Manila, 14 April 2023: Various stakeholders in the Philippines gathered here today in a hybrid event aiming to stock-take the progress and discuss the many ways private companies have been contributing to combating plastic waste and marine plastic debris. The event was organised by Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris, a unit of Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), in collaboration with the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) and UN Habitat, with the endorsement of the Environmental Management Bureau of Department of Energy and Natural Resources of the Republic of the Philippines.
Mr Gilbert C. Gonzales, CESO III, the Director and concurrent Assistant Secretary for Field Operations at the DENR-EMB said that despite the convenience of single-use plastics, the items cause great harm to the environment, especially to marine ecosystem. He referred to a study that considers The Philippines as the third largest contributor to the plastic waste worldwide, amounting to an estimated 0.75 million metric tons of plastic to water bodies and oceans every year.
“It is for these reasons that in 2021, the Philippines has adopted the National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Reduction and Management of Marine Litter (NPOA-ML) with the goals of zero waste in Philippine waters by 2040. In this action plan, the involvement of the private sector is highlighted in the second and third strategies which are mainstreaming circular economy, sustainable consumption and production, and enhancing recovery and recycling coverage, and market respectfully,” he said.
To compliment the National Plan of Action, the Extended Producer Responsibility Act was passed into law on 23 July 2022, which requires big companies to adapt and implement policies for the proper management of plastic packaging waste. EPR is an approach that eliminates unnecessary plastic packaging, develops more environmentally friendly and recyclable packaging design, and promote the recovery of plastic packaging, to reuse them or recycle them back into the production process.
“Throughout this forum, we hope to hear and find out on how private sector, especially the companies in the Philippines, can help the government in reducing plastic waste, marine litter, and at the same time, promoting EPR and other solid waste management and best practices,” said Mr Gonzales.
Private sector initiatives in the Philippines to reduce marine plastic
Ms Ayako Mizuno, Program Manager of the Regional Knowledge Centre for Marine Plastic Debris of ERIA, said in the forum that given the ubiquitous and multi-sectoral nature of plastic in our lives, the private sector is inevitably one of the most significant stakeholders when it comes to finding integral solutions to the plastic waste problem.
“The private sector, with its economic and innovative power, and its capacity to induce behaviour change among consumers has an important role to play in the reduction of plastic waste. We intend to not only promote positive actions taken by the private sector, but also to encourage inter-regional information exchange and enhance business opportunities for such environmentally friendly business practices,” she asserted.
The forum featured representatives of private companies in the Philippines who discussed their business initiatives that help contribute to the reduction of marine plastic litter. The representatives were Engr Ceidge M Razon from Basic Environmental Systems and Technologies (BEST) who presented the Trash to Cash Back program that incentivize segregation at source; Mr Jose Uy III from Nestlé Philippines who explained the company’s program to build the foundation for circularity; Ms Caitlin Punzalan from Mondelēz Philippines, Inc., on sustainable snacking; and Mr Joel Potian from PETValue Philippines, the first bottle-to-bottle recycling facility in the Philippines. Other speakers were Engr Voltaire L. Acosta from The Healthy Oceans and Clean Cities (HOCCI) program implemented by UN-Habitat, as well as Ms Arianne Adol from German development agency of GIZ.
Mr Uy from Nestle said there is an issue of the lack of waste management technology and infrastructure, and recyclers are still not able to meet the volumes that big companies need for recycling or recycled packaging material.
‘We met with the International Finance Corporation and the Alliance to End Plastic Waste to talk about starting a feasibility study on the viability of infrastructure and technology for flexible plastic recycling. We also talked to the Climate Change Commission to get their support on establishing circularity,’ he said.
‘There is opportunity as companies are increasing demand for recycled plastics in packaging. And policies and frameworks are in place to help push this forward.’
Extended producer responsibilities (EPR) implementation
Atty Ivy Joyce De Pedro, Legal Officer at the Pollution Adjudication Board Secretariat of DENR-EMB’s Legal Division, said the enactment of the EPR is one of the strategies in the implementation of NPOA-ML, although this is not the answer to the abatement of plastic pollution.
‘The EPR Law promotes, supports, and incentivises segregation of waste at source and collection, as well as waste reduction, recovery, and recycling. Plastic Neutrality does not end with recovery/collection only, but waste diversion methods and products should be indicated as a required disclosure in the implementation of EPR program,’ she said.
Mr Michikazu Kojima, Senior Advisor to the President on Environmental Issues at the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), said effective EPR implementation requires collaboration on design for recycling and encouragement on investment by some industries utilizing plastics.
‘It may also be important to implement green public procurement and to develop industrial standards for recycled goods, to stimulate the demand. We also need to support the transportation cost of waste from remote islands to recycling facility,’ he said.
Engr Voltaire L. Acosta from HOCCI-UN Habitat said the EPR Law has a big opportunity, but it will also affect informal sectors, which basically run the whole recycling system in the country.
‘Any policy that aims to formalize something will affect the informal sector. Informal sectors should have alternatives, we must have space for them,’ he said.
Voicing similar concern, Mr Crispian Lao, Founding President of the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) and Vice Chair of the National Solid Waste Management Commission, said informal sectors should not be pushed into formal ones, but their capacity should be improved.
He also urged all parties to work together and translate the regulations into a road map.
‘The challenge is now to propagate this to where it needs to go. As EPR comes along, there will be more drop-off point. With high ambitious target, we need harmonization more than replication,’ he concluded.