In time for the national celebration of June as Environment Month, Secretary Roy A. Cimatu of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) is urging the public to refrain from using single-use plastic items, such as pet bottles and grocery bags, which usually end up polluting the oceans and waterways.

“It is high time we refrain from using disposable plastic products that are used for minutes, but persist in the environment forever,” Cimatu said.

Proclamation No. 237 declares the month of June as Environment Month in the Philippines. June 5 of every year is World Environment Day (WED). This year’s theme for World Environment Day is “Beat Plastic Pollution”.

Cimatu made the appeal not only in consonance with the global theme, but also in preparation for the coming rainy season in the country.

Plastics are non-biodegradable, which means that they do not decay and become absorbed by the environment. Once discarded, plastic is likely to end up in oceans after being washed down rivers, flushed down toilets, or windblown from dumps.

Cimatu said the easiest and best way to reduce plastic waste is to use reusable alternatives, such as eco-friendly tumblers and eco-bags.

DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas Leones said the effect of plastic can be devastating for marine biodiversity.

“Small litters like candy wrappers end up in our oceans. It is eaten by marine species, clogging their stomach and causing their death,” Leones pointed out.

Next to China and Indonesia, the Philippines placed third in the list of countries with most ocean plastic pollution, according to a 2015 study conducted by the University of Georgia and reported by Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

Leones said this should serve as a “wake up call” for the Philippines to reduce its plastic consumption.

Although the country does not impose a nationwide ban on plastic, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) reported that most local government units had passed ordinances to regulate plastic use, including shopping bags and secondary packaging materials.

The EMB noted that shopping malls practice plastic holidays in which plastic bags are not used in specific days of the week.

Some malls have also taken further steps by totally discouraging the use of plastic, replacing it with paper bags and encouraging customers to bring reusable bags for their purchases.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission also works with the manufacturing and recycling industries in the country, in an effort to increase the recovery of post consumer plastic materials.

The Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability is currently doing a pilot study on recycling flexible packaging or multi-material film packaging, which is expected to be operational by end of 2018.

Flexible packaging is used in shampoo sachets, snacks and chips packaging, coffee, sauces, juices and other manufactured food items.

The DENR continues to encourage industries to get involved in environmental efforts through programs that increase recovery of packaging materials, which end up in dumps and oceans. ###