Metro Manila · Fighting the Plastic Bag *UPDATE SEPTEMBER 2014*

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In 2013 Makati City implemented a plastic ban, prohibiting the use of plastic, Styrofoam and other non-biodegradable materials as packaging for food and other products. Most other cities in Metro Manila enforce similar laws or are about to do so.

+++Update September 2014+++

About 90 to 92 percent of business establishments in Makati City are complying to the Plastic Regulation Program, which bans the use of plastic packaging, according to the Makati City government report. Officials said that the 92 percent compliance rating for the first quarter is higher compared to the 90 percent compliance rating they recorded during the first six months of the citywide plastic ban.

From January to March of this year, about 366 or 8 percent of the 4,519 establishments in Makati have violated the code. Last year, between June to December, the city recorded 649 violators out of 6,373 establishments that it inspected.

Monitoring teams, whose members are from the Makati Action Center and DES Solid Waste Management Division, are continually inspecting and ensuring that establishments follow the ordinance. A series of seminar-workshops are regularly held to educate local officials and constituents on the Solid Waste Management Code and the Plastic Regulation Program.

Individual violators face a fine of P1,000 or imprisonment ranging from five to 30 days while firms or establishments will be fined P5,000. Company owners may be jailed for a month up to a year.

+++ Update April 2014 +++

Mandaluyong is one of the last cities of Metro Manila to implement a total ban on plastic bags, starting April 20, 2014. The city started a gradual ban two years ago, first with two plastic-free days a week, then with four plastic-free days a week.

Plastic ban policies range from total bans (e.g. Makati, Mandaluyong) to partial bans on non-biodegradable bags (e.g Manila, Caloocan, Pasay) to mere one-day-per-week bans (Navotas). Biodegradable plastic bags are usually still allowed for wet goods such as meat and fish. The level of compliance with the plastic ban also varies from city to city, depending on the level of fines and monitoring, among other things.

The only cities without any kind of plastic ban are San Juan City and Valenzuela City. The latter is home to many plastic manufacturers which provide employment for residents. 

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+++ June 2013 +++

There are also hopes that the plastic ban might decrease the regular floods in Manila: plastic bags, among with other garbage that was not properly recycled, tend to clog the drainage systems of the megacity.

The ban effects 17,500 supermarkets, public markets, shopping malls, department stores, restaurants, fast food chains, convenience stores, canteens and eateries in Makati. They had, after all, more than a nine-year grace period to look for environment-friendly alternatives. The ban was mandated by the Solid Waste Management Code of Makati in 2003. Nevertheless, by May 2013 few establishments had switched to paper bags or other alternatives so far, and most shops still provided their clients with excessive amounts of plastic bags.

Other cities of Metro Manila implemented similar plastic bans or are about to do so. Muntinlupa has a no-plastics policy since January 2011, Las Piñas and Pasig City followed a year after. Shops in Quezon and Pasay are officially prohibited to give out plastic bags for free. Marikina, Malabon and Manila City have passed ordinances but still give establishments time to prepare for the ban.

However, representatives of the plastics industry argue that the massive use of paper bags will lead to new environmental problems, as they would require the cutting of trees and more water and power for production.