By Mary Jane San Juan
October 19, 2022
This invitation was extended by Juvinia P. Serafin, senior environmental management specialist and officer-in-charge chief at the Solid Waste Management Division, Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) during the fifth episode of Stories for a Better Reality entitled “Clean Up, Level Up, Green Up: Youth-Led Initiatives on Circular Economy.”
Stories for a Better Reality is a climate webcast series that reframes urgent climate conversations from the vantage point of the Filipino youth, underscoring the intergenerational responsibility and the much higher stakes the youth have in the climate crisis. It is co-organized by Climate Reality Philippines with the Department of Education, DENR, National Youth Commission, and youth groups Kids for Kids and Wavefarers.
Holding plastic producers accountable
The newly enacted EPR Act requires large enterprises or business entities with over P100 million in total assets to be environmentally responsible throughout the life cycle of their products, by reducing and preventing waste and pollution.
“We need to think about how much plastic is being produced, who’s producing them, and demand accountability for all the plastic pollution that is happening globally,” Tiara Samson, plastic-free campus coordinator of the Break Free From Plastic Movement, said during the workshop.
The EPR Act, at its core, seeks to achieve just that. However, certain contestable provisions in the law must be addressed in drafting the IRR. This includes the clear absence of safeguards from the likelihood that enterprises would pass on the added costs to implement their EPR schemes to the consumers.
If we truly want the EPR Act to succeed, we need to ensure that its IRR will ensure a people-centric approach to implementation and that it will serve as a building block toward phasing out single-use plastics and enabling a circular economy. This will only be possible through a whole-of-society approach that values the voice of the youth in policymaking.
Shifting from a linear to a circular economy
With modernization and industrialization, the world operates in a fast-paced linear economy where raw materials extracted from natural resources end up as waste on land, water, and air.
For Climate Reality Leader Carlo Delantar, head of Circular Economy at Gobi-Core, circular economy is the key to a livable future.
During the webinar, Delantar explained circular economy as the consumption of resources while still providing sustenance for other living organisms without harming the environment.
“Plants provide oxygen, that oxygen provides sustenance for animals and human beings. With these factors, human beings and animals provide waste. That waste is also food for plants. Putting it simply, that is what circular economy is in a fundamental manner,” he expounded.
Delantar pushed for the integration of the following principles into the country’s production and consumption practices: (1) keeping products and materials in use, (2) designing out waste and pollution, and (3) regenerating natural systems.
While the Philippine economy is still linear, there is a wealth of youth environmental and climate advocates working on mainstreaming these principles into different industries and sectors.
Marine biologist Mary Jane Lamoste of Sustainable Ocean Alliance shared during the webinar that she launched Tagpi-Tagpi in 2020 to empower women to upcycle used fabrics, old denim, and plastic waste from coastal clean-ups into marine-themed plush toys.
Samson, on the other hand, shared her organization’s initiative to conduct brand audits—a leveled-up clean-up drive where volunteers record data about the plastic waste they collected.
Using the empirical data generated on the main sources of plastic waste, brand audit calls on the large enterprises that produced most of the plastic waste to reveal their carbon footprint, reduce their plastic waste, and redesign their packaging.
According to Samson, Break Free from Plastics Philippines also works with schools dedicated to shifting their narratives and practices toward a zero-waste approach. “We introduce programs that help schools be plastic-free. We illustrate steps on how schools from all around the world have done this and contextualize it on their own needs,” she said.
Aside from the EPR Act, Serafin discussed during the webcast other government-led initiatives on circular economy. She said that DENR has developed an integrated approach to solving waste management problems and protecting the marine environment through the Interagency Assessment and Programming of Activities for the Implementation of Strategies in the National Plan of Action for the Prevention, Reduction, and Management of Marine Litter, which aims to achieve zero waste in the Philippine water by 2040.
Serafin also shared that the agency is mobilizing 300 solid waste enforcers and educators who received a massive information campaign about proper solid waste segregation. These enforcers monitor the unclean sites and lead the communities in conducting clean-up drives in these areas.
Mary Jane San Juan is currently the communications officer of The Climate Reality Project Philippines. Before joining the organization, she spent two years working with international non-government organizations on implementing behavior change communication strategies and campaigns for different local government units, community health workers, and mothers.
ABOUT ELEVENTH HOUR
This article was originally published on The Climate Reality Project Philippines’ weekly column for the Manila Bulletin called Eleventh Hour.
This column serves a digital space to discuss our organization’s work on supporting the country’s just transition into a clean, affordable, and self-sufficient energy system; advancing sustainable urban mobility to highlight the issues of equity and democracy; and raising public awareness about the need to phase out single-use plastics. It also serves as a platform for Pinoy Climate Reality Leaders to share your stories, promote your climate initiatives, and provide critical insights to issues that matter to climate action, environmental protection, and sustainable development.