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Friday, May 31, 2024

Plastic recycling infrastructures: urgent environmental need, business opportunity

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The Philippines is the world’s biggest contributor to marine plastic waste with 350,000 tons of it leaking into the ocean annually, according to the independent UK organization Utility Bidder.

A World Bank study on the Plastics Circularity Opportunities and Barriers said the Philippines is losing 78 percent of the material value of its plastics supply chain worth US$ 890 million each year. The recycling capacity gap stands at 85 percent.

For investors, these figures suggest a potential business opportunity: setting up large-scale plastic recycling infrastructures in the country, even while doing much-needed environmental good by reusing plastic waste that impact negatively on people and the planet. Recycling plastic into useful material for manufacturing contributes to building a circular economy, in which waste is eliminated by putting it to productive use and preserving value.

Given the urgent environmental need along with the potential business opportunity, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Nestlé Philippines are continuing their partnership for environmental sustainability, by holding the Philippine National Recycling Conference: The Loop Towards Recyclability and Circularity this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 at the Marriott Hotel Manila.

The multisectoral event will serve as a forum for potential investors, key waste management businesses, related organizations, and government agencies to discuss possible opportunities and challenges of building plastic recycling facilities, and increasing the supply of recycled packaging materials.

Mandated extended producer responsibility (EPR) for plastic waste lapsed into law in 2022. Companies called obliged enterprises with total assets of P100 million and above are now required to be environmentally responsible for plastic waste from products they manufacture, import, distribute or sell to consumers, up to the post-consumer stage. EPR compliance rules include collecting plastic waste and regular reporting requirements with the aim of generating a circular economy.

Towards the effective implementation of the EPR Act, the DENR and Nestlé PH organized a series of roundtable discussions in key Philippines cities last year. The discussions enabled various stakeholders to share and exchange insights, conceptualize solutions to issues, and craft recommendations to support compliance with EPR.

A major requirement identified during the discussions is the need for investments in local infrastructure for waste recovery and recycling of flexible plastic waste. Most local government units lack adequate solid waste management capabilities, especially recycling. A substantial percentage of recycling and collection continues to be borne by the informal sector, with its members needing to be integrated into the plastic waste management system, for poverty mitigation and increased effectiveness.

The upcoming conference will feature a morning plenary session to be led by the DENR, the Board of Investments, Nestlé Philippines, and other industry experts who will review the current recycling landscape in the country. Topics will include the recyclability of flexible plastic packaging and its potential for transformation into food-grade recycled packaging. A design thinking session will follow in the afternoon, with attendees sharing fresh insights, recommendations, and possible approaches to plastic waste recycling.


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