Monday, September 3, 2012

Quezon City Adopts Measures to Protect the Environment by Banning the Use of Plastic Bags

Quezon City made a move that would be likely replicated by other cities and towns in the Philippines. It is in connection with its desire to protect the environment by taking up measures against improper disposal of used materials especially plastic bags.

On September 1, 2012, Quezon City started the implementation of its ordinances banning the use of plastic bags by shoppers and business establishments. An ordinance requires a shopper to present an old plastic bag that will be replaced with a new thicker one when he purchases something. A discount will be given to customers who bring their own bag whether plastic or not. A shopper who does not bring any will be charge 2 pesos for every plastic bag that he may use. Similar measures are also passed in the cities of Pasay, Muntinlupa, Pasig, Marikina, Las PiƱas, and Manila.

Business establishments are strictly required to comply with the ordinance. A first violation of it will be fined 1,000 pesos, a second violation- 3000 pesos and third violation- 5,000 pesos or revocation of a business license.

Reacting to the ban, 14 large business groups which included the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Federation of Philippine Industry, Philippine Exports Confederation, Employers confederation of the Philippines, Pollution Control Association of the Philippines and others protested the ban saying that it will do more harm than good to the environment.                                                  

The group contended that 70 trees need to be cut off to produce a ton of paper bags, and that it needs a gallon of water to produce a paper bag while a similar volume of water can make 116 plastic bags.  They added that a typical paper bag is 6 times heavier than a plastic bag and because of it there will be more amounts of trashes thrown to the landfills, and that the manufacture of paper needs 200% percent more power than the manufacture of paper bags thus resulting to more carbon dioxide emission. Above all, the implementation of plastic bag ban nationwide will result to 200,000 workers of the plastic bag industry losing their job. The business group asserted that climate change and improper waste disposal are the causes of floods and that the implementation of the “Waste Segregation Law” would be a more viable option of protecting the environment instead of banning outright the use of plastic bags.

Despite the argument of the business group, it is a fact that the use of plastic bags has aggravated the effect of climate change. Unlike other discarded materials such as leftover foods, papers and others wastes which decays in the ground after several days or months, plastic bags take decades or even hundreds of years to disintegrate. Biodegradable and non-toxic waste if used properly can even enrich the soil. Plastic bags on the other hand contaminate it. Because it is light and non biodegradable, plastic bags are easily blown by the wind or carried away by waters every which way during rains. Some of them ended up in the waterways. They clog a city’s drainage system. They also pollute the river and the sea. And marine animals get sick when they eat them. In the landfills the plastic bags and other plastic products are the most obnoxious wastes because they do not easily decay unlike other trashes. Burning plastic results to emission of toxic smokes and gasses that are hazardous to the health of the people living near the landfills or the place where those plastics are.

Recycling and segregation are important in proper waste disposal. Biodegradable materials should be segregated from non biodegradable and the toxic from the non-toxic too. Some plastic products like bottles and other plastic containers can be recycled. Recycling can help minimize the production and use of plastic products, and by doing it, we have made and effort in protecting our environment.

In relation to the use of plastic bags, the government of President Aquino has expressed its support on the measures of using recyclable bags in lieu of paper bags.

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