MANILA, Philippines—Up to six million plastic bags are eliminated as potential pollutants of the environment when shoppers turn to reusable bags once a week, according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje. Paje on Wednesday said he was happy that the people's consciousness of the value of employing reusable bags has been increasing.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources earlier signed an agreement with mall owners and supermarket chains to promote reusable bags and reduce the use of plastic bags. They chose Wednesday as the day when the stores would not give plastic bags to customers so that they would know the virtues of using reusable ones.
Paje said he hoped that awareness of the dangers of using plastic bags would increase, and that instead of having one day of using reusable bags, it would be two days, or more.
Plastic bags are deemed hazardous to the environment because they are non-biodegradeable and clog drainage systems and waterways.
“Our computation is that we might save six million bags per week,” Paje said in a press conference. “According to our biggest department store, they have already monitored more than a million people using reusable bags.”
He also noted that one shopper usually uses not just one but several plastic bags in one go. The environment secretary said that reducing the use of plastic bags was an urgent necessity, because no water body in Metro Manila remains unpolluted.
Paje said he has urged plastic bag manufacturers to take on the responsibility of retrieving the bags that litter the streets, clogging up the waterways and filling up the landfills. He noted that the manufacturers have been reluctant to take on the task because getting the plastic bags would net them no profit and would even add to their costs.
But he said they promised to extend their retrieval efforts to include the plastic bags in landfills or dumpsites, and in the river systems and esteros.
“They committed to us that they would try to recover these plastics in all levels,” he said.