO has already requested for waste plastics recycling technology in the Philippines from the Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

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