Pinoys are one of the world’s top plastic eaters

SunStar Peña
SunStar Peña

Filipinos and other Asians are eating a lot of plastics. According to a new study by Cornell researchers, rapidly industrializing countries, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam, topped the microplastics (MP) uptake globally. Indonesia has the highest global per capita MP dietary intake at 15g monthly. Microplastics are plastic particles smaller than 5 mm. The MP intake is due to the consumption of seafood. However, other studies have documented the presence of MP not just in seafoods but also in salt, sugar, rice and milk. Even bottled water and beer are contaminated with MP.

The study was published last April 24 in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. It can be viewed at Among other things, the study said that removing 99% of aquatic plastic debris by water management for surface water quality control in freshwater watersheds, wetlands, and lakes, as well as ocean cleanups or effective solid waste management, can decrease human MP exposure by 55%.

The passage of Republic Act 11898, or the Expanded Producers’ Responsibility (EPR) Act, is very timely. This law mandates all major plastic generators to recover their plastic packaging products such as sachets, rigid plastic packaging products, plastic bags, and polystyrene from 2023 onwards. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) reported that the first year of the implementation of the law was a success. Registered businesses met their target of diverting plastics by 20 percent last year.

According to the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), a total of 624,547 tons footprint for plastics in 2023 was reported and 20 percent or 124,986 tons of plastic packaging were reported to have been diverted. These figures are still subject to audit. For this year, the recovery of plastic product footprint should be at 40%. By 2028 onwards, it should be 80%. Recovering plastic from the waste stream would lessen MPs in the environment.

Meanwhile in the international scene, the fourth session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution by 2024 (INC-4) was conducted in Ottawa, Canada last April 23 to 29. The fifth session (INC-5) will be held from November 25 to December 1, 2024, in Busan, Republic of Korea. Much is still to be done and the target of finishing and agreeing on a final draft before the year ends is a big challenge.

According to UNEP, INC-4 delegates discussed emissions and releases, production, product design, waste management, problematic and avoidable plastics, financing, and a just transition. The working draft can be viewed at

As ordinary citizens let’s do our part in reducing plastic waste. There are simple things we can do like bringing reusable bags when buying groceries to avoid plastic bags. Avoid disposable plates, glasses and cutlery. Don’t use polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers.

Ang basurang tinapon mo, ay kakainin mo. Yucky but true!


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