UNEP would like to thank the World Resources Institute, Duke University and the University of Strathclyde for their invaluable assistance with the collation of these case-studies.


In the Philippines, ocean and marine industries are vital to the economy. In 2016 alone, coastal and marine tourism contributed close to $3 billion USD, nearly 2%, of total GDP in the Philippines, and employed close to 900,000 people (SEA Circular, 2020). Likewise, fisheries and aquaculture generated over $2.3 billion USD, around 1.5% of the GDP), with 260,000 people employed in this sector. Finally, the ports and shipping industries contributed $1.4 billion USD, nearly 1% of GDP, and employed 700,000 people. Combined, the $6.7 billion USD and 4.4% of GDP that these three industries contribute to the economy is threatened by an increase in mismanaged plastic waste entering the environment. Tourism and fisheries are dependent on an environment free from plastic pollution, creating an incentive for the government to address the issue of plastic pollution in the Philippines. 

According to Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey (2015), the Philippines is the third-ranking contributor to plastic pollution in the world, with 2.7 million metric tons of plastic waste generated every year (Braganza, 2017). Of this plastic waste, 20 percent is estimated to end up in ocean environments (Braganza, 2017; Ocean Conservancy & McKinsey 2015). Most of this pollution, however, is not due to a lack of waste collection sites. About 74 percent of plastics that leak into the ocean were initially collected but escaped from open landfills that are located near vulnerable waterways (WWF, 2018). The Philippines consumes plastic at a rate that is very difficult for waste management plans to keep up with. A major contributor to such unregulated disposal of plastics in the Philippines is the proliferation of the sachet economy, where many consumer goods are imported, packaged, and sold in single-use containers that are difficult or impossible to recycle (Galarpe et al., 2021; Posadas, 2014). Reports estimate that almost 60 billion sachets are used per year in the Philippines (SEA Circular, 2020; GAIA, 2019).

To better understand global plastic waste generation and disposal, Lebreton and Andrady’s 2019 study projects scenarios of mismanaged plastic waste based on country level data on population and waste management and distribution. This global study clarifies the extent of current and future plastic pollution problems in each country, including the Philippines. In 2015 alone, the study estimates that the Philippines emitted nearly 5 billion kilograms of mis-managed plastic waste. With no additional interventions, the amount of mismanaged plastic waste in the Philippines is expected to almost double to 9 billion kilograms by 2040 and reach well over 11 billion kilograms by 2060. Currently, the Philippines is third worldwide in the amount of mismanaged plastic waste, behind only China and India.

Plastic pollution has had major consequences on the Philippine environment. Waterways and drainage systems quickly become clogged by waste runoff, threatening the livelihood and sanitation of residents (Braganza, 2017), particularly during heavy periods of rain. Boracay, a popular tourist island in the Philippines known for its pristine beaches and water activities, was closed for six months in 2018 to allow a period of rehabilitation from high levels of waste water pollution (SEA Circular, 2020). According to government projections, there was an 18-20 billion Philippine peso ($360-400 million USD) loss of potential gross receipts due to this closure (Iglesias et al., 2018). In terms of employment, an estimated 36,000 jobs were lost as a result of the closure (Domingo, 2018).

Unlike other countries with significant plastic leakage, plastic-waste leakage in the Philippines primarily originates from local consumption, not outside markets (McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, 2015). In fact, the Philippines is a significant exporter of waste to China, and overall, they are a net-exporter of waste (McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, 2015; Liang et al., 2021). As mentioned prior, nearly 75 percent of all plastic leakage in the country comes from already collected waste.

The informal waste-picker economy plays a major role in the mitigation of plastic pollution in the Philippines after leakage and exposure to the environment. While not as high as those for metals, high-residual-value plastic products (like PET water bottles) have recovery rates at around 90% (McKinsey Center for Business and Environment, 2015). This is due in part to legislation like the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that does not have any direct plastic pollution mitigation instruments but empowers local government units to collect waste at their own discretion. Unfortunately, the majority of plastic products do not have a high enough residual value and are not frequently collected in the informal market. This contributes to an overall recovery rate of well below 50 percent (Liang et al., 2021).

