PHILIPPINES – Plastic bans have led to an increase in paper usage and even bigger environmental problems such as the cutting of trees and greater use of water and electricity in production, according to the Philippines Plastics Industry Association (PPIA).
Accusing critics of “demonizing” plastics to the extent that the public now “wrongly” believes paper is more environmentally friendly, Crispian Lao, the trade association’s spokesperson, said a more scientific and “enlightened” approach to plastics is needed.
“One ton of paper requires the cutting of 17 trees; none is cut for plastic. One supermarket paper bag uses one gallon of clean water, which is all that is needed to make 116 plastic bags. Paper uses as much as five times more energy than a comparable plastic production,” Lao said.
In effect, he said, local governments’ ban on plastics is actually worsening global warming, since the shift to paper products means greater paper production and more trees being cut, resulting in more carbon dioxide in the air, less water for human consumption and more energy generation and hence, greenhouse gases emissions.
“Paper is not necessarily more environmentally friendly,” Lao said. “This is the reason developed countries are taking a balanced approach. People are given a choice between plastic and paper because both are needed, and have their pros and cons.
Tackling allegations that plastic bags caused floods, Lao said, “If the problem is flooding, a plastic ban is definitely not the solution. The floods during typhoons Ondoy, Pedring, Sendong etc were caused not by plastic but by global warming which has generated more violent typhoons and unusually heavy rainfall.”
Even if one were to assume that plastic products led to floods, Lao said the solution is still not a ban on its use but rather to change the way people dispose of waste.
“All this misimpression started with simple floods, and it was very convenient to blame plastic because it was the most visible. But first of all, we have poor drainage systems. And the plastic is there because we refuse to segregate. We must segregate and recycle. The solution is that simple,” he said.
While he believes that plastic is more environmentally friendly, Lao said that both plastics and paper must co-exist as both are necessary, citing the example of paper cups, which are lined with either wax or plastic for waterproofing.
At the end of the day, proper public education is necessary, Lao stressed: “All we need to do is to be responsible users and disposers of plastic. To ban it (plastic) is to deny ourselves unnecessarily a ready convenience in favor of paper that causes new problems for us.”