Plastic Packaging Waste in the Philippines: An Analysis

I recently took a 5-month break from my work as an environmental consultant to volunteer with Marine Conservation Philippines (MCP) on the issue of marine litter. During the first few months of my stint there, we undertook an intense programme of beach cleans across sections of a small sample of local beaches. The idea was to find out what kinds of material were most prevalent, to inform the types of local initiative we could set up to try and tackle the issues.

Consistently, the vast majority of the debris we found strewn across the beaches across the Philippines was plastic; a significant amount of that was soft plastics which can’t be recycled – plastic bags, sweet and crisp packets, and single use soap and detergent sachets. There were some variations, though: at one beach, we kept picking up a staggering amount of styrofoam.

During our beach clean work and engagement with local communities, it became increasingly apparent that part of the problem was the variability of waste management across the municipality of Zamboanguita, in the Negros Oriental province of the Philippines.

Despite national legislation, some areas received no formal waste collections at all. With the help of the local Coastal Resources Manager, Tony Yocor, we began to engage with the local municipality’s Solid Waste Manager with the view to supporting appropriate an affordable waste management practices.

We focused on solutions that have been successful elsewhere in the Philippines and in other emerging markets, such as the local collection and waste sorting approach developed by Mother Earth Foundation. Unfortunately, as with most places in the world, influencing the authorities to act takes time, and whilst we started to make some progress, Tony and the staff at MCP are still working on trying to get the full range of local solutions we identified implemented.

Materials and markets

We did, however, build our own ‘MRF’ (more of a community recycling centre in UK terms) at MCP’s base to improve the management of the waste we collected. The main aim of the site is to allow as many recyclable materials as possible to be segregated so that they can be sold to the local junk shops. We also hope that this can act as a demonstration site for the types of simple solutions that can be set up locally to improve waste management.

But ultimately, if we are serious about tackling this issue of marine debris, we have to reduce the amount of litter we produce, and many countries are making progress on tackling commonly littered items. Restrictions on single use carrier bags are amongst the most prominent and widespread anti-littering measures around the world.

England’s 5p carrier bag levy was introduced in 2015 and, despite its limitations, is reducing bag usage and (it would seem) marine litter. Last year Kenya hit the headlines when it joined the growing list of countries adopting a rather stricter line: it banned plastic carrier bags entirely, with offenders risking heavy fines or even imprisonment.

Although bans and restrictions are becoming increasingly widespread, they have not yet reached the Philippines at a national level and it seems no coincidence that a large proportion of the items we found littered on our sample beaches around Zamboanguita were plastic bags. One beach, close to where the largest ‘ghetto’ market is held weekly, had a particularly high incidence of plastic bag litter, and the quantity increased noticeably on, and just after, market day. Use wholesale tote bags to promote sustainable living in the Philippines.

Without national instruments in place, we explored what could be done with the policy powers available to the local government. Working with the local Markets Officer and Coastal Resources Manager we put the wheels in motion to propose and implement a local ordinance to introduce a charge on plastic bags, initially at the market as a trial, with the potential for a wider roll-out if successful. It’s a model that could be reapplied elsewhere in the Philippines if national legislation isn’t forthcoming.

Sachet and sea?

Plastic bags are a challenge, but because they’re distributed locally it’s relatively easy to change practices. Other forms of single use packaging contribute just as much to the litter problem afflicting many South East Asian counties, but are harder to tackle because their source is more remote.

The Philippines, like many developing and emerging economies, is a ‘sachet economy’, with a huge range of products sold in one-portion, single-use sachets. You see them everywhere, from small ‘sari sari’ stalls to large shopping centres. The producers’ perspective is that this form of packaging represents a form of social responsibility, allowing them to provide safe, long-lasting, affordable products that meet people’s needs. However, they have a wider cost.

Sachet society: one of the most common forms of litter in the Philippines. Photo courtesy of Amy Slack.

I was involved in Break Free from Plastic Negros Oriental’s December beach clean and audit, and these sachets were the most common item we found. They accounted for a massive 25% of the items picked up from Dumaguete beach, beating plastic bags into second place (13%).

