Commercial plastics have largely contributed to the present worldwide pollution crisis on both land and water. Marine plastic has caused havoc on numerous biological species and will adversely affect human nutrition and health in the coming years. Multi-sectoral strategies are urgently needed in order to solve this pollution problem. For example, it is imperative to ban single-use plastics and require greater use of biodegradable plastics. Importation and use of non-biodegradable plastics, which are made from fossil-based feedstocks such as petroleum, should be reduced.
Some commercial additives, which are presently used by many plastic processors, have been claimed to be ‘pro-degradant’ or effective in enhancing biodegradability of non-biodegradable plastics. Biodegradability tests should be done on both imported and locally processed additives and their results should be the basis for product labeling. If the additives do NOT biodegrade a non-biodegradable plastic material (such as PE), according to standard tests, they should be not be labeled as ‘pro-degradant.’ In view of worsening plastic pollution, there is a global need to shift from the traditional throw-away linear economy to minimal-waste chain economy and, eventually, to the ideal zero-waste cyclic economy. The latter is governed by the 5 Rs (Redesign, Reduce, Reuse, Recover, Recycle) as applied to the plastic material’s life cycle.
In order to help find solutions to the present crisis due to plastic waste, the following policy recommendations are made under Philippine conditions:
- Government incentives for processors/manufacturers of biodegradable plastic products through tax reduction/exemption, etc.
- Funding and logistical support for R&D on:
a. Physico-chemical and biological evaluation of commercial ‘pro-degradant’ additives for biodegradation of plastic materials under local conditions;
b. Utilization of asphalt mix with plastic waste for road building;
c. Thermochemical conversion of plastic waste into liquid fuel;
d. Techno-economic feasibility studies on the production of biodegradable plastics from local feedstocks; and
e. Multi-disciplinary studies on plastic biodegradation using local microbial isolates.