Inception Workshop for the Sustainable Packaging towards Marine Litter Reduction Project

The Sustainable Packaging towards Marine Litter Reduction Project held its virtual inception workshop on April 22, 2021, attended by different stakeholders varying from the government agencies, non-government organizations, and private companies. The event was initiated to introduce the project to the target stakeholders, and provide an avenue for them to share their insights on sustainable packaging. This project, implemented by the Philippine Center for Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development, Inc. (PCEPSDI), is funded by the ‘Rethinking Plastics – Circular Economy Solutions to Marine Litter’ project of the European Union and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). ‘Rethinking Plastics’ is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and Expertise France.

The event was opened by Dr. J.R. Nereus O. Acosta Jr., Chairperson of PCEPSDI who delivered an inspiring message to the participants. He shared “Bagani sa Kinaiyahan” which means warrior leader for the earth to remind the participants to let Global Earth Day celebration be a constant reminder for us to care for the only home that we have, the Earth. He added that there is a need to advance in finding solutions to heightening environmental problems and develop alternative sustainable packaging as we divert from single-use materials resulting from excessive use of disposable products catering hygienic and safety protocols created by COVID-19 pandemic. He called for collective action for environmental protection, imposing a question “…are we more caterers, nurturers, and life giving in our consciousness, or are we takers and users [of our finite resources]?”. This event served as an avenue to rethink plastics, rethink circular economy solutions, and overall, significantly drive to change consciousness.

To introduce Rethinking Plastics Projects, Project Manager Ms. Hyacinth Mona Magat presented the objectives and the pilot projects in the Philippines. This was followed by a presentation of the National Ecolabelling Programme-Green Choice Philippines (NELP-GCP) delivered by Ms. Jouelle Hannah M. Nerveza, the Programme Officer. The two presentations highlighted the need for the shift to more sustainable packaging and provided the basis for the on-going project of PCEPSDI with full title “Development  of Voluntary Guidelines on Sustainable packaging towards Reduction of Marine Litter and Promoting Packaging from Alternative Materials through Market-based Approach”. Ms. Erica Nicole D. Gomez, Project Officer from PCEPSDI, shared the objectives, framework, and information of the current and upcoming activities for the project, mentioning that “there is a high potential in addressing waste and marine litter problems by advancing the sustainable consumption and production (SCP), as well as the solid waste management in the country.” The project’s main objective is to achieve the creation of an ecolabelling criteria for packaging that would encourage SCP and extended producer responsibility (EPR) for the packaging sector in the Philippines. 

To further engage the stakeholders in the event, Prof. Ron Adrian A. Dionaldo of Central Philippine University (CPU), shared the school’s initiatives on sustainable packaging under its Department of Packaging Engineering. With his brief presentation, Prof. Dionaldo expressed his hopes that with the contribution of the Sustainable Packaging Project, everyone can soon enjoy going to the beach that is free of marine litter. 

Moreover, breakout sessions and plenary discussions were conducted as part of the program wherein participants were provided with questions, giving them a platform to share their insights on the subject matter. Likewise, an interactive sharing and exchange of ideas of their respective programs and best practices on sustainable packaging took place, and some of the notable answers were the (1) plastic-free day “plastic holidays” where a municipality reinforces a no plastic day once a week or once a month; (2) ordinances related to regulating the use of plastics (i.e. Iloilo City, Makati City, Muntinlupa); (3) consumer education; (4) Bring your own “reusable and refillable” Campaign; and (5) Take Back Program (e.g. Trash-to-Cash). With this sharing, the project was able to obtain new perspectives and relevant information that may be used as it moves forward with its implementation. 

To end, SM Supermalls’ Assistant Vice President Mr. Chito V. Bauzon, expressed their support as a key partner to the Sustainable Packaging project, stating “the 76 SM Supermalls across the country are willing to help your organization [PCEPSDI] in order for us to positively influence the decisions of the consumers”. Sharing SM Supermalls’ own sustainability initiatives and to further enhance its due dedication to environmental consciousness, Mr. Bauzon lauded the Trash-to-Cash Recycling Market program implemented across SM Supermalls nationwide which exchanges accumulated trash for cash to encourage proper waste management. With their advocacy to promote sustainability, SM Supermalls has engaged with PCEPSDI in the shift to more sustainable packaging towards marine litter reduction. 

The event was concluded with the closing remarks by PCEPSDI’s Executive Director and President, Mr. June M. Alvarez, who called for extensive support and expressed his hopes that everyone can achieve a more sustainable way of living, in such a way that it can collectively reverse the trend of environmental impacts of packaging that the country is consuming.

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Author: Engr. Augusto Luis Labos

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