Based on a study by Jambeck et al. (2015), the Philippines ranked third as the world’s greatest plastic waste generator, with the second being Indonesia and China being the first . The Philippines generated an estimated total of 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste last 2015 . On the other hand, China generated about 48.1 million metric tons of plastic waste in the same year . Even though China generates more plastic waste, the Philippines still contributed the largest amount of global plastic waste to the world’s oceans . This is due to the fact that most of the population of the Philippines live near waterways and rivers and in coastal areas. Additionally, coastal cities with urban drainages and paved surfaces and are situated in regions of high precipitation, such as Metro Manila, are observed to emit higher volumes of land-based plastic waste to the oceans . Meijer et al. (2021) calculated that Pasig River is the top contributing river of marine plastic waste, and it is located in Metro Manila, a megacity located along Manila Bay . It contributes to the 6.43% of the total plastic waste found in the oceans . Also, the Philippines is a tropical country, and it receives high volumes of precipitation every year . Surface run-off, storm water, and sewage due to precipitation carry the plastic debris on land to the rivers, which in turn carries the plastics to the seas and oceans . Seven of the top ten of the most plastic polluted rivers in world are found in the Philippines. A total of 4820 rivers in the Philippines emit around 356,371 million metric tons of plastic waste to the ocean annually, followed by India with a total of 1169 rivers emitting 126.513 million metric tons of plastic waste per year .
EFFECTS OF PLASTIC POLLUTION
Aside from being an unattractive sight in the environment, plastics can impose severe dangers to wildlife. Marine organisms are observed to ingest and be entangled to various plastic wastes found in the ocean. These can cause external and internal injuries and blockages in their digestive tracts and airways which can eventually cause their deaths [7–9]. Plastics are also observed to absorb and adsorb contaminants, like persistent organic pollutants, heavy metals, and many more, from the surrounding water, which can facilitate the entry of the toxic substances inside the organisms that ingest them [8, 10]. Most of the plastics used are buoyant, which means that they can be easily transported by wind and surface currents. The plastics, together with the contaminants they carry, can expose the organisms living in areas far from their production and usage sites, like Antarctica, to harmful substances . Plastic wastes in bodies of water can also affect the livelihood of the people who depend on them, such as fishermen. Some fishermen in the Philippines reported that sometimes they catch more plastic than fish in a day . Aside from plastics causing lower fish yields in water bodies, plastics thrown in waterways worsen the frequent flooding experienced in Metro Manila as the wastes block the passage of water. Plastic wastes in beaches can also affect the tourism industry as scattered garbage can spoil the view of the sceneries .
FACTORS AFFECTING THE PLASTIC POLLUTION IN THE PHILIPPINES
The usage of single-use plastics is rampant in the Philippines. This is because corporations package their products in sachets to reach and accommodate the poor sector of the Filipino population. People from low-income families do not have enough budget to purchase products, such as shampoo, soap, instant food, etc., in bulk so they opt to buy their daily necessities in small amounts in sachets as they cost lower and are more affordable [12, 14]. Food bought from stores are packaged in single-use plastic bags and Styrofoam and are usually purchased with disposable plastic cups, bottles, straws, and utensils . Plastics are widely used because they are durable, cheap, and easily produced . Single-use plastics are preferred due to their affordability and convenience . The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated the disposal of single-use plastic in the Philippines. Due to the
lockdowns and the work-from-home situation of many of the citizens, online shopping, food takeaways, and food deliveries became the norm as going outside can increase the chances of acquiring the virus. Single-use packaging are used in these services to avoid the spread of the virus. Gloves, face masks, and face shields are also single-use and are thrown away immediately after use and cannot be reused due to the risk of infection [17, 18].
