09 February 2012

SBMA to ban plastic bags, Styrofoam to protect environment

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is consulting its stakeholders on the proposed policy to prohibit retail establishments inside the Subic Bay Freeport from using plastic bags and Styrofoam as packaging materials.

SBMA Chairman Roberto Garcia said the proposal is in line with the SBMA’s desire to reduce, if not totally eliminate, the use of plastic film bags in an effort to protect public health and welfare, as well as the local environment and wildlife.

Garcia noted that the agency is mandated to conserve and protect the environment of the Subic Freeport, as well as its surrounding communities. He also pointed out that Subic is among the few remaining areas in the country where rainforests can be found.

Garcia said that the SBMA Solid Waste Management Division collects almost 35 tons of garbage everyday inside the free port zone. Of these, 15 percent or 6.5 tons are plastic and Styrofoam, which are mostly used as packaging materials.

“Those that are not collected usually end up clogging canals, creeks, rivers and other waterways, thus posing a significant source of marine debris. These are hazardous to marine animals and birds,” Garcia said.

“From an overall environmental and economic perspective, the best thing the SBMA can do is to require retail establishments to refrain from using plastic bags and Styrofoam, and shift to reusable non-plastic carry-out bags or biodegradable materials,” he said.

In response, restaurant, canteen and food kiosk operators attending the consultation-forum organized by the SBMA Ecology Center signified full support of the new policy, but expressed concern over the availability of alternative packaging materials they may use.

“We support the policy eliminating plastics, but we need some time to find other alternatives materials to replace our plastic cups, bags and Styrofoam,” says Kristy Dizon of Ed-Beng Kiosk.

College of Subic Montessori principal Imee Lacbain Alejo asked the SBMA to invite producers of alternative packaging materials to conduct product exhibits in the Freeport so that stakeholders would be apprised of available environment-friendly products.

Meanwhile, Liway Santiago of Pideli Cafe here urged fast food and kiosk operators inside the Freeport to advocate the proper disposal of plastics while alternative materials are not yet available.

The SBMA had tasked its Ecology Center to conduct consultations with stakeholders and explain the policy guidelines to affected businesses, and later to implement and monitor the effective implementation of the new policy.

During the consultation with retailers, SBMA Ecology Center manager Amethya Koval said that the proposed policy is expected to take effect in June 2012, but for the purpose of moratorium, all business establishments and individual retailers are given six months, or until December this year, to comply with the new regulation.

After December 2012, retail establishments will be prohibited from providing plastic bags to customers as packaging materials for dry or wet goods, or selling and providing Styrofoam containers for food, produce and other products. Violators will be fined accordingly.

Exempted from this regulation are original packaging of goods delivered to Subic Freeport establishments. However, when new plastic or plastic bag is to be used in repacking the goods purchased by a consumer, then the new policy would apply. (RAV/MPD-SBMA)