Philippine Amalgamated Supermarket Association Incorporated
Position Paper on Plastic Bags PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wave Technologies, Inc.   
Wednesday, 24 November 2010
We commend the various House Bills introduced regulating the production, importation, sale, use and recycling of plastic bags in all establishments in the country. It illustrates Congress’ pro-active concern for our environment with regard to the ill-effects of the improper disposal of plastic bags as used by commercial establishments.

Proposed House Bill Nos. 459, 1053, 501, 651, 1120, 2862, 3511, 3516, 783, 2109, 2676, 496 and 127

We commend the various House Bills introduced regulating the production, importation, sale, use and recycling of plastic bags in all establishments in the country. It illustrates Congress’ pro-active concern for our environment with regard to the ill-effects of the improper disposal of plastic bags as used by commercial establishments.

We believe the issue here is not the production, importation, distribution, sale and use per se of plastic bags by industrial/commercial establishments in the course of doing business but rather the improper disposal of said bags by its customers after use as packaging for items purchased. We are well aware that this has resulted in the clogging of drainage and esteros/waterways, accumulation of resultant gases in landfills and has even cost the lives of two of the giraffes in Manila Zoo years ago when they mistook plastic bags hanging in the trees for leaves and accidentally ingested these bags.

In banning the use of plastic bags in supermarkets as the current form of packaging, one must creatively come up with economical ways to bag merchandise. Paper bags cost around 5-6x as much as plastic bags thereby jacking up the cost of goods. They are not as sturdy especially during the rainy months, are difficult to carry and do more damage to our environment when recycled due to the heavy use of chlorine. Selling and/or subsidizing Eco-bags made of cloth, “bayong” material and other sturdier indigenous material may be one way of attacking this problem. However, it will not just be costly to the consumer, as some of them buy in bulk and have to buy/bring lots of these bags but it is also cumbersome to have to bring all these bags even before the actual shopping.

Used-cartons are an option for packaging at supermarkets if the customer owns/drives a vehicle. But again, not all used-cartons may be suitable or available upon need. Having customers bring their own green-bags before shopping also poses problems to supermarkets in the form of the need for a much bigger baggage-deposit counter to accommodate all these bags brought in by customers; the need to accurately return the correct bags to those who deposited them with all the identical green-bags left at these counters; and, if supermarkets will allow customers to bring in their bags inside the selling area, the threat of temptation by customers-with-bags to shoplift can become a real headache. However, since there has been no initiative to temper the use of plastic bags and since no alternative material has been introduced to take the place of plastic so far, the Philippine Amalgamated Supermarkets Association (PAGASA) has tied up with Earth Day Network, Phils. and the Department of Natural Resources and Environment in setting up a Reusable Bag Day on Wednesdays to minimize the use of plastic bags. Every Wednesday beginning 3 November 2010, customers have been encouraged to bring an Eco-bag when they shop at participating outlets, buy an Eco-bag for use or pay a minimum fee for the use of plastic bags on that day; just to start/form the habit of bringing their own packaging. Some customers have vehemently objected but so far, most of the customers have been willing to oblige and engage in the advocacy of sustainability. This is a good start.

However, we believe that to negate the ill-effects of the improper disposal of plastic bags more effectively, we must come up with a range of ways to educate the public and get them to help out in returning used plastic bags systematically so that they reach the hands of the recyclers. Supermarket-members of PAGASA are all too willing to help educate the public via information drive/campaigns to strengthen awareness regarding plastic bag disposal issues. They should not even be used as garbage bags as these are shred open at dump sites by those scrounging for recyclable/reusable contents in these “converted” trash bags. Dirt in the dumpsites plus shredding renders them undesirable for recycling.

Regarding the systematic collection of used plastic bags for recycling, supermarkets could probably tie up with accredited/reliable recyclers upon advice from the National Solid Waste Management Commission or organizations like the Philippine Plastics Industry Association (PPIA) to have these used-bags picked up from supermarkets during agreed periods of time for recycling. We suggest that if customers bring back used-plastic bags (of at least eighteen <18> microns; as specified by recyclers) when they shop, regardless of whether these bags came from the concerned supermarket or not, he is exempt from paying a fee for the use of a new plastic bag to carry his current purchase. If they don’t bring back used-plastic bags (of at least 18 microns), then they will have to shell out a “minimum fee/penalty” of one peso (P1.00) per bag for potentially hurting the environment per new plastic bag that they consume from supermarkets unless they agree to have used-plastic bags or used-cartons as packaging for their groceries.

