Press Release
June 21, 2018

Fighting pollution through innovation

There is cash in trash.

For the past decades, this has been true among collectors of all ages who sweat under the sun or get soaked in rains atop a mound of garbage, where they hope to find value among the trash the populace has already discarded as worthless. This is not only visible in Metro Manila, but is now also a common sight in urban provinces where garbage disposal has become a headache among local leaders.

Garbage disposal had, at some point, reached crisis proportions. It was a problem that reeked so much of insensitive politics and of uncaring citizenry the health of the Filipino people was put at risk from diseases caused by contaminated water and food, virus-spreading insects and a germ-stricken environment. When families started to lose beloved members and when waters became unsafe to drink, the nation was suddenly filled with the twin sensations of anger and regret.

Senator Cynthia A. Villar was among the core of lawmakers who took action and pooled technical resources to find ways to address the problem of waste management. She tapped government agencies and private enterprises and put in the Villar SIPAG Foundation to explore varied options in search of alternatives to put value in trash.

One of their brightest idea is the recycling of plastic discards into plastic furniture such as school chairs, desks and benches, and other types of furniture.

Villar, way back in 2013, opened the first Waste Plastic Recycling Factory in Metro Manila. The project, which was launched by the Villar SIPAG Foundation with the cooperation of former Senate President Manny Villar and Las Pinas Rep. Mark Villar, turns plastic wastes into durable school chairs.

The first Waste Plastic Recycling Factory in Metro Manila is located in Barangay Ilaya, Las Pinas City. Two other factories have been set up by the Villar SIPAG in Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro cities to cover the Visayas and Mindanao regions.

The plants can produce about 1,000 armchairs in one month made with "soft plastics". These are made to look like wooden chairs with changeable parts and have a life span of 20 years. One school chair needs 20 kilos of soft plastics such as food wrappers to produce.

Thousands of school chairs have been produced by the factories and distributed for free to different schools all over the country.

The bulk have been given to schools in the National Capital Region and the CALABARZON. Villar have also distributed chairs in areas in the Visayas devastated by typhoons.

Senator Villar notes the beauty and value of the undertaking: it promotes two of her primary advocacies - job creation for the poor and environmental protection.

"In turning plastic wastes into useful furniture like school chairs, we are not only reducing the amount of plastic garbage that goes into our water resources and destroys the environment. At the same time, we are also able to provide livelihood sources to the poor, because the jobless, the non-skilled and even the physically disabled are employed by the factories,' Villar said.

Villar is a prime mover in plastic waste management in the country. As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, she has proposed amendments to the 17-year-old Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, or Republic Act 9003, to make companies and manufacturers more accountable for polluting the country's water resources with plastic wastes.

Villar first made the proposal at the 12th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS-COP12), and said such public accountability can be patterned after the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) concept practiced in European countries where manufacturers are mandated to recover plastic wastes through buy-back or recycling program.

A University of Georgia study has ranked the Philippines as the third largest producer of plastic wastes that could potentially enter the seas and oceans. Among 192 countries surveyed, the study also showed China and Indonesia as top plastic waste producers.

The United Nations has categorized the damage caused by plastic wastes as nearing 'planetary crisis.' According to the UN Environment Programme or UNEP, eight million tons of plastic wastes are dumped in the ocean every year. The UNEP has warned that by 2050, there may be more plastic in the sea than fish.

'We need to work together to protect Mother Nature. We need to come up with more innovative ideas to transform garbage into valuable materials, like these school chairs and other furniture manufactured from plastic wastes as raw ingredients,' Villar says.

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