Ahead of the 37th annual International Coastal Clean-up on September 16, Environment Secretary Antonia Loyzaga underscored the importance of engaging all sectors in the fight against plastic pollution, urging businesses to comply with the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Law. The DENR chief stressed that the government alone cannot solve the problem of plastic pollution through EPR law on plastic waste.

“This is a whole-of-society and whole-of-government effort. It cannot be achieved by the DENR alone,” said Loyzaga.

Republic Act 11898 or the EPR Act serves as the environmental policy approach and practice that requires producers to be environmentally responsible throughout the life cycle of a product, especially its post-consumer or end-of-life stage. This requires large companies to adopt and implement policies for the proper management of plastic packaging wastes, including single-use plastics.

Loyzaga cited a report by the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) stating that the Philippines generates 61,000 metric tons of solid waste daily, 12 to 24 percent of which come from plastic waste. Moreover, other studies have shown that Filipinos were found to utilize more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45 million thin-film bags daily, 33 percent of which is disposed in landfills and dumpsites, and around 35 percent is leaked into the open environment and oceans.

With the EPR law now in place, Loyzaga said the full responsibility for the entire life cycle of plastic waste is on its producers through the development and implementation of EPR programs that focus on waste reduction, recovery, and transfer.

As of August 2023, 662 firms have submitted to the National Solid Waste Management Commission their programs for the proper management of their plastic waste. Data from the Department of Trade and Industry however indicates an estimated 4,000 large enterprises that may be mandated to comply with the EPR law.

“So we do need the help of our friends in the media, our friends in the private sector, and the NGO sector to build up that registry in order for us to really take this law in expansible effect,” Loyzaga said.

The DENR has partnered with other government agencies for solid waste management support, namely: the Department of Science Technology for the establishment of an information hub for cleaner technologies on solid waste management; the Department of Trade and Industry for solid waste management information database and development; with the Food and Drug Administration on the mandatory adoption of eco-labels and collaboration with industries; the Department of the Interior and Local Government on the establishment of collaboration with LGUs, communities and informal waste sector; with the Department of Labor and Employment on the establishment of standards and rules on fair wage policies; and the Department of Finance on the establishment of policies on fiscal incentives.

The DENR also seeks to partner with the Department of Social Welfare and Development on enforcing laws on the possible integration of the informal waste sector and the protection of children from child labor, and other types of vulnerabilities.

Loyzaga is calling on more members from the private sector to help in the implementation of the EPR law by formulating an industry-led roadmap that would address marine litter, establishing a network of LGUs, NGOs and industry for compliance, and establishing a national network to promote a recycling market, among others.

She said there are also various ways by which the public could help in this mission, such as segregation at source, composting, and reduction of food waste.

“The EPR mechanism is one of the transformative ways to promote sustainable consumption and production. It provides a more sustainable way of doing business and towards production and green job creation. It enables collaboration between the government, companies, communities, and informal sectors to reduce the generation of plastic wastes in the country,” Loyzaga said. #