The rationale for the proposal is this: By charging a “minimum fee/penalty” to the consumer for using new plastic bags from supermarkets, every Filipino citizen is made aware that it is his/her responsibility to help protect the environment; that sustainable development is everyone’s responsibility in looking after the future of this planet. After all, we all live in one same planet. If consumers (and that is each and every one of us in this country) will bear the brunt of having to pay a “minimum fee/penalty” for his potential lack of concern towards protecting the environment (i.e, potentially getting these plastic bags disposed irresponsibly), then he will be made more aware that it is his concern to help contribute towards ecological balance. Now if this consumer is caring enough to bring back his used-plastic bag or his Eco-bag to supermarkets, he will be rewarded by the recognition that he is an environment-friendly citizen (“efitizen”) and need not pay the “minimum fee/penalty” for his noble effort. Here, we draw the focus away from the penalty aspect of the “minimum fee” to the positive psychological reward of being recognized as an “efitizen” and not having to pay extra for packaging his purchases. We are hoping that such a “distinction” will help Filipino citizens form the habit of protecting our environment (initially, by getting into the habit of having used-plastic bags recycled by returning them to collection centers>in this case, supermarkets). This we believe is the key objective and desired result of the proposed Bills.

By doing so, we are certain that supermarkets are more than happy to agree with this proposal because now they get to sell their plastic bags to those who are cooperative enough to pay the “minimum fee” (when they fail to bring back used-plastic bags) whereas before, supermarkets shoulder the cost of all plastic bags regardless of whether customers are “efitizens” or not. Supermarkets get a little revenue by selling the collected used-plastic bags (of at least 18 microns) to recyclers on a per-kilo basis (recyclers buy this at around P1.50/kg.). Initially, the extra work/effort needed here may be greater than the revenue received but we are sure, supermarkets are more than willing to be an active agent in helping protect the environment. Supermarkets hope that as the volume of collected used-plastic bags increases, the trivial price/kilo may increase as it becomes more profitable for recyclers to expand their business. Recyclers may find it more profitable too as the volume of collected used-plastic bags multiply. A booming recycling industry may not be an improbability given this scenario.

Regarding the “minimum fee/penalty” to be collected from consumers who don’t care and are not willing to take responsibility for the environment, we stress that for the law to take effect, all supermarkets (or all commercial establishments that use plastic bags for that matter) must be required to charge a fee for the use of their plastic bags. If this is not required by law, establishments who want to lure customers via free plastic shopping bags (and in effect, undermine the intent of the proposed bills) will opt not to charge with the objective of capturing the market of stores which charge a fee for their plastic bags.

As to what is considered a “reasonable” amount to charge consumers (also, for simplification purposes), we are suggesting a minimum fee/penalty of P1.00/plastic shopping bag. Stores may charge more for their bigger bags (at the risk of losing out to competition; Makro currently charges P5 for their sack-size plastic bags) but should not charge less than P1.00/plastic bag (minimum size of 9.75”x19.5” flat including handle). Smaller plastic bags for small items or fresh produce should be exempt from this fee as in general, they have less potential for harm environment-wise. It may be a bit tricky to standardize this charge among all supermarkets. Intent is to draw awareness towards recycling in the short-run and sustainable development over the long haul. Retailers must call the attention of authorities (DTI and DENR?) if merchants violate this “law” as they must be penalized (again, to make this “law” effective). Eventually and ideally, a growing number of “efitizens” will call the attention of authorities for violating merchants.

All the comments/suggestions contained here will entail effort, resources and a strong will to get the act together in educating our consuming public and hopefully get them to dispose of used-plastic bags properly. Will the public react negatively to this move? At the onset, we believe> yes. It will not come as a surprise. However, all economies, big and small, as a part of this planet called Earth will have to deal with the reality of sustainable development. By starting somewhere, we all slowly contribute to the upkeep of the environment by minimizing, if not eliminating, one of the ways by which we pollute this world.


Last Updated ( Sunday, 07 August 2011 )
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