Scientists work to curb Philippines’ plastic waste problem

Scientists work to curb Philippines’ plastic waste problem

March 27, 2019
Marcia González

Roadmap to plastic pollution change sought from Philippines’ scientific brainstorms

Plastic pollution is a problem of gargantuan proportions in the Philippines which – along with China, Vietnam and Indonesia – is frequently listed among the world’s worst culprits, especially when it comes to marine plastic pollution. That’s not to say the country isn’t doing anything about it, however. For instance, its National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST) – which is mandated by law to advise the President and Cabinet on matters related to science and technology – has recently been busy collecting ideas from scientists and researchers to put a stop to the plastic tide.

“If we decide as a group, we will recommend to appropriate bodies,” said NAST President Rhodora Azanza, at the end of a two-day Visayas Regional Scientific Meeting held at the Summit Hotel last week. “We need everybody’s help to campaign against plastic use.”

The city was the host of the Visayas regional scientific meeting which convened 20-21 March, a gathering that was anchored on the theme, ‘Caring for our country’s carrying capacity’.

This was the first scientific meeting this year. Other gatherings will be held in Alaminos, Pangasinan in April for Luzon and in General Santos City, South Cotabato in May for Mindanao.

NAST is eyeing to synthesize all recommendations in an annual meeting in July, the outcome of which will be presented to the House of Representatives, Senate and Cabinet officials.

Fabian Dayrit, NAST academician and professor of Ateneo de Manila University, said about 15% of solid waste in the country is made up of plastic materials and the volume is consistently rising due to increasing demand. “The management of plastic waste must be based on an understanding of the physical-chemical nature of the various plastics, in particular their polymer composition and properties,” Dayrit commented. “Strategies to minimize plastic pollution should consider the different types of plastic pollution: macro pollutants, microplastics, microfibers and chemical additives.”

The waste management strategy of 3Rs – reduce, re-use, and recycle – must be augmented with a fourth strategy: ‘redesign’, according to Dayrit. “New management strategies for plastics now advocate for a circular economy, which includes the conversion of waste plastic into raw materials and the development of new polymers and plastic materials.”

The scientific meetings decided to make plastic pollution as the main topic after plastics were found in the digestive systems of dead dolphins and whales.

NAST said the Philippines had been identified by Ocean Conservatory in its 2015 report as a significant contributor to the plastic found in the world’s oceans. Citing studies, NAST revealed that the country generates some 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste with more than 50% finding its way into bodies of water.

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