'𝗔 𝗳𝗮𝗹𝘀𝗲 𝘀𝗼𝗹𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻': 𝗚𝗿𝗲𝗲𝗻 𝗴𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗽𝘀 𝘂𝗿𝗴𝗲 𝗣𝗕𝗕𝗠 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗮𝗽 𝗘𝗣𝗥
Written by Israelbelle Ferolino
Environmental groups urge President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. to scrap the Senate Bill 2425 or the Practice of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) on Plastic Packaging Waste Bill.
The EPR bill makes corporations accountable by requiring them to collect, recycle, treat, or dispose of their products after they are sold and consumed. The bill mandates companies to begin recovering 10% of their plastic trash footprint in December 2023 and increase that percentage each month until they attain an 80% recovery rate in December 2030.
Companies must also register with the government their EPR programs, which must include information on the types of packaging they use, plans for recycling or reusing them, plans to phase out particular packaging types, potential product redesigns and plans to adopt alternative product delivery methods like refilling.
If companies fail to register their EPR programs or the annual recovery rate is not met, penalties can be imposed varying from P5 million to P20 million.
Although institutionalizing EPR mechanisms is a positive step in the Philippines' campaign to eliminate plastic, Green groups from the #BreakFreefromPlastic movement warned that the EPR bill's current version encourages greenwashing and false solutions that let plastic polluters simply continue their wasteful business practices at the expense of the environment and communities.
The groups believe that the measure will institutionalize the business practice of shifting the societal costs of waste management, including the environmental damage and corresponding economic costs of garbage disposal on government agencies.
“A genuine EPR follows the concept of "polluters' pay principle" that puts greater responsibility on those who pollute more, such as the plastics industry and fast-moving consumer goods corporations. This should go hand in hand with regulations banning single-use plastics. Unfortunately, the bill is polluter-friendly thus we urge the President to scrap the bill immediately,” said Coleen Salamat, Plastic Solutions Campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.
One of the solutions tacitly pushed by the bill for the management of plastic waste is the thermal treatment of plastic trash, which the groups claim is a false solution that poses major risks to human health, the climate, and the environment.
Froilan Grate, Executive Director of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, said the bill is a setback to the Philippines' waste management objectives regarding the country’s environmental laws that ban incinerators. “Allowing disposal and recycling technology that involves incinerating or melting not only poses risks to our communities but it also takes away the appropriate responses to waste management including the necessary support for actual sustainable solutions,” he stressed.
“All types of waste burning pose a hazardous impact on human health. Waste incinerators produce a multitude of pollutants including mercury emissions and dioxins and furans that contaminate soil, air, and water sources. The crucial role of the healthcare sector in the plastic crisis as a whole is to articulate the health impact of plastic from a life cycle perspective. Human health is affected through various pathways from extraction, transportation, and manufacturing to consumption and disposal. The sector must therefore lead by example in eliminating non-essential plastics in healthcare and influence policies like the EPR bill,” added Dr. Glenn Roy Paraso, Executive Director of Mary Johnston Hospital in Tondo, Manila.
The groups also voiced worries about the proposed measure's constrained scope, which focuses exclusively on the packaging and won't completely address the Philippines' plastic pollution issue.
“The EPR bill falls drastically short of what's needed to deliver on Mr. Marcos' inaugural promise to end plastic pollution. The bill focuses on recovery, treatment, and recycling--approaches that have already failed in developed countries that export their waste to poorer nations. Meanwhile, plastic production and plastic burning--called "thermal treatment" and encouraged by the EPR bill--are major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. This bill is misguided and must be vetoed--it serves no purpose but to preserve the industry status quo of massive plastic production while presenting no benefits to the government and endangering communities,” said Marian Ledesma, Zero Waste Campaigner of Greenpeace Philippines.
“Aside from shifting focus to reduction and reuse targets, the EPR bill—recognizing its limitations—should also be supplemented by other policy measures such as pursuing a single-use plastic ban, stricter waste trade regulations, and green public procurement, as well as maintaining the national ban on waste incineration as stipulated in the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and Clean Air Act,” added Miko Alino, Project Coordinator for Corporate Accountability of Break Free From Plastic.
The groups added that the huge waste management firms and the plastics industry would be the real winners if this bill became law because they would be able to continue their harmful business practices at the expense of taxpayers, local communities, and the environment.