In observance of the ‘Plastic-Free July’ this month, green groups renewed their call for a comprehensive ban on single-use plastics (SUPs) after detecting lead, a toxic chemical, in locally-manufactured yellow colored plastic sando bags.
An investigation conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, 17 out of 39 brands of yellow plastic bags sold in packaging stores in Manila were found to contain lead ranging from 184 to 3,485 parts per million (ppm) based on X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemical screening.
Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, said that their lateset findings add to the growing body of evidence showing plastic bags are a threat to human health and the environment because of the many chemicals, including toxic metals such as lead, that make them up.
"Now more than ever, we see the need for a comprehensive policy banning throw-away plastic bags to reduce their manufacture, prevent chemical and waste pollution, while the use of non-toxic reusable bags and containers are actively promoted and supported,” he said.
Retired chemist Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, pointed to the need for a “toxics in packaging disclosure law that will control the presence of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and other chemicals of concern in packaging materials,” adding that “lead and other hazardous substances in packaging materials become part of the municipal solid waste sent to dumpsites, landfills, incinerators and cement kilns or disposed of in water bodies, posing a risk to public health and the environment.”
Environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo Ramos, Vice-President of Oceana Philippines, stated that “SUPs should be included in the decades-old delayed list of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAP) that the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) is mandated to release, as clearly required by Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.”
These individuals are thus strongly urging the NSWMC, chaired by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and which is under the Office of the President, to draw up the long-overdue list of items that are ‘unsafe in production, use, post-consumer use, or that produce or release harmful by-products when discarded,’ with SUPs on top of the list.”
Mendoza, a former NGO representative to the NSWMC also said that the Commission should also ensure that the waste management plans of local government units include a provision promoting and making available to the public reusable bags made of non-toxic materials such as abaca, bamboo, buri, cotton, pandan, water hyacinth and similar materials to replace SUPs.
She also noted that seven out of ten Filipinos are for banning SUPs as per SWS survey. The groups do not recommend paper as the material to replace SUPs. According to the groups, the production and sale of lead-containing plastic bags goes against DENR Administrative Order 2013-024, also known as the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds, which prohibits the use of lead in the manufacturing of food and beverage packaging, particularly for packaging that comes directly in contact with food.
The groups cited Article 11 of the EU Packaging Directive, which provides a limit of 100 ppm by weight for the sum of four restricted metals such as lead, mercury, cadmium and hexavalent chromium in packaging or packaging components.
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