Forum on Waste = Resource to Inclusive Circular Economy

Thank you very much to the Department of Science & Technology’s Philippine Textile Research Institute (DOST-PTRI) for inviting me to be part of this event and for organizing this “Forum on Waste = Resource to Inclusive Circular Economy” during this year’s National Science & Technology Week (NSTW).

This forum is really very timely and responsive to one of the major concerns globally, which is the call for responsible consumption and production in line with United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)— SDG No. 12, of which the Philippines is committed to.

Paragraph 28 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development reads: “We (the countries) commit to making fundamental changes in the way that our societies produce and consume goods and services. Governments, international organizations, the business sector and other non-state actors and individuals must contribute to changing unsustainable consumption and production patterns, including through the mobilization, from all sources, of financial and technical assistance to strengthen developing countries’ scientific, technological and innovative capacities to move towards more sustainable patterns of consumption and production…All countries take action, with developed countries taking the lead, taking into account the development and capabilities of developing countries”.

So, this is really a perfect platform for stakeholders from the country’s scientific and academic communities, business and industry sectors as well as government agencies to promote awareness and spur actions in circularity in production processes and resource management. On top of creating collaborations and linkages among stakeholders as well as exchanging ideas and sharing best practices or strategies.

The timing of this forum on circular economy could not have been more perfect because it is fast gaining ground globally. The circular economy has been adopted and endorsed by governments worldwide. In China, for instance, it is included in its plans for National Economic and Social Development.

At tayo dito sa Pilipinas ay hindi dapat magpahuli sa mga kaganapan, lalo pa sa usaping ito. Lalo pa at ang ating ultimate goal mula noon pa ay zero-waste. Iyan ang target ng mga syudad at munisipalidad na unfortunately ay hirap pa rin ma-achieve.

We have not even achieved our targets and now there is a shift in consumption behaviour— from a linear model or economy that “makes, uses and disposes” to a circular economy to a circular economy which is a zero-waste model that looks at options to use as few resources as possible; keep resources in circulation for as long as possible, get the maximum value while using them and regenerate products out of it.

So hindi na katulad ng nakagisnan ng marami sa atin at siya pa rin nangyayari ngayon ba pagkatapos gamitin ang mga products or resources ay itatapon ang mga ito. Of course, there are recycling and reusing methods. But experts point out that circular economy is more than recycling.

I think this circular model will help our existing efforts in waste management here in the Philippines as it has in other countries. Take for instance the perennial and now pressing problem of plastic wastes, especially single-use plastics. The term “single-use” is really the problem. And that is what the circular model addresses because as I cited earlier, the circular model is about keeping resources in circulation or in the loop for as long as possible. So, it means there will be lesser and eventually no more plastic wastes ending in landfills or reaching our seas and polluting our water sources.

Plastic pollution of the oceans or the so-called marine litter is one of the concerns being addressed by the Senate Committee on Environment, which I chair. The United Nations itself has called the  damage caused by plastic wastes as a “planetary crisis”. Noong December last year, nag-draft ang UN ng resolution signed by 193 countries to eliminate plastic pollution in the sea. According to the UN Environment Programme o UNEP, eight million tons of plastic wastes are dumped in the ocean every year. So much so that experts predict that by 2050, there may be more plastic in the sea than fish. Kaya krisis na talaga.

As you know, ako mismo ay umaksyon na last year, when I filed Senate Resolution 329 and my committee has conducted public inquiries on the measures being undertaken, if any, to arrest the Philippines’ prevalent plastic wastes leakage into the seas.

Kinausap ko na ang mga malalaking  consumer product companies na big users of plastics to cooperate and join the government’s efforts towards environment protection. At marami naman sa kanila ang nag-cooperate. We are pushing for the measure that will make manufacturers responsible for managing the entire life cycle of plastic products katulad ng tinatawag Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) concept na pina-practice sa ibang European countries, kung saan obligado ang mga manufacturers to recover plastic wastes from their products. I think, that is also a circular model.

There is an initiative called the “New Plastics Economy” by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and WRAP that is also working on gaining the commitment from major brands, retailers and packaging companies to work toward using 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by 2025 or earlier. And many big multinational companies have sealed their commitment such as The Coca-Cola Company, Unilever, Walmart, Evian among others that committed to the initiative.

The efficient management of our shared natural resources, and the way we dispose of toxic waste and pollutants, are important targets to achieve our goal on sustainable consumption and production (SDG No. 12). We need to encourage or even compel industries, businesses and consumers to recycle and reduce waste or lessen their ecological footprint. In December 2017, the French government pledged to recycle 100% of plastics by 2025.

As in plastics, the circular economy will also make a big difference in the textile industry, especially now that there is a growing concern regarding fashion wastes, which is now considered as an environmental crisis, just like plastic wastes.

I read a report by Circular Fibres Initiative, which aims to build a circular economy for textiles starting with clothing, that one truckload of clothing is wasted per second and an estimated $500 billion value is lost every year due to clothing that’s barely worn and rarely recycle. Moreover, one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned as less than one percent of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing or textile.

Globally, there are now campaigns and efforts to make the textile and fashion industry circular. In this new textile economy, clothing is designed to last longer. Clothing materials or textiles used will also be more environment-friendly such as natural fibers (silk, linen, cotton etc.), not those which take hundreds of years to decompose such as polyester and nylon. Even the chemicals such as dyes being used in textile and clothing need to be safe as it can also contaminate our waters.

That is where PTRI can take the lead here in the Philippines, in educating Filipinos about fashion wastes and incorporating the circular economy in the textile industry through your researches, technical support and training programs. My committee will also look into this new environmental crisis, just like we did with plastic wastes. Of course, we need to involve manufacturers as well. In the US, many fashion brands have taken the lead in addressing the issue.

As in any issue, problem, concern or goal, our concerted efforts are crucial. Achieving the SDG on sustainable consumption and production will need the implementation of government policies and sectoral plans along with the participation of the private sector through sustainable business practices. Of course, the public’s cooperation is also important through responsible consumer behavior. Let us work together and make wastes obsolete through a circular economy. On that note, thank you very much and I hope you will have a very productive forum.