THE Technical Working Group (TWG) of the Ecology Committee of the House of Representatives is tackling a bill to ban single use plastic. They invited the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCII) environment committee of which I am a member to a meeting to discuss the pending legislation.

Going through the documents, I learned that there are 37 bills filed seeking to regulate, phase-out or recover disposable or throw away plastic materials. It seems that a lot of congressmen are pushing for the ban. The Ecology Committee came up with a consolidated draft version which will probably be the subject of discussion in the TWG meeting.

The highlights of the draft include gradual phase-out within one year of single use plastic materials like plates, saucers, cups, bowls, lids, cutlery, drinking straws, stirrers, polystyrene food and beverage containers, sticks for cotton buds and similar products, oxo-degradable plastics, film wrap or bags of less than 50 microns, buntings, confetti and sachets and multi-layered packaging.

The list is exhaustive. I expect stiff opposition from plastic manufacturers and companies who use these materials. Sachets for instance are widely used from condiments to shampoo due to the "tingi" culture of Filipinos. Multi-layered packaging like-Tetra-pack cartons are used in many products like juices and milk. One year may not be enough to find a replacement for these packaging materials.

For single use plastics which are not in the list, the National Solid Waste management commission (NSWMC) may determine and phase-out these products within a period of one year. Producers, importers, and commercial establishments may provide compostable plastic products to their consumers. Producers and importers of single-use plastic products shall establish and phase-in extended producers' responsibility programs within one year after the law is passed.

The Department of Science and Technology shall develop and implement a program that will assist local manufacturers in developing or acquiring the appropriate technology for the production of highly reusable, recyclable, compostable materials or alternative plastic products. I doubt if this can be done within a year. A better option is to create a refill system just like in the old days when you have to bring a container to buy products in "tingi."

It will take a long time for the bill to go through the legislative process. Meanwhile, the NSWMC approved last February 12 a resolution directing the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to "prepare and implement" the ban on the use of "unnecessary" single-use plastic products by national government agencies, local government units, and all other government-controlled offices. The plastic products covered under NSWMC Resolution No. 1363, Series of 202, are cups less than 0.2 millimeter in thickness, drinking straws, coffee stirrers, spoons, forks, knives, "labo" or thin and translucent plastic bags, and thin-filmed sando bags lower than 15 microns.