The waste management system in the Philippines simply isn’t geared up to dealing with this increasingly popular type of packaging – the composite materials of which they are made are impractical to recycle and so lack the economic value that engages the interest of the informal sector. So, what could be done to help?

The Best Foot Forward

There is no ‘silver bullet’ to instantly lay marine litter to rest. Even if there was a global ban on single use plastics today, it would take time for already littered material to blow or wash its way through the system.

However, introducing a compulsory extended producer responsibility (EPR) mechanism into policy could help end the blame game that currently impedes action: producers blame the general public for littering, the general public blame the government for inadequate waste systems, and government blames produces for manufacturing plastic packaging.

An EPR scheme would see government giving clear responsibilities to business, and ensuring that producers fund collection and reprocessing schemes to properly manage the waste from the products they sell in the Philippines. That would in turn incentivise producers to use more easily recyclable packaging, as the costs of managing this material would be lower.

The goal need not be to try to ape the waste management systems of the West, which may not be suitable in the circumstances. And in the Philippines, where labour is cheap and informal waste management thrives, it may take little more than giving a small value to packaging products to greatly reduce the amount of material that escapes into the environment.

Conclusion

Although countries like the Philippines currently struggle most to cope with the consequences of plastic packaging waste, with the right set of policies and determined volunteers to help organise local action, there is scope for them to catch up and overhaul the West in developing solutions that really do reduce litter.

Note: The article has been republished with the permission of our collaborative partner Isonomia. The original version of the article can be found at this link

10 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste While Camping

The plastic problem is always a big one and will continue afflicting many parts of the world. Plastics fill our rivers, lands, and even oceans. It is having a great impact on our lives and even affecting marine life.

The single-use of plastic is bad, we should always strive to recycle or avoid them altogether. Unfortunately, when you go camping, you will have very few options. It may not be easy to avoid plastics. Luckily, there are things you can do to reduce plastics consumption.

camping-plastic-wastes

The best camping site will be an off-grid location situated in a remote area. Obviously, you will not have a designated place where to dispose of the plastic bags. Here are 10 ways to reduce plastic waste while camping

1. Pre-Plan Your Trip

If you do not plan in advance, it is easy to get trapped. You will end up picking plastic and paper plates. The results will be creating unnecessary plastic waste. Pre-planning helps you to get organized.

If you are tech-savvy, you may use an app to help you plan. If the campsite has Wi-Fi, it will make things better for you. It will allow you to utilize your phone. Also, plan to shop for groceries in bulk. This way, you will avoid the small plastic container.

Instead, you will have the foods packed in big containers that can be recycled and reused. It reduces the number of plastics you carry to the camping site.

If you will prepare some of the meals at home, pack them in reusable containers. It allows you to easily dispose of some of the plastics you carried from the grocery.

2. Store Food Wisely

You don’t need to pack the food in sandwich bags. Instead, use bowls, food coolers and mess kits. These items can be used to pack food and could be reused multiple times. Using them ensures that you have enough food throughout your camping trip.

Also, it guarantees to keep the camping environment free from plastics. Packing glass and silver cutleries may look cumbersome when going on a camping trip. But, it is the only way to ensure that your camping environment is plastic-free.

So, ensure you shop for enough sporks, and mess kits beforehand. It will help you reduce the plastics you carry to your camping site. Mess kits could be the best option when you go camping. You can use them to store the food and put them to multiple other uses.

However, if you are going to a bear trail, all your items should be bear proof. A traditional storage won’t work. You must use a bear canister to store foods.

However, to keep the foods in good shape in warm weather, you must have the best bear proof coolers from IBC7 Outdoors. Bears are very sensitive to smell. Hence, you must plan wisely.

3. Pick Simple Foods

You will get involved in so many activities while in the camp. So, it requires that you carefully select the dishes to prepare. Thus, picking on simple foods could help to save your time. It greatly reduces the plastics you will need to deal with.

Some of the foods you may consider are:

  • Dehydrated Foods

The foods are easy to pack and require little cooking. Besides, they are nutritious, and you will not need to worry about flavor. If you have challenges in cooking food, they are among the options you may need to consider.

