Green company finds new use – and new home – for plastic waste

Stacked eco-friendly panels are stored inside the Plastic Flamingo recycling plant in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

DENR chief backs ban on single-use plastics

MANILA — A social enterprise in Muntinlupa on Friday launched a recycling line that would turn waste plastic bags and food wrappers into eco-panels or panels — similar to plywood — in a bid to stop tons of plastic from leaking into the environment.

The Plastic Flamingo, or The Plaf, started the recycling chain with the help of maritime logistics company CMA CGM, in what is considered the first in the Philippines, said its founder Francois Lesage.

This aims to increase the value of single-use sachets, which advocates and environmental activists say are difficult to recycle due to their material, as some include a metallic part.

“We are now equipped with new capabilities and resources to turn nearly impossible-to-recycle plastic bags into products like eco-panels that can be used to build shelters,” Lesage said.

“The new recycling line also translates into added value for waste pickers who collect plastic packaging for recycling.”

The eco-friendly panels, officers said, could replace plywood widely used in construction and housing, with waste bags literally finding a new home.

Erica Reyes, Plaf’s chief operating officer, said manufacturing involves compression molding, or the application of heat and pressure. Their recycling line can process up to 4 eco-panels in an hour, she added.

The Philippines is one of the biggest plastic polluters on the planet, contributing more than a third of plastic waste to the world’s oceans, according to a study this year.

A study by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) in 2019 showed that 164 million sachets are used daily by Filipinos, or almost 60 million sachets per year.

The use of plastic lab bags, meanwhile, stands at 45.2 million pieces per day in the country alone, or more than 16 million per year.

STOP PLASTICS, ‘PLAY THE WORLD’: DENR CHEF

Even before that, the company turned plastic waste into building materials or furniture, with products ranging from boards, stools and, recently, coasters, to plastic extrusion.

These products are currently sold directly to companies.

The manufacturing plant can recycle up to 2,000 tons of plastic waste per year, Lesage told ABS-CBN News in an interview.

Workers remove excess plastic waste from a freshly squeezed eco-friendly panel inside the Plastic Flamingo recycling plant in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers put the shredded plastic bags into a heat press inside the Plastic Flamingo recycling plant in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Workers remove excess plastic waste from a freshly squeezed eco-friendly panel inside the Plastic Flamingo recycling plant in Muntinlupa City on March 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Le Plaf and CMA CGM aim to prevent 120 tonnes of plastic waste from flowing into the ocean within a year, officials said at the launch.

“As part of the biodiversity protection strategy… [We want] in order to minimize the impact our shipping company may have on the environment,” said Yeya Berjaoui, Managing Director of CMA CGM, noting that bags and packaging are difficult to recycle.

“This is why we have decided (…) to stop the transport of plastic waste by sea to dissuade this waste from being exported to destinations where sorting, recycling and recovery cannot be assured.”

Jorge Emmanuel, adjunct professor of environmental science and engineering at Silliman University, told ABS-CBN News earlier this month that to solve the plastic problem, its production should be phased out.

Although recycling may solve the problem in the short term, something must be done to ensure that its production does not spiral out of control, he said.

“Recycling is not the solution. It has…plays an important role for the interim, for recyclable plastics that can be safely recycled. We cannot stop plastic production tomorrow,” a- he declared.

Meanwhile, Environment Secretary Jim Sapulna on Friday backed calls for a ban on single-use plastics because pollution is “out of control”.

“I, DENR support the bill banning the use of small plastics, ano. Report.

“Kaya sana, maipasa po iyong bill ng plastic ban. Maraming nagla-lobby na hindi. Sana maawa po tayo sa ating daigdig, ano. Nag-iisa itong daigdig natin na sisirain natin. So I fully support the plastic ban. “

In July last year, the House of Representatives passed a measure to phase out the production, sale and use of single-use plastics.

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