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An extended producer responsibility policy for PH


First of two parts
The largest market for plastics today is for packaging materials. That trash accounts for nearly half of all plastic waste generated globally. In 2016, across the world, more than 480 billion plastic drinking bottles were sold, up from about 300 billion a decade ago. If placed end to end, they would extend more than halfway to the sun. According to the most up-to-date estimates from the Euromonitor International’s Global Packaging Trends Report, this will increase to 583.3 billion three years from now.

A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute. The demand, equivalent to about 20,000 bottles being bought every second, is driven by an apparently insatiable desire for bottled water and the spread of a western, urbanized “on the go” culture to China and the Asia Pacific region (Laville and Taylor, 2017). Some campaigners have predicted that the plastic pollution is an environmental crisis as serious as climate change.

In the Philippines, this year (2018) alone, bottled water companies will earn P144 billion in total revenues (Lawyer Joel Butuyan, 2018). The numbers does not include manufacturers that produces beverages and carbonated drinks.

Despite the passage of Republic Act (RA) 9003, also known as the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, more than a decade ago, solid waste management remains to be an enduring problem especially in highly-urbanized areas like Metro Manila. Improper waste disposal, the inefficient collection of wastes, and the absence of adequate disposal facilities are just some of the obstacles faced by the Philippines in terms of solid waste management. Uncollected solid waste has led to several health and environmental repercussions, such as water contamination, intense flooding, air pollution, as well as the transmission of diseases like respiratory ailments, diarrhea and dengue fever (SEPO 2017; Hoornweg and Bhada-Tata, 2012).

Based on data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission (2015), the sources of solid waste in the Philippines from 2008 to 2013 were the following: residential (56.7 percent), commercial (27.1 percent), institutional (12.1 percent), and industrial (4.1 percent). In terms of the composition of solid waste, they are classified into the following: biodegradables (52.31 percent), recyclables (27.78 percent), residuals (17.98 percent), and special/hazardous (1.93 percent).

In an effort to solve the persistent problem of poor solid waste management in the Philippines, Sen. Cynthia Villar, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, sought to amend RA 9003 to include provisions on the practice of extended producer responsibility (EPR) in the Philippines. This proposal seeks to make producers responsible, especially in industries that generate plastic waste (Magno and Ranosa, 2018).

The Philippines, in a research study conducted by the University of Georgia and reported by the Ocean Conservancy and the McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, has been cited as the third biggest contributor to ocean litter next only to China and Indonesia. Sixty percent of all marine litter comes from Asia and 80 percent of these are from land-based sources. According to Villar, more efforts are needed to be done otherwise this trend could endanger our people’s food security. Poor solid waste management still persists (Miraflor 2018; Senate of the Philippines 2017) even with RA 9003. Villar also emphasized the need for shared responsibility among various sectors, particularly the manufacturing sector in dealing with solid waste management, given the rising volume of solid waste generated every year (Teves 2018).

I am fortunate to be one of the reactors in the roundtable discussion organized by the Stratbase-Albert Del Rosario Institute and attended by representatives from the government (National Solid Waste Management Commission, the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, the House Committee on Ecology, and Metro Manila Development Authority), the business sector (Federation of Philippine Industries), and the NGO and civil society (Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability, the Philippine Business for Environmental Stewardship, and the Young Environmental Forum) where Francisco Magno, PhD, trustee of Stratbase-Albert Del Rosario Institute, presented his Special Study on “Crafting an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Policy in the Philippines.”

Concept of extended producer responsibility

The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility was first introduced by a Swedish academic, Thomas Lindhqvist PhD, in a 1990 report to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment. At present, he is an associate professor and Director of Research Programs at the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics at Lund University in Sweden.

Lindhqvist, in his subsequent reports to the Swedish Ministry of the Environment, defined extended producer responsibility as an environmental protection strategy to reach an environmental objective of a decreased total environmental impact of a product, by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life-cycle of the product and especially for the take-back, recycling, and final disposal.

In 2001, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defined extended producer responsibility as a concept where manufacturers and importers of products should bear a significant degree of responsibility for the environmental impacts of their products throughout the product life-cycle, including upstream impacts inherent in the selection of materials for the products, impacts from manufacturers’ production process itself, and downstream impacts from the use and disposal of the products. In the field of waste management, extended producer responsibility is a strategy designed to promote the integration of environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycles into the market price of the products.

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