Filipinos Throw Out Over 163 Million Sachets and 93 Million Plastic Bags Each Day

That's enough sachets every year to cover Metro Manila's landmass in one foot of plastic.
IMAGE Wikimedia Commons - Bombona78

Much has been written about the Philippines’ plastic pollution problem. Previous studies have ranked the Philippines as the third biggest ocean polluter of plastic, and many Filipinos have declared that stances on the issue will influence their vote in the upcoming senatorial elections.

To show just how big of an issue plastic pollution in the country is, a new study by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) has revealed just how much plastic Filipinos are wasting each day. And it’s alarming, to say the least.

“Filipinos use more than 163 million plastic sachet packets, 48 million shopping bags, and 45 million thin film bags daily,” wrote GAIA in its report titled “Plastics Exposed: How Waste Assessments and Brand Audits are Helping Philippine Cities Fight Plastic Pollution.”

Those numbers are based on a Waste Assessment and Brand Audit (WABA) methodology that was done in 21 barangays around the country from 2014 to 2018. It involved the thorough analysis of waste produced by a barangay’s citizens, tallying and classifying them according to their material.

To give an idea of how much plastic that is, GAIA revealed that for plastic sachet packets alone, Filipinos produce enough waste each year to cover the entire land area of Metro Manila with one foot of plastic. And that’s not counting the 17.5 billion pieces of plastic shopping bags and 16.5 billion pieces of plastic labo bags Filipinos use each year.

“These figures show that the sheer volume of residual waste generated daily is beyond the capacity of barangays, cities, and municipalities to manage,” the report stated. “The problem is the huge amount of single-use plastics being produced, not the way the waste is managed.”


Where it comes from

The GAIA study also revealed that of the total plastic waste produced in the Philippines, over a third originate from 10 local and international consumer goods manufacturers, as these are the single-use plastic packages of their products.

GAIA highlighted that four of these manufacturers are among the largest multinational companies in the world, with three of them comprising the top three. Five Filipino firms and one Indonesian manufacturer make up the rest of the top 10.

IMAGE: Wikimedia Commons - Judgefloro

“Despite the large amount of trash produced by their product packaging, the proliferation of their packaging waste not just in waterways and coastal areas but also in household waste destined for landfills shows that little effort has been made to reduce production of single-use disposable plastics, which results in this problematic waste stream,” wrote GAIA in the report.

What can be done?

While it should go without saying that we should be more mindful of the amount of plastic we use individually, the majority of GAIA’s recommendations are focused on improving and expanding government regulations to restrict plastic usage nationwide, as well as on strengthening their implementation.

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“The strict implementation of plastic bag regulations produces dramatically significant results in lowering plastic bag use,” wrote GAIA as one of its key findings in the study. “However, the existence of a plastic bag regulation in a city or municipality does not automatically equate to lower plastic bag use.”

GAIA also urged the creation of regulations banning single-use plastic products such as sachets and utensils similar to the plastic bag ban that’s already in effect in several areas. The organization recommended that government units “put in place policies to mandate, and incentives to encourage, corporations and business establishments to redesign product packaging and/or their delivery systems.”

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Lorenzo Kyle Subido
Lorenzo Kyle Subido is a staff writer for Esquire Philippines.
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