The Philippines has a high garbage collection rate, especially in urban areas (around 85-90%), which may be due to the involvement of local communities in waste-collection services. Although, rural areas have lower garbage collection rates (about 40%) due to lack of passable roads and rugged terrain. Even with generally high garbage collection rates, many of the plastic wastes still leak into the ocean because of improper disposal [2, 14]. Segregation is not usually practiced in the households in the Philippines. Their reason is that they see that many of the garbage collectors just mix everything up in the garbage truck during collection. This is due to the lack of enforcement  of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which is the key legislation for the collection, disposal, transport, storage, and treatment of solid wastes in the Philippines . This law was enacted around 20 years ago and has mandated that dumpsites should be prohibited and be converted into sanitary landfills by 2006, but as of 2016, there are still 403 open dumpsites and 108 controlled dumpsites in operation . Furthermore, many of the dumpsites are situated adjacent to waterways and rivers and also in close proximity to coasts. These dumpsites have little to no infrastructure to control leakage of waste and leachate into the adjacent water bodies . There is also a lack of waste disposal facilities, material recovery facilities, recycling plants, and sanitary landfills due to poorly resourced and funded local government units and lack of space in the congested cities [13, 14]. Private hauler companies do illegal dumping or also known as hauler dumping. Some of the trash haulers unload the garbage en route to reduce expenses on fuel and landfill fees and to save time. Local rivers and tributaries are the usual sites for the illegal dumping [2, 14]. Formal recycling systems are lacking in the Philippines, but informal recycling systems – in the form of waste pickers – are widespread. About 80% of the plastic waste are low-value (plastic films, sachets, and bags) and most of these end up in the ocean as the waste pickers focus only on high-value plastics, such as PET and HDPE [2, 14]. High value plastics are easier to recognize and can be sold in higher prices in junk shops which is why waste pickers focus on these more. Also, there is very limited technology and infrastructure in the Philippines that can recycle low-value plastics . Waste pickers are exposed to various health hazards and have low wages and poor working conditions, but some people consider this as their main source of livelihood .
RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTIONS TO REDUCE PLASTIC POLLUTION IN THE PHILIPPINES
Plastic wastes in municipalities are mostly managed by their local government units. Since many cities struggle to look for funding, last 2017, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources pushed for the establishment of cluster sanitary landfills to save financial resources . Aside from the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, there are no other laws that specifically regulate the use of plastic . The government should pass laws regarding the regulation and management of single-use plastics and the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policy approach. There are bills introduced already regarding these last 2018 and 2020, respectively, but to date, they still have not been passed as laws yet [22, 23]. The EPR is defined by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the policy approach that refers to the responsibility of producers, such as companies and manufacturers, in the post-consumer stage, or the disposal and treatment, of the life cycle of a product . This policy scheme can already be observed in some of the countries of the European Union . This can inspire companies to create more environmentally friendly and sustainable packaging and reduce the production of sachet and other single-use plastics.
Proper implementation and enforcement of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act should be done so segregation of wastes and proper retrieval and transportation of plastic wastes to landfills can be achieved. Awareness campaigns can also be done so segregation of waste in
households can be accomplished, which can greatly help with the treatment and recycling of plastic wastes.
Foreign companies, such as Japanese companies, can partner with the government and local companies for the establishment of sanitary landfills, recycling plants, and materials recovery facilities. Currently, there are only five recycling companies in the Philippines and 10,730 materials recovery facilities, which can only cater to 33.3% of the total municipalities in the country [14, 17]. Plastic waste generation has been steadily increasing throughout the years and due to the large volume of plastic waste the Philippines generate, even more so during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the lack of resources and funding of local government units, sanitary landfills, recycling plants, and materials recovery facilities can be a great business opportunity to be tapped on by foreign companies. An example of this is the Mondelez International, a food manufacturer giant, who collaborated with the Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) for the construction of a recycling facility in Parañaque City, Metro Manila .
Additional business ideas that can help curb the plastic pollution problem in the Philippines are the construction of refill stations, promotion of the usage of reusable containers in shopping, and manufacturing of alternatives to plastic packaging that are more sustainable and environment friendly that can be used by companies.
Partnerships can be made between Japanese companies and the Philippine government and local companies for the realization of these business projects. This can strengthen the relationship of Japan and the Philippines as well as help reduce the plastic pollution problems of the Philippines.
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Index of Philippines EHS
Framework of EHS laws and regulations in Philippines.
|Waste||Solid Waste Management|
|OSH||Occupational Safety and Health Standards|
|Others||Impacts of Climate Change to the Philippines: The Business Perspective|