A stray dog scavenges for food among trash near the mouth of Pasig river that connects it to Manila Bay in Baseco Compound in Tondo, Manila on World Environment Day, June 5, 2021.

Filipinos using e-commerce platforms to rise to 55.8 million users by 2025

A stray dog scavenges for food among trash near the mouth of Pasig river that connects it to Manila Bay in Baseco Compound in Tondo, Manila on World Environment Day, June 5, 2021.
A stray dog scavenges for food among trash near the mouth of Pasig river that connects it to Manila Bay in Baseco Compound in Tondo, Manila on World Environment Day, June 5, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— Environmental group Greenpeace on Wednesday urged the Philippines’ biggest e-commerce platforms to find alternative ways to package products and help alleviate the country’s “plastic pandemic,” just as the gift-giving season drew near.

In a press briefing, Greenpeace Philippines campaigner Maverick Flores said it is time that e-commerce sites become accountable from the plastic problem that they have “enabled.”

The group also timed their event hours before major e-commerce sites Lazada and Shoppee commenced with their 9.9 sales— their monthly discount shopping event.

“Step up tayo ng ating messaging para (we step up messaging to) i-demand ang better responses from these companies… Both of these companies… should not let themselves be left by the wayside as regional trends of e-commerce finally recognize the need to be more environmentally sustainable,” Flores said. 

According to Greenpeace campaigner Jefferson Chua, the use of e-commerce websites “doubled” as people shopped online more while cooped up in their homes during the pandemic, with Lazada’s 12.12 sale last year logging in almost 420 million minutes among users. 

Shopee, meanwhile, reportedly sold 12 million products in the first 24 minutes of the event. 

“This reflected a 55 percent growth in 2020. Some analysts also predict that the number of Filipinos using e-commerce will also reach a staggering number [of] 55.8 million users by 2025 as the access to internet begins to be more widely accepted here in the country,” said Chua. 

“These figures point to an astounding— and unsustainable— rise in plastic packaging. And yet, there’s no public data of exactly how much waste these companies produce. Neither are there any commitments whatsoever to reduce this,” he added. 

“What we have right now is a perfect storm, incoming holidays, and the persistence of the pandemic and of course the burden that these events produce in our planet in terms of packaging waste.”

Aside from this, Greenpeace cited an Oceana report stating that plastic packaging “will more than double” from 2019 to 2025 or from 943 million kilograms to 2.056 billion kilograms. 

Greenpeace East Asia, meanwhile, pointed out that plastic wastes in China might top 41 million tons roughly 4 years from now. 

This is the reason the group, as well as other Filipinos, are calling on the sites to find an alternative way of packaging its products. 

To date, Youth Strike 4 Climate was able to collect at least 14,000 signatures for these firms to reveal the extent of the plastic wastes they are generating and the need to reduce it, to alleviate the problem. 

The petition was launched in November last year. 

They are also calling for environmental sustainability and transparency on policies “that demonstrate [their] commitment to environmental health through corporate social responsibility targets.” 

“What’s happening here in the Philippines is that Filipino taxpayers, our communities, our local governments, not Lazada or Shopee, are paying for the cost of managing our e-commerce waste,” Marian Ledesma, Greenpeace ecowaste campaigner, said. 

A study in April this year found that the Philippines contributed 36 percent of the plastic waste that ended up in the world’s oceans, with the Pasig River also being identified as the top plastic pollution source. 

Seven of the 10 rivers that contributed plastic pollution in the world’s oceans are located in the country, it showed.

The Climate Change Commission described the findings to be of “extreme concern” in terms of how plastic waste are being managed in the Philippines. 

ALTERNATIVE 

Reusable packaging is one of the ways plastic waste can be reduced, according to the group. 

While Lazada and Shopee had attempts to have green initiatives, Greenpeace noted, the change must come from the way they are delivering and processing orders. 

“There haven’t been publicly available commitments and goalposts to these important data sets. ‘Yung campaigns nila (their campaigns) against plastic and for environmental sustainability are really geared towards more on the consumer side by supporting these companies that are environmentally friendly,” Chua said.

ABS-CBN News reached out to representatives from Shopee and Lazada to get their side on the matter, but both have yet to release official statements as of this posting.

A Shopee representative has acknowledged ABS-CBN News’ request. We will update this story for developments. 

Youth Strike 4 Climate, meanwhile, said it is important to tap on small and medium-sized eco-friendly sellers. 

There are also some small-time retailers like Good Trade PH which offers “compostable packaging” like compostable mailers and honeycomb bubble wrap. 

“Lazada and Shopee can tap and work with them for more sustainable packaging solutions and eco-friendly disposal schemes,” they said.

Reusable and returnable packaging has already been initiated by Loop, Zippies, Repack, Fachpack, eBox Solutions, and most especially JuanBag, they added. 

JuanBag, according to its founder Rachel Lacanlale, innovated a thick, vinyl lining for its reusable and returnable packaging so customers would get the items easily during deliveries. 

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She also assured customers who are concerned about the sanitation process, and said the delivery system and process would minimize the risk amid the COVID-19 threat.

“Consumers will not hold the bubble wrap or anything, instead the item is just inside and you can just take it out, no need to use tapes and other materials wherein the consumer can have to untangle things and that minimizes ‘yung cost for sanitation because we can just easily sanitize the items or the packaging,” Lacanlale explained. 

The House of Representatives earlier passed a measure that seeks to gradually phase out the production, sale, and use of single-use plastics. 

The measure seeks to protect life on land and water from hazards posed by plastic pollution, prolong the service life of sanitary landfills, and discourage the consumption of single-use plastic products.

A report by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) Asia Pacific showed some 164 million sachets are used and thrown away each day by Filipinos, or 59.8 billion per year.

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