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DENR signals impending ban on plastic straws, coffee stirrers

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on Wednesday signaled a possible ban on plastic straws and coffee stirrers by putting them on a list of so-called non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAP) products.

In a statement Wednesday, the DENR said that the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) approved a resolution classifying the two products as NEAP, adding that they “may be banned soon.”

“The draft resolution declaring plastic soft drink straw and plastic coffee stirrers as NEAP was deliberated (in) a virtual en banc meeting… (which) concluded with 11 votes for approval and three votes (against),” the DENR said.

The department said the resolution passed “despite heavy resistance from some members of the Commission, such as the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), the manufacturing and recycling industries.”  

Undersecretary for Solid Waste Management and Local Government Units Concerns Benny D. Antiporda said that the plastic straws and stirrers were the “first products” to receive the NEAP classification.

He told BusinessWorld by phone Wednesday that the resolution “will be ratified by the heads of agencies. After the signature of all the Secretaries, that’s the time we will publicly release copies,” Mr. Antiporda said.

Once the resolution is published, businesses have one year to dispose of their plastic straws and coffee stirrers, he said, noting that the straw phaseout covers the products used in soft drinks, while some types like the white straws used by hospitals to feed their patients will be allowed to remain on the market.

The DENR will set specifications for products that can still be sold. “Product by product pinag-uusapan po iyan (We are discussing each type of product),” he said, citing as an example for further consideration the extra-large straws used by sellers of milk tea.

“(Businesses) will be given a year to… phase out the items and use the alternative or… (pursue) other business,” Mr. Antiporda said.

Mr. Antiporda said that there were different kinds of straws in the market — such as the portable white ones used in hospitals, and the thick ones seen in milk tea drinks.

Non-governmental organization (NGO) EcoWaste Coalition pushed the DENR to classify more single-use plastic products as NEAP.

“The EcoWaste Coalition… urges the authorities to adopt a more ambitious list that will include other single-use plastics (SUPs) as well as materials containing toxic chemical additives,” it said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator Aileen A. Lucero said the NSWMC must “make it a priority to list other SUPs and those with toxic additives in the NEAP.”

“The inclusion of all SUPs on the NEAP list, along with other products and packaging materials containing toxic additives that can harm human health and the environment, should be a top priority for the NSWMC in order to drastically reduce the volume and toxicity of residual garbage that we cannot reuse or recycle and only exacerbate environmental pollution,” Mr. Lucero said in a statement.

Sonia Mendoza, who chairs the NGO Mother Earth Foundation, also backs a broader phaseout.

“There are readily available alternatives such as paper straws or not using straws. Wooden or bamboo stirrers and teaspoons are always available in hotels and big establishments,” Ms. Mendoza told BusinessWorld in a mobile message. — Angelica Y. Yang

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