Youth-led policy review calls for a national ban on SUPs; cites best plastic management practices from Marikina, Makati, and QC

Quezon City—There is a dire need for the enactment of House Bill (HB) No. 9147 or the Single-use Plastic Products Regulation Act on account of the grave impacts of plastic pollution in the country, according to a policy note recently released by a group of AB Development Studies students at the Ateneo De Manila University and The Climate Reality Project Philippines.

The policy note is part of  “Mag-ASUP Tayo”, an advocacy project of the Climate’s Eight from Ateneo and the Youth Cluster of Climate Reality Philippines on anti-single-use plastics (ASUP) policies and practices. Its findings and recommendations were presented during the 28th episode of Climate Reality Philippines’ Klimatotohanan webcast series. 

The policy review evaluated the local government units (LGUs) of Marikina City, Makati City, and Quezon City according to the impact, efficiency, and consistencies of their existing plastic waste management policies. 

Streamlining the definitions of and imposing a ban on SUPs

“All the interviewed LGU representatives expressed their  support for the passing of HB No. 9147 or the Single-Use Plastic Products Regulation Act,” Ryan Opinion, Head of the Climate’s Eight Policy Note Team, shared.

The HB No. 9147 provides for the gradual phase-out of single-use plastics, which it defines as “plastic products designed to be disposed of, destroyed, or recycled, after only one use.”

Opinion said that the passage of HB No. 9147 would operationalize a national definition of single-use plastics in the country and enable LGUs to act in a streamlined and coordinated manner.

In the absence of a law that will ban single-use plastics, Opinion said that the policy note highlighted the need for the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to issue and promulgate the Non-Environmentally Acceptable Products (NEAP) list, as mandated by Republic Act No. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The NEAP list, which has been overdue for over two (2) decades, would identify and eventually ban products that are deemed harmful to the environment.

Scaling up of best practices on SUP management

The policy note discussed best practices from target LGUs that could be adopted by other LGUs to improve their own plastic waste management and reduction systems.

For one, it credited consumer-targeted campaigns for effectively evoking behavior changes in plastic consumption among the LGU’s constituents.

“Consumer-targeted campaigns are effective as supporting programs for ordinances that target establishments. Such programs should aim at incentivizing consumers and targeting behavioral change,” Opinion said.

The policy note cited Makati City’s “Recyclable Mo, Palit Grocery Ko” for encouraging more citizens to collect recyclable wastes in exchange for grocery items. Likewise, it cited Quezon City’s “Trash to Cashback” campaign for allowing consumers to trade their single-use plastics for environmental points. Marikina City, on the other introduced the “Bring Your Own Bag” information campaign, which provided incentives and prizes for citizens in public markets who bring their own reusable bags. Altogether, these incentive-based strategies and information campaigns complemented the ASUP policies of respective cities contributing to the decrease in the recorded volume of plastic waste they sent to landfills.

The formation of committees to inspect ASUP regulations, according to the policy review, was also effective. For instance, the City of Makati Plastic Monitoring Task Force provided worthwhile assistance in the implementation of the city’s ASUP policies as they were dedicated to monitoring the compliance of establishments and enforcing the provisions.

The policy note highlighted that ordinances that focus on regulating not the exact type of plastic being used but the intention and use of plastic help prevent loopholes and leeways on the part of establishments and distributors. This was the case for Marikina, which resulted in more than 5,000 kilograms of recyclables, and dramatic improvement in flood control due to removal of plastics in drainage systems.

The policy note also noted that having a uniform SUP definition is an effective takeoff point to reinforce the implementation of policy waste management policies. This is institutionalized in Quezon City’s Ordinance No. SP-2876 which distinguished plastics according to their use and ruled out harmful substitutes. This would prevent loopholes in regulations and standardize operations. 

Policy recommendations at the local level

The policy note also included recommendations directed at improving current LGU policies and enabling better ASUP implementation.

These recommendations include the following: (1) LGUs must regularly update their Waste Analysis & Characterization Studies (WACS) and must make them accessible on online platforms; (2) Plastic waste management ordinances should  also have specific target metrics along with specific succeeding transitory stages of phasing out plastic in the future; (3) Initiate studies of supply and usage trends on plastic alternatives among constituencies to incentivize industries and enterprises to use alternatives; (4) Establish greater partnerships with micro, small, and medium enterprises and non-governmental organizations that help promote the zero-waste lifestyle and circular economy through initiatives, such as upcycling of plastic waste, refilling stores, and plastic-free deliveries and shopping; and (5) Create local resource banks with all plastic waste management guidelines and ordinances presented in a clear and concise manner for establishments and retailers to address queries and concerns. 

“We do have a right and responsibility to hold our LGUs and government agencies accountable for the honest fulfillment of ASUP and proper waste management,” Kat Llorente, a member of the Climate’s Eight Team said.

Policy recommendations for the national government

Trisha Cruz, also a member of the Climate’s Eight Team, noted that there is a need to shift the focus of finding more sustainable solutions from consumers to producers and regulators.

“The pressure for sustainable solutions is always dumped on the consumers. And what makes that even more difficult is this “pressure” is not productive. There won’t be that much progress because a lot of these consumers don’t have the means to shift to eco-friendly products and practices, even if they wanted to,” Cruz said.

This is why one of the policy note’s recommendations to the national government is to “fund the research and development of viable plastic alternatives for plastic dependent industries and swiftly begin the overall process of integrating their use in our economy.”

A review of LGU plastic waste management policies, according to the policy analysis, must also be conducted by the national government to provide feedback and recommendations, best practices, and points of convergence.

Moreover, the policy note urged the establishment of platforms that will make available recent studies and data from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), NSWMC, and other related departments and offices that are valuable to local planning and implementation.

In the end, Opinion noted that a system change is needed to truly fight plastic pollution and climate change.

“Our political structures and processes are really powerful and essential to solving our sustainability and climate problems. [Climate change] is an economic problem caused by plastic dependence, a political problem caused by the unwillingness of the government to enforce anti-pollution laws, and a social problem influenced by our consumerist culture,” he noted.