To date, about 1,056,000 kilos of plastic wastes have been collected and turned into armchairs in the plastic recycling program spearheaded by Senator Cynthia Villar. This move has helped provide livelihood while providing solutions to the country’s problem on solid waste management and the lack of chairs in public schools.
The first Villar Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance (Villar SIPAG) Waste Plastic Recycling Factory was established in Barangay Ilaya, Las Pinas City in March 2013. Two other plastic factories were built in San Miguel, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro City in 2017 and we increased the capacity of Las Pinas plastic factories to 600 chairs chairs per month.
Since then, more than 52,800 chairs have been donated for free to public schools, learning sites and government and non-government associations all over the country.
“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, which harms the environment. 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.
When it was inaugurated, the Php 6-million Las Pinas plant was only the second of its kind. About 20 kilos of mixed “soft plastics”—such as food wrappers—are needed to make a chair, which can be fashioned to look like wooden pieces and comes with replaceable parts.
Workers from the community are employed to collect and segregate the plastic wastes, which are then shredded, washed, dried, melted and molded in the plant.
Contaminants found in the raw materials are removed in the process. Tests show that armchairs had low levels of lead (42 parts per million) and no traces of mercury.
Villar, chairperson of the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, emphasized that environmental protection, particularly proper waste disposal and handling and recycling, is very important with or without a pandemic.
“We continue to generate waste even if we are under quarantine. If disposed improperly, waste will overwhelm our landfills and will clog our drainage. This will cause flooding and contribute to the spread of diseases,” she said.
With a capacity to produce 300 chairs a month, the first plastic factory in Las Pinas has manufactured more than 10,800 chairs in 3 years and increased its capacity at 600 chairs per month in 2017 of which are already donated to public schools in Benguet, Apayao, Kalinga, Ilocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Isabela, Cagayan Valley, Compostela Valley, Nueva Vizcaya, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Zambales, Pampanga, Aurora, Tarlac, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Albay, Camarines Norter, Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, Sorsogon, and Masbate.
It also donated to public schools in the National Capital Region; namely, Caloocan, Las Pinas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Manila, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Paranaque, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig and Valenzuela.
Also in partnership with former Vice President Noli De Castro’s Kabayan Special Patrol,school chairs were distributed to far flung areas and indigenous communities.
Farm schools, TESDA learning centers, private companies, non-government organizations, and civic groups in Luzon are also beneficiaries of the program. We also donated chairs to Iloilo, Capiz, Negros Occidental, Leyte, and Northern Samar.
The latest batch of armchairs manufactured by the Las Pinas plant was donated last month to San Juan Science High School in San Juan City, Longos Elementary School in Malabon City, and Gomburza Elementary School in Caloocan City. Armchairs were also turned over to farm schools and learning sites in San Felipe and San Narciso in Zambales; Calauag, Quezon; and Guimba, Nueva Ecija.
Since the Iloilo plastic factory started operations in 2017, school chairs have been donated to 75 public schools in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Samar, Aklan, Capiz, Romblon, and Antique. Also donated are chairs to ten local government units in the Visayas and a senior citizen’s association in La Carlota.
The plastic factory in Cagayan de Oro was able to produce armchairs for public schools, TESDA schools, homeowner’s association, senior citizens’ organization and local government units in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Davao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Zamboanga del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, and Basilan.
Villar has sounded the alarm on the country’s worsening problem on plastic wastes. Citing a study from the University of Georgia, the Philippines is the Top 3 largest producer of plastic waste leaking into the ocean, next to China and Indonesia.
She authored Senate Bill No. 1331 or the Extended Producers Responsibility (EPR) Act of 2020 which seeks to institutionalize the practice of EPR in waste management. It also amends the 20-year-old Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“This measure makes sure that the responsibility for the entire life cycle of plastic products rests on the manufacturers. It will mandate manufacturers to recover plastic wastes from their products as a mechanism towards achieving an efficient solid waste management,” Villar said.
The Nacionalista Party senator also authored Senate Bill 333 or the Single-Use Plastic Product Regulation Act, which seeks to regulate the manufacturing, importation, and single-use of plastic products.
“We should encourage Filipinos to be responsible stewards of the environment. There should be a shared responsibility among us when it comes to waste management. There is no exception because we all generate wastes,” said Villar.