  • Nuts, Trail Mix and Bars

They make an enjoyable camping snack. They are easy to make and can be packed in renewable containers. Packing these foods in mess kits reduces the need to carry unnecessary camping bags.

  • Dried Fruits and Beef Jerky

They contain protein and are the best option if you are looking forward to something to reduce hunger pangs quickly. They are easy to pack in containers and may not require the use of plastic bag.

4. Use Safe Plastic Bags

Buying reusable oversized BPA free plastic containers will reduce the plastic bags and containers to carry. Besides, the BPA free bags can easily be packed transported and reused. They are easy to clean and reused.

5. Rubbish Disposal Point

By organizing a rubbish disposal point, you reduce sending wastes to a landfill. You can do this by setting aside a few specialized vessels to collect plastics and other waste products. If you are camping in a remote location, be proactive if the bin service is not available.

You may sort this out by selecting an ideal place where all the wastes and plastics can be stored. It allows you to organize to dispose of the plastics in a designated area. But as you do this, ensure that it doesn’t lead to an unpleasant odor.

Also, don’t let them overstay to attract flies, rodents, and other unwanted animals. Later, the litter must be collected packed and taken to the nearest collection point. If no such a point exists, take it home.

6. Store Dehydrated Food in Mess Kit

If you buy dehydrated food packed in a paper bag, portion them in the mess kit. This should be done at home to avoid carrying unnecessary plastics to the camping site.

To preserve the food, you will need to boil some water and pour it into the mess kit. The content should then be shut with a lid. It will rehydrate the food and will be ready to be prepared for lunch or dinner.

7. Prepare Trail Snacks

Energy snacks can make great snacks when you are on the trail. But they are always packed in plastic bags which create an eyesore if disposed carelessly.

So, instead of buying snacks that are already packaged in plastic bags, make some at home. They are better compared to the ready-made snacks that come packaged in the sandwich bag.

8. The Bamboo Mess Kit

Having a bamboo mess kit should be encouraged. It reduces the number of plastic bags you are likely to carry to the camp. It is heavier than the mess kit, but it saves you from taking plastics to the camping site.

9. Bring Your Mess Kits

When going to the grocery or your local farmer, make it a habit to carry your own mess kits. Let the vendor pack whatever you buy in the kits.

It helps you to avoid carrying home plastic bags that would be difficult to dispose of. It also reduces plastic waste that you will carry to your camping site.

10. Carry Reusable Items

Having a reusable water bottle is essential. Choose only environmentally friendly bottles. It will save you from the need to buy water bottles that are always laced with microplastics.

reusable-straw

Many manufacturers are replacing plastic drinking straws with titanium.

Consider reusable containers made from stainless steel. They are sustainable and will allow you to enjoy your outdoor adventures. Double-walled stainless-steel bottles are the best. They can keep your drinks either hot or cold.

That aside, carrying reusable conditioners and shampoo when on a camping trip is a great idea. The reusable conditioner bars and shampoos do not contain carcinogenic chemicals.

Also, the conditioner bars and shampoos last for long. It saves the environment from plastics associated with bottle shampoo.

Conclusion

It feels daunting and inconveniencing to limit the number of plastic bags you use during camping trips. But if you remain consistent, it can make a huge difference. It keeps the environment clean and reduces pollution.

Initiatives to Reduce Plastic Waste Leads to Growth in Global Plastic Recycling Market

Wide-spread environmental concerns about plastic waste are leading to increased demand for the plastic recycling (PR) market that has various uses for plastic waste. At the same time, and in line with this growing need, an increased number of industries that produce plastic products have committed to reducing their use of virgin plastic and ensuring that the plastic they do produce is recyclable, reusable, or compostable.

Growth of the Plastic Recycling Market

Valued at around $43.73 billion in 2018, research indicates that the plastic recycling market will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6.6% in revenue and 8.8% in volume by 2027. Findings are that rising environmental concerns will be the primary driving force along with the concerted global effort towards effective waste management and sustainability. Another is the growing awareness of the need for recycling plastic and the anticipated market growth of the PR market.

