By Mike Baños
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Nestle Philippines conducted a one-day Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) education and registration drive dubbed “Rethinking Plastics: EPR Paving the Way Towards Circularity” on October 6 at the Mallberry Suites Business Hotel, Cagayan de Oro City.
The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Act, which lapsed into law in July 2022, “institutionalizes the extended producer responsibility mechanism as a practical approach to efficient waste management, focusing on waste reduction, recovery and recycling/repurposing, and the development of environment-friendly products that manifest internationally-accepted principles on sustainable consumption and production, circular economy, and producers’ full responsibility throughout the life cycle of their product.”
“Each day, our country generates a staggering 61,000 metric tons (MT) of waste, with 12% to 24% of that being plastic waste. Approximately 35% escapes into the open environment and our oceans, posing a grave threat to our ecosystems and marine life,” disclosed DENR Secretary Ma. Antonia Yulo-Loyzaga in her livestreamed message from Manila.
The Panel of Discussants listens intently to a question from one of the participants.
According to studies by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, approximately 7,000 to 15,000 tons of plastic waste are generated per day. In a 2019 World Bank study, it was also reported that around 70% of the material value of plastics is lost to the Philippine economy each year, equivalent to a value loss of USD 790-890 million per year.
With the issuance of its Implementing Rules and Regulations, EPR Act of 2022 requires obliged enterprises (OEs) to undertake waste recovery schemes in pursuit of a circular economy. OEs are large scale enterprises with over P100-million in total assets that produce, manufacture, import, or put their brand label on plastics.
The law requires Obliged Enterprises to divert 20% of plastic waste they produced in 2022 by the end of 2023, and further to 80% by 2028. These obligations include the diversion, transportation, and disposal of recovered waste and the cleanup of coastal and public areas. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) are not required, but highly encouraged, to also register their EPR programs.
“This year marks the first-year implementation of the EPR law, calling upon large-scale companies to establish responsible strategies for recovering, treating, recycling, and disposing of the plastics they distribute,” Sec. Yulo-Loyzaga said.
“While it is the obligation of large enterprises to register their EPR programs with DENR, we highly encourage Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) to do the same. The gravity of our plastic pollution crisis necessitates collective action, because no one sector can do it alone. The successful implementation of the EPR law calls for a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, underpinned by data-driven insights that allow us to accurately gauge our progress, all for the betterment of our people and the environment,” she stressed.
With strong economic growth and increased consumer demand, the Philippines generates an enormous amount of plastic waste that puts ecosystems and development at risk.
The event is part of the DENR’s efforts to influence and encourage more OEs to register their EPR programs with the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) to ensure their compliance with the EPR Act of 2022.
According to DENR Undersecretary for Policy, Planning and International Affairs Jonas R. Leones, “Compliance and support among the private sector, especially OEs, is crucial to the effective implementation of the EPR Law. This is why the DENR has been holding webinars and workshops with various industry associations to spread awareness about the EPR law and its provisions, as well as the EPR registration process to help companies understand what EPR is and how they might undertake an EPR program.”
The Cagayan de Oro leg of the roundtables is the third and final leg which aims to identify actionable ways forward for the public and private sectors.
To assist OEs, the DENR in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) set up an EPR registry clinic after the program and conducted a walk-through of the EPR Registry and coached participating enterprises in registering and submitting their EPR programs.
The event also presented the findings of the synthesis report from the roundtable discussion held in Manila and Cebu earlier this year, including key takeaways and recommendations taken from the panel and roundtable discussions.
This report, facilitated by Nestle Philippines, gathered information and feedback from over 300 stakeholders representing food manufacturers, co-processing facilities, consumer goods groups, packaging firms, policy leaders, and non-profit organizations.
Online Participants for Roundtable Discussion
Among the luminaries attending the forum were Cagayan de Oro Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez (2nd District), Cagayan de Oro City Vice Mayor Jocelyn B. Rodriguez, DENR Undersecretary for Finance, Information Systems and Climate Change Annaliza Rebuelta-Teh; DENR Undersecretary Leones; Mr. Jose Uy III, Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs, Nestlé Philippines; and Dr. Johannes Paul, Project Manager.
EPR: A Shared Responsibility
“The EPR law represents a significant leap towards achieving sustainability and climate action. It lays down the foundations for our transition from a linear economy to a circular one, providing the necessary framework for this transformative shift,” Sec. Yulo-Gonzaga stressed.
“One of the most compelling aspects of the EPR law is the concept of shared responsibility. It brings together enterprises and Local Government Units or LGUs in a partnership aimed at better managing plastic waste. This collaboration, strengthened by the EPR law, complements the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, and demonstrates our collective commitment to creating cleaner and healthier cities,” she noted.
Since the DENR’s LoopForward Campaign launch for EPR last August, there has been an increase in EPR submissions from 667 to 719 as of end-September. DENR and other government partners in EPR implementation, business groups, and civil society organizations continue to proactively campaign for EPR support, recognizing that cleaning up plastic waste from the environment not only restores the planet but protects human health, livelihoods and food security.
The EPR education and registration drive organized by the DENR and Nestlé Philippines is supported by UNDP, GIZ, the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP), and Eco-Business.