INSTEAD of banning the use of plastic bags, the government should strengthen recycling programs, Philippine Plastics Industry Association, Inc. (PPIA) president Peter Quintana said.

Quintana said the production of plastics bags in the country is now down 50 percent due to resolutions discouraging its use in groceries, wet markets and other establishments.

PPIA categorizes the Philippine plastics industry into upstream (gas and naphtha cracker plants), midstream (resin manufacturers) and downstream (plastic manufacturers). Manufacturing is labor intensive, accounting for 650,000 direct and indirect employment in 2010. It is also dominated by small and medium enterprises.

Quintana said it is a strategic industry and a significant input for other industries and a key client of allied industries.

PPIA said 226 cities and municipalities nationwide currently have a ban on plastic bags. They said 11 cities in Manila have carried out the ban and an additional six are scheduled to follow.

“Instead of directly blaming the plastic sector, we have to look at the bigger picture and alter our mindset as solution to flooding and other linked waste management issues. Plastics are 100 percent recyclable,” he said, suggesting a stricter implementation of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

Quintana recommended recovery and recycling initiatives. He said regulating plastic usage is a better option instead of an outright ban. He said alternatives have resulted in the reversal of plastic bans in Taiwan and South Korea.