Keep running to get rid of plastic straws and stirrers

(Courtesy photo from Pexels)

MANILA Efforts are being made to accelerate the signing of the National Solid Waste Management Commission’s (NSWMC) draft resolution to end plastic coffee stirrers and soft drink straws as non-environmentally friendly products (NEAPs) nationwide.

The draft of the country’s first NEAP list is already being turned over to the heads of NSWMC member agencies for signature, even if the Covid-19 pandemic is still affecting the country, noted Undersecretary Benny Antiporda, who also serves as the Ministry of Environment and Nature Resources ( DENR) Deputy Minister Roy Cimatu in the Commission.

“We hope that they will sign the document before the end of July,” Antiporda said Monday during a virtual press conference.

When that happens, he said that stakeholders in the plastic coffee stirrers and soft drink straws industry will have a one-year grace period to phase out these items.

He delivered the draft resolution update amid reports that the marine conservation group Oceana Philippines is threatening to sue NSWMC for alleged negligence in implementing Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000), which requires the creation of the NEAP list.

“We welcome this group’s invitation to file a lawsuit,” he said.

Antiporda said he was optimistic that Oceana’s announcement would serve as motivation to seriously address the country’s waste problem.

According to the RA 9003 implementing rules and regulations, NEAPs are “products or packaging that are unsafe, or produce or release harmful products” to be manufactured, used or used by the consumer.

The NSWMC must review and update the NEAP list annually, the law added.

“It’s a legal requirement, but it hasn’t been done yet,” said Antiporda.

He said the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) is already examining several plastic items for possible inclusion on the list, which already includes plastic straws and coffee stirrers.

RA 9003 established NSWMC and appoints 14 public sector representatives and three private sector representatives as members of the commission.

“The government sector is represented ex officio by the heads of the following agencies: DENR; Ministry of Interior and Local Government; DOST; Ministry of Public Works and Highways; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Trade and Industry (DTI.)); Ministry of Agriculture; Metro Manila Development Authority; League of Provincial Governors; League of City Mayors; League of Local Mayors; Association of Barangay Councils; Technical Education and Skills Development Authority; and Philippine Information Agency, “said RA 9003.

The NSWMC’s private sector member is, by law, a “representative of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) whose primary purpose is to promote recycling and the protection of air and water quality; a representative of the recycling industry; and a representative from the manufacturing or packaging industry. “

RA 9003 appointed the DENR secretary and a private sector representative to chair and vice-chair of NSWMC, respectively.

Cimatu, DTI and the NGO representative have already signed the draft resolution, Antiporda said.

Not all NSWMC members are required to sign such a draft for phasing out plastic straws and coffee stirrers to be mandatory nationwide, he added.

He said the government would implement the phase-out if the majority of the NSWMC signed the bill.

The creation of the NEAP list is long overdue as RA 9003 requested NSWMC to do so within one year of the entry into force of this law.

The NSWMC must draw up the list in consultation with the relevant interest groups, but RA 9003 must be more precise.

RA 9003 also prohibits banning NEAPs unless NSWMC first finds alternatives that are available to the public at a cost no more than 10 percent higher than the corresponding prices of the items they are replacing.

The Act also stated that “notwithstanding any other provision to the contrary,” its section on NEAPs “does not apply to (a) packaging used in hospitals, nursing homes, or other medical facilities; and (b) non-environmentally friendly packaging for which However, according to the Commission, there is no commercially available alternative. “ (PNA)

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