Ban on plastic shopping bags hits profits of small business
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Ban on plastic shopping bags hits profits of small business

Mar 25, 2024

THE law has good intentions, but small businesses complain that complying with the amended City Ordinance 2343, which bans the use of plastic shopping bags on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays to prevent the choking of landfills and clogging of waterways that causes flooding, has been cutting into their profits.

Small business owners interviewed by SunStar Cebu said they are following the law and using alternatives such as paper bags or “bulsita” but that they are barely surviving because of the high cost of compliance.

Slowly expanded

The ordinance was first passed in Cebu City in 2013 to cover just one day of the week, but Councilor Nestor Archival later authored an amendment that expanded the ban to three days a week, saying it was a way to train Cebu City residents to refuse the use of plastic bags and start the more sustainable use of cloth bags, eco bags and the local “bayong” or basket.

Authored by then councilors Nida Cabrera and Edgardo Labella, CO 2343 was passed on January 16, 2013. It prohibits business establishments in the city from using plastic shopping bags as primary packaging materials every Saturday. It also prohibits their sale of such plastic shopping bags to consumers or clients on Saturdays.

The ordinance provides that one year from its effectivity, the ban will be expanded to include Wednesday.

On March 11, 2020, the “no plastic days” were expanded to include Friday, with Archival authoring the amendment.

“We can understand that such an ordinance is helpful, especially at the present time when it (plastics clogging creeks and rivers in Cebu City) affects us. But what about our profit?” Judy Ann Navidad from Barangay Mambaling, Cebu City who owns a retail store said of the effects of the ban on the use of single-use plastics on her business.

Hard time

Navidad was one of five individuals interviewed by SunStar Cebu Tuesday, August 1, 2023, who either have not complied with the ordinances or complained that small business owners are barely making a profit due to their passage.

Vanessa Carunggay, an agriculture and veterinary (agrivet) supplies owner, was also having a hard time complying with the ordinance since her business needs the double use of plastic since it deals with weight.

Paper bags, and even eco-bags, are not recommended and are inconvenient, she said.

Same ‘plastic’

She has been aware of the ordinance for a long time, but she said the prohibition on the use of plastic bags does not suit businesses like hers. She also said the same “plastic” is still being used in the public market.

“We abide by it because we can still use plastic. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, we use plastic bags with a handle. But on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, we use plastic without a handle,” said a fruit vendor who has been selling fruit at the Ramos Public Market for 20 years.

The vendor, who declined to be named, emphasized that she was compliant but expressed confusion at why they are allowed to use the same component for bags (plastic) as alternative.

“Why is the law like that?” she asked.

What is a plastic bag?

CO 2343 defines plastic shopping bag as “any carry bag or punch hole bag made of polyethylene with a thickness ranging from 7 to 25 microns utilized or sold at the retail point of sale for carrying and transporting retails products or merchandise.”

In calling for the passage of CO 2343, Labella and Cabrera said plastic shopping bags given for free in large numbers by business establishments are designed as single use or disposable products, and make up the bulk of plastic waste generated by Filipino families yearly.

They said plastics block drainage systems and cause deadly flooding. They said scientific data indicated that some plastics take 1,000 years to degrade.

Vital plastic

Jaime Cruz, 36, a fish stall owner for eight years in the Ramos Public Market as well, said they use plastic bags with handle and without handle.

He stressed the vital role of plastic in his business as he sees plastic bags as a convenient option in dealing with seafood.

Plastic also lowers the cost of business.

Paper is a bit more expensive than plastic, another retailer said, but they have no choice but to bear the added cost since they need to comply with the ordinance to avoid being penalized.

“Each paper bag costs P5 for the smallest size, but we also need to buy the big ones that can cost up to P20 because there are people who buy a lot,” said small bakery owner Jennifer Dapiton.

Under CO 2343, the penalty is P5,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months and cancellation of the business establishment’s business permit for one year.

Dapiton said the need for single-use plastic depends on the situation and the kind of business established. But as a small business owner, she said the ban on its use is not pro-small business because it affects their income.