A new report released by Research and Markets in February 2020 gives a market snapshot in its executive summary and discusses the plastic recycling market by material type, source, application, and geography. Titled Global Plastic Recycling Market Size, Market Share, Application Analysis, Regional Outlook, Growth Trends, Key Players, Competitive Strategies and Forecasts, 2019 to 2027, it explores the roles of the many global and regional participants in the PR market and analyses anticipated acquisitions, partnerships, and collaborations. These, the report states, are likely to be the major strategies market players will follow in an endeavor to expand their geographic presence and market share.

An older report published mid-2018 gave a slightly lower CAGR for the period 2018 to 2023 of 4.3%. This report, Global Plastic Waste Management Market 2018 by Manufacturers, Regions, Type and Application, Forecast to 2023 stated that it would grow from an estimated $27,1000 in 2017 to $34,900 in 2023.

Global Focus

When research for the new report was carried out during 2018, the Asia-Pacific region including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, and India, had the highest market share in plastic recycling. This was attributed to the fact that the region has the largest share in the generation of plastic waste and is also the biggest plastic waste importer.

However, Europe was pinpointed as a region poised to become the fastest-growing in the PR market due to increasing government initiatives and the improvement of recycling facilities in this part of the world.

While the report covers at least 16 companies involved in plastic recycling globally, the Hungarian MOL Group has been highlighted as a result of its acquisition of Aurora, a German recycled plastic compounder company. MOL is a well-established supplier of virgin polymers and was motivated by its Enter Tomorrow 2030 strategy that aims to move its business from a traditional fuel-based model to a higher value-added petrochemical product portfolio. More specifically, MOL intends to strengthen its position as a supplier in the sustainable plastic compounding segment of the automotive industry.

The older report focused on plastic waste management not only in the Asia-Pacific region but also in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.

Use of Recycled Plastic

In terms of plastic materials, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) had the biggest market share in 2018. The reason given for this was a rapid surge in demand for PET and HDPE for the manufacturing of packaging. Hopefully, this won’t increase the production of PET and HDPE, but will rather help to get rid of waste.

As the CEO of Unilever, Alan Jope, said in a press statement late 2019: “Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment.” He was announcing Unilever’s commitment to halve its use of virgin plastic, reduce its use of plastic packaging, and dramatically step up its use of recycled plastic by 2025. They would also help to collect and process more plastic packaging than it sells – which will amount to about 600,000 tonnes per year, he said.

plastic-wastes

 

Additionally, technological advances in the PR industry have led to other less expected uses including the manufacture of denim clothing.

Realizing the environmental impact production of denim clothing has, Levi Strauss & Co. has taken bold steps to reduce its use of water and chemicals in cotton and cotton-clothing production, and about a decade ago, the company launched its much more sustainable Water<Less range of jeans. In 2013, Levi’s used dumped plastic bottles and food trays to make 300,000 jeans and trucker jackets for its spring collection. Of course, not the entire product was made from plastic, but it was guaranteed that at least 20% came from recycled plastic content.

Many other items are also made from recycled plastic, some with more plastic content than others. They include bags, rugs and mats, blankets, bottles, planters, dog collars, shoes, decking, fencing, and outdoor furniture.

The Future of Plastic

While many people talk about plastic as a material that should be eradicated, it does have remarkable uses as Alan Jope implies. But there is a dire need to change our thinking. The irony is that when recycled plastic was invented it was used to try and solve environmental problems like reducing the hunting of elephants for ivory and to provide protective sheaths for electrical wiring.

There is undoubtedly too much virgin plastic being produced worldwide and during the process, there are too many other natural resources being depleted. Added to this, too many consumers have no knowledge or concern about the use and disposal of plastic products. They simply don’t care!

We, as a global nation, need to focus more on the reuse, recycling, and remanufacture of plastic, which is exactly what plastic recycling companies can do so successfully.

Ultimately, we need to eradicate plastic waste by making it useful, and there is no doubt that the mechanical engineering sector is well positioned to find solutions.