According to Greenpeace, Southeast Asia is the most vulnerable region of the world and least prepared for the impacts of climate change (Braganza, 2017). Assessments of major cities in the Philippines have revealed no or limited waste segregation nor recycling practices in a number of markets, though solid waste management plans started being developed and implemented in 2001. However, these have been insufficient at appropriately addressing plastic pollution according to experts.

Philippine Legislation to Address Plastic Pollution

As of 2021, there is no explicit national policy approach addressing plastic pollution, despite numerous attempts by legislators and activist groups. However, a number of Philippine cities (map here) have implemented ordinances to manage plastic bags and other single-use plastics within their jurisdiction, described in the following sections. While it is evident that many of the major cities and municipalities in the Philippines have adopted regulations to reduce single-use plastic use and misuse, the establishments and plastic types targeted, as well as enforcement mechanisms vary widely. Overall, these subnational ordinances work more so to regulate the use and sale of plastic bags and other single-use plastics, rather than comprehensively regulate all plastic types at all stages of the life cycle, whether that be through bans, improved recycling infrastructure, or market-based approaches.

There is speculation that pressure from plastic industries has limited government capacity to more comprehensively regulate plastic production, sale, consumption, and disposal. As of 2017, five of the 18 cities in Metro Manila, the National Capital Region of the Philippines and the most densely populated region of the country, have yet to implement regulations or bans on plastic bags (Braganza, 2017). One of the cities yet to implement any regulations, Valenzuela City, notably has over 200 plastic and rubber manufacturing companies operating within the city. This poses a particular challenge to policy makers to develop, pass, and implement strong plastic regulation.

Three cities in Metro Manila, Manila City, Taguig City and Pateros, have poorly documented or unclear regulations on single use plastics that could not be confirmed.

Manila City signed Ordinance 8282 in 2012 to prohibit the use of plastic bags on dry goods and regulate their use on wet goods. Polystyrene was also banned as part of the ordinance. However, no official documentation could be found on the ordinance. In fact, news articles from the Philippines from five years later reveal that the ordinance was never actually implemented.

Also, according to academic literature (Braganza, 2017) an Ordinance No. 59-11 exists in Taguig City, but no official government documentation nor news clippings exist for the policy. A similar result occurred for Municipal Ordinance No. 2011-10 for the municipality of Pateros.

Despite all of this, 10 of the 18 cities in Metro Manila have well documented plastic bag regulations. These regulations are briefly described below.

Makati City: Ordinance No. 03-095 (2003)

Makati passed a waste management ordinance in 2003 that mostly outlines proper disposal and collection methods for residents and establishments in the city. However, at the end of the ordinance, the local government gives all restaurants, supermarkets, and other similar food establishment nine years to completely disposes of all plastic products, including Styrofoam. It orders a gradual reduction in stocks of plastic and Styrofoam products with a 5% reduction every year for the first five, a 20% reduction for the next three, and a 15% reduction for the last year. All included establishments are required to deliver a yearly update on stocks to the Makati City Solid Waste Management Office.

Muntinlupa City: Ordinance 10-109 (2010)

Muntinlupa City was the first city in Metro Manila to regulate the use of plastic bags. With Ordinance No. 10-109 (2010), Muntinlupa prohibited the use and sale of plastic bags on all dry goods (goods that do not require refrigeration) and also prohibited the use of Styrofoam. For wet goods (products that require refrigeration or freezing), the ordinance prohibits establishments from using plastic bags as a secondary packaging material (materials that add convenience to the handler in addition to primary packaging materials). Likewise, as established by the ordinance, the city of Muntinlupa must conduct information and education campaigns and promote biodegradable packaging in lieu of single-use and non-environmentally friendly packaging. To ensure compliance and enforcement, the City Environmental Sanitation Center is tasked with monitoring effective implementation of the ordinance. They are also required to prepare quarterly reports on the implementation progress.

