DENR pushes bags made of cassava starch as an alternative to plastic

Image via Pixabay
  • The DENR considers plastic from cassava starch as an alternative to  single-use plastic
  • Undersecretary Benny Antiporda plans to work with the DAR to increase cassava production to lower down its cost
  • Aileen Lucero of Ecowaste Coalition suggested options such as bags made from old clothes and woven baskets made from banana leaves

The DENR  (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) considers the use of bags from cassava starch as an alternative to plastic.  This is an answer to President Duterte’s plan to ban plastics in the entire country.

Image via Pixabay

This came after learning the result of the 2015 pollution study, which revealed that the Philippines is the 3rd biggest source of plastic leaking into the oceans next to China and Indonesia.

Furthermore, a report from NGO GAIA states that the country alone uses 48 million shopping bags every day, and that’s 17.5 billion a year; excluding the billions of sachets and transparent plastics called “labo” used by Filipinos. Scary figures, right?

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said they are fully implementing RA 9003 or Ecological Solid Waste Management, which should also focus on household segregation of source, which is often missed because advocates focus on the middle process.

Environment Undersecretary Benny Antiporda said, “Iyong single-use plastic po natin, ang nakikita po nating alternatibo sa kasalukuyan is iyong cassava, plastic na puwedeng gawa sa cassava starch.”

Kevin Kumala of Indonesia is the inventor of plastic made from cassava starch, vegetable oil, and organic resins.  This material is 100% biodegradable and compostable.  It is also safe when eaten by our sea creatures because it can even be dissolved in water.  His company Avani Eco has been providing this solution since 2014.  However, these containers are twice more expensive than plastic, according to Agence France-Presse.

Image via Avani Eco Website

DENR will work together with the DAR(Department of Agriculture) to increase cassava production so that they can lower the price of its production since RA 9003 limits the cost of the alternative not to be more than 10% of the production cost of plastic.

There were other alternatives considered over the years, but they were not feasible.

Antiporda also suggested incurring tax to single-use plastic to pay for the hazard they cause our environment. The prohibition of single-use plastic was already implemented in some areas and stores would charge consumers when they opt to use plastic bags.

Aileen Lucero, the national coordinator of green group Ecowaste Coalition, is urging consumers to use bags made from old clothes and duplicate the banana leaves woven into baskets by Tawi-Tawi farmers.

We think the bags made from cassava look promising since that root crop is readily available in our country, and it has worked for  Indonesia since 2014.  Hopefully, they can find the best solution very soon.