IS THIS the light at the end of the tunnel? The ultimate solution to reduce plastic waste? The House of Representatives approved on second reading last June 2, 2021 a bill banning single-use plastics. Filed in March 2021, House Bill 9147 regulates the production, importation, sale, and use of single-use plastics and shifts the responsibility on producers to recover plastic waste.

This House bill consolidated 42 bills and resolutions that have the same intent. There are 106 co-authors, one-third of the total membership of the lower house. No wonder the bill passed the second reading without a hitch. It would most likely be approved on third reading without any problem. Too early to rejoice however, as a counterpart bill in the Senate must be filed and approved too. Then it’s up to the President to sign it into law.

Anyway, the proposed law is entitled “An act regulating the production, importation, sale, distribution, provision, use, recovery, collection, recycling, and disposal of single-use plastic products. The short title is “Single-use Plastic Products Regulation Act.”

Plastic materials that will be phased out within 4 years after the approval of the law are plates and saucers, cups, bowl and lids, cutlery like forks, spoon, knives and chopsticks. The list also includes food and beverages containers made of expanded polystyrene, oxo-degradable plastic, film wrap, packaging, or bags less than fifty microns in thickness, sachets and pouches that are multi-layered with other materials.

Some materials will be phased out immediately, that is within 1 year after the effectivity of the law. These are drinking straws, stirrers, sticks for candy, balloon, cotton bud, buntings, confetti and packaging bags less than ten microns. Note that plastic straws and stirrers are already scheduled to be phased out under a provision in RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The good thing about HB 9147 is that it includes Extended Producer’s Responsibility (EPR), or the ‘polluter pays’ principle. It holds the manufacturers and exporters of single-use plastic accountable for the proper disposal of their products. Within two years after the effectivity of the law, they are mandated to implement EPR programs such as recovery of plastic waste through redemption and buy-back schemes.

Each producer or importer should recover or offset and divert into value chains at least 50% of their products within three years after the effectivity of the act. As an incentive, the cost for doing EPR activities can be deducted into their taxable income.

Commercial establishments on the other hand are required to promote recyclable and reusable products and establish an in-store recovery program. They shall charge their customers a minimum fee of P5 for every single-use plastic bag. It does not preclude the local government units from imposing fees on the use of plastic bags.