Pasig City: Ordinance No. 9, s.2010

The next city in the Philippines to implement plastic pollution regulations was Pasig City. With this ordinance, the city bans the use of any plastic on dry goods and regulates the use of plastic on wet goods very loosely. The use of Styrofoam is also banned for use on food, produce, and other goods. While this ordinance does regulate other plastic products like straws, fast-food restaurants that utilize plastic cutlery and kitchenware are exempt.

Las Piñas City: Ordinance No. 1036, s.2011

Las Piñas adopted an ordinance to ban the distribution of thin-film, single-use, plastic carry-out bags as well as polystyrene foam for individual and commercial consumption. Establishments that violate this ordinance will be subjected to a 1,000 Philippine peso ($19.86 USD) fine for the first offence and up to a 5,000 Philippine peso fine ($99.28 USD), imprisonment of up to six months, and loss of operation license for a year for third and subsequent offences.

Quezon City Initiatives

Quezon City has passed four ordinances that regulate the use of plastic bags. The first, Ordinance No. SP 2103 s.2011, passed in 2011, mandates that businesses that use plastic bags display the message “Save the environment, bring your own recyclable/reusable bags” to promote use of non-single-use plastic bags when shopping,

In 2012, Quezon City passed Ordinance No. SP 2127 s.2012 which prohibits the use of plastic, Styrofoam, and other non-biodegradable packaging in government buildings in the city. As directed by the ordinance, plastic bags in government buildings can only be used on the packaging of wet goods.

Ordinance No. SP 2140 s.2012 (also known as the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance) prohibits the distribution of plastic bags lower than 15 microns in thickness. The ordinance also mandates a Plastic Recovery System Fee of two Philippine pesos ($0.04 USD) on consumers who need a plastic carry out bag at the point of sale. The proceeds of this green fund scheme go towards environmental programs in the city. However, consumers can avoid the fee by exchanging a used plastic bag for the new one. The only type of plastic bag that is exempt from this regulation is “labo” plastic that is commonly used for wrapping unpacked fresh foods as a primary packaging unit. The ordinance also encourages stores to provide reusable or recyclable bags for a minimal fee.

The city went a step further in 2019 with Ordinance No. SP 2876 with bans the distribution and use of single-use plastics in Quezon City. This would affect items such as plastic cutlery, cups, plates, straws, stirrers, and Styrofoam, among others. Hotels were also prohibited from using and distributing personal hygiene items for their patrons in single-use containers.

Figure 1. Quezon City Government Plastic Ban Flyer (Quezon City Government, 2019)

Figure 1. Quezon City Government Plastic Ban Flyer (Quezon City Government, 2019)


Marikina City: Ordinance No. 18, s.2012

Much like the ordinance put into effect in Muntinlupa, this ordinance prohibits the use of plastic bags for the primary packaging of dry goods as well as Styrofoam. However, this ordinance does not prohibit plastic as a secondary packaging material for wet goods; it just encourages customers to bring and use reusable containers. The ordinance does, however, establish a gradual phase-out of the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam that took full effect six months after the approval of this ordinance.

The Marikina City Environment and Management Office is required promote a public awareness campaign with the help of the Public Information Office and private sector industries to ensure effective implementation of this ordinance.

Caloocan City: Plastic and Polystyrene Regulation Ordinance of 2013

This ordinance in Caloocan prohibits the sale, provision, and use of non-biodegradable materials for secondary packaging like polystyrene and plastic bags. Bags must be clearly labeled as “oxo-biodegradable,” “degradable,” or “biodegradable” and printed with the Plastic Coding System logo so they can be properly disposed of. All retail establishments are also required to have a “Plastic Recovery Bin” at entrances and exits so patrons can dispose of plastic products.

Caloocan also launched an information campaign as part of the provisions of this ordinance to better educate residents on the benefits of using biodegradable and reusable products instead of single-use and non-biodegradable materials.

The Environmental and Sanitation Services are tasked with monitoring and enforcing the implementation of the ordinance.

