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A scientist is pushing for the revision of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 (Republic Act 9003) to craft a more holistic approach to the management of plastics.
Dr. Fabian Dayrit, professor emeritus of the Ateneo de Manila University and the Vice Chairman of the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), in his recent visit in Puerto Princesa City said that one of the strategies to address plastic pollution is to rethink waste management by ending too much dependence on sanitary landfills but rather adopt the “circular economy” to maximize the use of plastic.
RA 9003 was enacted into law on January 26, 2001, signed by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“R.A. 9003 tackles solid waste as a whole. However, plastic waste needs a different strategy. The R.A. 9003 is based on the ‘end of pipe’ approach and ultimate dependence on landfills and the burden of responsibility is on local government units (LGUs) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR),” Dr. Dayrit said.
Part of his proposed “circular economy” is the resource recovery, sharing platform by way of increase utilization rates through collaborative usage or ownership. Another is the extended producer responsibility.
“Part of the solution is to abandon the “end of pipe” approach to plastic waste that depends on landfills,” he said.
He further explained that plastics are synthetic polymer materials that can be designed to achieve desired characteristics, functions and shapes. Plastics have also become ubiquitous.
At first, plastics were considered as alternatives to natural materials, e.g., leather, building materials, clothing, and presently, plastics have replaced many of these uses. It also has created new applications that could be achieved only with plastics: Teflon, fiber optics, electronics, medical devices.
Dr. Dayrit said that there are two types of plastics, one is Thermoplastics (TP) which is generally recyclable and Thermoset (TS) which he said is generally not recyclable.
“Most plastics are not biodegradable and they contain additives to attain properties for specific applications, to prolong life, and to reduce cost. Many additives are toxic and harmful to humans and the environment,” he warned.
The Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) studies conclude that plastic bags have a smaller environmental impact than paper bags. Based on the study of former secretary of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Felimon Uriarte Jr, that the key to reducing the environmental impact of plastic bags is to reuse as many times as possible.
Dr. Dayrit also observed a lack of attention to industry and research.
He described our current practice in disposing of solid wastes as from cradle to grave approach, which is dependent on sanitary landfills. In his propose 4Rs in the circular economy, it will not only reduce, reuse, and recycle plastic, but also re-design it, therefore prolonging its lifespan through multiple uses. The plastic’s lifespan or lifecycle can also be prolonged through repair, reprocessing and resale.