By Carmela Lapena
For banning business establishments from using plastic and non-biodegradable materials, Muntinlupa City has become a model for the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s campaign against environmental degradation.
In what MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino described as a “bold move for the sake of environment,” Muntinlupa City started implementing Tuesday last week Ordinance No. 10-109, which prohibits the use of plastic bags on dry goods and regulates its utilization on wet goods, and totally prohibits the use of Styrofoam.
To remind the public of the ban, several posters had been placed in highly visible places within the city. In convenience stores, drugstores and public markets, brown paper or cloth bags are used instead of plastic bags.
At Super Mightee Mart, items are wrapped in recycled paper bags. If necessary, wet items like tube ice are packaged using oxo-biodegradable plastic.
At the newly-opened Muntinlupa Save More Supermarket, not a plastic bag is in sight. Groceries are instead placed in brown paper bags or in green cloth bags.
Apart from business owners, consumers are also pleased with the ordinance. A large tarpaulin bears signatures and encouraging messages from people supporting the effort.
“Maganda po ito!!! Para po sa kinabukasan naming mga bata at mga susunod pang mga bata (This is good, especially because the next generation will benefit from this),” wrote one Karlo.
A scribbler, however, pointed out the ordinance is not as environment-friendly as everyone thinks it is since the paper bags used as replacements for plastics are made from trees.
And then there are those who refuse to cooperate.
“Marami pa rin ang hindi sumusunod (Many still do not cooperate),” says Aling Lisa, a public market vendor. She says although they had been informed of the ordinance since December last year, some vendors still package their goods using plastic.
“Sayang din kasi yung mga plastic na nabili na (They don’t want the plastics that they have bought to be wasted),” she says.
Many violators, she says, had been caught and fined.
Violators are fined and given a warning, and business establishments found violating the ordinance may have their licenses to operate suspended for up to one year.
Muntinlupa is the first city in Metro Manila to ban the use of plastic bags for wet and dry goods and Styrofoam as food containers. While the city government admits that successfully implementing the ordinance is no easy feat, they expect the intervention will deter the rampant use and disposal of non-biodegradable materials into the environment.
The Muntinlupa City Council noted that disposed plastic bags and other non-biodegradable containers are the major causes of flash floods in the city during heavy rains as it clogged canals, three creeks, 11 rivers and other waterways that all drain into the nearby Laguna Lake.
Tolentino, meanwhile, lauded city for the ordinance and encouraged other local government units in Metro Manila to do the same.
“The MMDA strongly encourages local government units to adopt similar strong measures such as these to combat the dangerous effects of environmental degradation which leads to massive flooding and climate change,” Tolentino said in an article posted Friday on the MMDA website.
Tolentino said he would push for the adoption of this measure as a model ordinance to be adopted by the 15 other cities and one town comprising Metropolitan Manila.
Styrofoams are made of polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic with insulation properties and is used in all types of products such as beverage cups and food containers.
A 1986 US Environmental Protection Agency report on solid waste named the polystyrene manufacturing process as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste. The process of making polystyrene is reported to pollute the air and create large amounts of solid and liquid waste. On the other hand, toxic chemicals leach out of these products into the food that they contain, especially when heated in a microwave. These chemicals threaten human health and reproductive systems. Polystyrene foam is often dumped into the environment as litter which breaks up into pieces that choke animals and clog their digestive systems.
Cities and counties such as Taiwan, Portland (USA) and Orange County, CA have outlawed polystyrene foam. – KBK, GMANews.TV