Mandaluyong City: Ordinance No. 523, s.2013

The city of Mandaluyong was the next to follow suit with their ordinance on the regulation of plastic bags and Styrofoam in commercial and business establishments. For the first year of the ordinance (April 2012-April 2013), the use of all plastic bags and Styrofoam became prohibited just on Mondays and Wednesdays. For the second year (April 2013-April 2014), the use of these items became prohibited on Monday through Friday. Finally, for the third year and all years after (April 2014-onwards) plastic bags and Styrofoam became prohibited. Penalties for not abiding by this prohibition schedule are a fine of between 500 and 5,000 Philippine pesos and revocation or suspension of business permit or license or imprisonment for between one and three months (or both). The Mandaluyong City Environment Management Office is charged with enforcement and monitoring of the ordinance.

Pasay City: Resolution No. 4873, s.2019

In 2011, Pasay City originally passed an ordinance (No. 4647, s.2011) meant to regulate the use of plastic carry-out bags and promote use of recyclable and reusable bags. This was amended by a later ordinance (No. 5981, s.2019) that totally banned plastic carry-out bags in Pasay. Because of a lack of strict compliance with Ordinance No. 5981, Resolution No. 4873 was introduced and adopted later in 2019. It calls on the Pasay City Environment and Natural Resources Office to better facilitate the two aforementioned ordinances in Pasay. The ordinance requests better prescription of penalties to enforce the total banning of plastic carry-out bags in Pasay City.  The penalties, however, are not actually included in the language of the ordinance.

Paranaque City: Ordinance No. 40, s.2018

The Parañaque ban on the use of single-use plastic for dry goods and distribution of plastic products like bags, straws, cutlery, cups, stirrers, and Styrofoam goods took effect in 2020.

Figure 2. Parañaque City Plastic Ban Flyer (Parañaque City Environment and Natural Resources Office, 2018)

Figure 2. Parañaque City Plastic Ban Flyer (Parañaque City Environment and Natural Resources Office, 2018)



By 2014, the Plastic Monitoring Task Force (PMTF) of Makati discovered that 90-92% of all businesses are complying with Ordinance No. 03-095, with only 366 of 4,519 establishments in violation of the ordinance (GMA News, 2014). Another inspection was completed the year prior, and just under 90% were in compliance.

Since the implementation of Ordinance 10-109 in Muntinlupa City in 2011, 1,400 establishments received fines for violations, and seven were permanently shut down for consistent non-compliance (HubPages, 2018). In 2010, prior to the implementation of this ordinance, Muntinlupa observed an average of 131 tons per day of daily waste collection. This was quickly reduced to 127 tons per day by 2011, resulting in an average of almost 1,500 less tons of waste within the span of a year (Earthjustice, 2019). The local government of Muntinlupa estimates that 90% of establishments in the city comply with the law. There are no available updated figures on compliance in Muntinlupa.

Since passing Ordinance No, 1036, Las Piñas has witnessed a 4% decline in total plastic and polystyrene trash (HubPages, 2018). 

However, the effectiveness is heavily dependent on how strict the implementation of the policy is, not necessarily how strict the policy itself is. Plastic bag regulations with strict implementation have produced dramatically lower plastic bag use (GAIA, 2019). Therefore, the simple existence of an ordinance does not necessarily convert to reduced use. Despite the volume of plastic wastes being “significantly reduced” in Quezon city a year after the implementation of the Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance (Razon et al., 2015; Braganza, 2017), it still is the third biggest plastic bag user among surveyed areas by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) (2019).

These policy initiatives aim to curb use and disposal of single use plastics on a local level. But they are no match for the rate at which sachets are produced and consumed. Few options exist for Filipinos to access consumer goods like shampoo, conditioner, detergent, and a number of other products than in single-use containers produced by multinational companies. Additionally, many other types of plastic pollutants enter the environment that are not single-use plastic items. While better waste management targeting plastic bags and other single-use plastics is certainly a step in the right direction for the Philippines, there are still improvements to be made to reduce production of plastics and therefore plastic pollution.



Jonathan Schachter, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

Rachel Karasik, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

John Virdin, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions



Thanks go to the UNDP Ocean Innovation Challenge for their generous support of this work.



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