Philippines Mismanaged Plastic Waste and Sachet Economy

Visualization by Ryan Joshua Liwag

Based on my original submission on ObservableHq

Plastic Oceans

Plastic waste leaves a poisonous legacy on our oceans, as it breaks down it releases powerful green house gasses. But aside from this, they also have detrimental effect on ocean wildlife and has the ability to disrupt or destroy habitats. One of the Largest contributors to plastic waste comes from sachets. This is a highly commercialized single use plastic that is very popular throughout south east asia.

Issues with Plastic Sachet?

What separate's Sachet from other plastic products, is that it is a nightmare to recycle. Sachets are single use plastics, and they fundamentally break the rules of reduce, reuse and recycle system. To further exacerbate the situation, sachets are composed of multiple layers of materials, making it either very expensive or difficult to recycle.

↓ Scroll Down ↓

= 1000 Tons of Mismanaged Plastic Indonesia Philippines Thailand Vietnam Malaysia Others Philippines Others Cambodia Ecuador Guyana Nicaragua Albania Benin Suriname Morocco Japan Jamaica Guinea United States Honduras Egypt Myanmar Mozambique Liberia Papua New Guinea Mexico Trinidad and Tobago Sierra Leone Argentina Ghana South Africa Cote d'Ivoire Panama Algeria Tanzania Venezuela Dominican Republic Haiti Guatemala Sri Lanka Cameroon Turkey Nigeria Thailand Bangladesh Vietnam Brazil Indonesia China Malaysia India Philippines Suriname Japan United States Egypt Trinidad and Tobago Turkey Nigeria Brazil Indonesia China Malaysia Philippines

Over 970,000 Tons of Plastic are in our oceans each year

Each node displayed represents 1000 tons of mismanaged trash in our oceans

Plastic leaves a poisonous legacy on our oceans, as it breaks down it releases powerful green house gasses. But aside from direct emission of plastic onto the environment, they also produce the issue of microplastics. Recent studies have suggested adverse effects on plankton to produce oxygen.

80% of the plastic in the ocean comes from Asia

A large contributing factor for this phenomenon in Asia is due to the popularity of Sachet's in most Asian Countries, especially South East Asian Nations. Sachet's are small plastic pouches that carry different sorts of product. These plastics fundamentally break the circular economy of recycling and without proper waste managment system, sachet's have a high chance of ending up in the ocean.

South East Asian Nations have the largest share of plastic in the ocean.

Most ASEAN countries are emerging economies with densly populated areas living near shorelines, contributing to the plastic emission.

Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand contribute 54% of plastic emission dumped into the ocean

These countries have high density populations living close to either coastlines or inland waterways. These factors, combined with high rainfall, further increases the probability for mismanaged plastic waste.

Philippines alone is responsible for 1/3 of the mismanaged plastic in the ocean

Sachet's (single use plastics) account for roughly 50% of the plastic waste emission in the Philippines. Sachet's are created for the purpose of helping low-income communities in these countries but have a terrible plastic waste debt for countries with underdeveloped waste managment systems.

Southeast Asia’s plastic mismanagment issues does not just come from coastlines, population size or income

Despite lower population and purchasing power, countries like Philippines and Malaysia still emit more plastic than China, USA or Japan. This problem stems from rapid growth that these Asean countries have made, and waste managment have not developed enough to handle these growing economies

7 out of the top 10 rivers emitting plastic into the ocean belong to the Philippines

80% of Mismanaged Trash originates from Rivers. The combination of rapid urbanization in cities like Manila and close proximity to several rivers have led these rivers to produce the most plastic waste emission. Majority of these rivers are also located within NCR province of the philippines, most of the damage is localized to the city of manila.

Pasig (Philippines) Klang (Malaysia) Tullahan (Philippines) Ulhas (India) Meycauayan (Philippines) Pampanga (Philippines) Libmanan (Philippines) Ganges (India) Rio Grande de Mindanao (Philippines) Agno (Philippines) Agusan (Philippines) Paranaque (Philippines) Iloilo (Philippines) Soai Rap (Vietnam) Chao Phraya (Thailand) Lagos Harbour (Nigeria) Hugli (India) Huangpu (China) Pazundaung Creek (Myamnar) Bharathappuzha (India) Ebrie Lagoon / Komoe (Cote d'Ivoire) Sarawak (Malaysia) Msimbazi River (Tanzania) Imus (Philippines) Chenzhen River (China) Cilliwung Langat (Malaysia) Wouri River (Cameroon) Kelani (Sri Lanka) Malad Creek (India) Zapote (Philippines) Cagayan de Oro (Philippines) Davao River (Philippines) Karnaphuli (Bangladesh) Rio Pavuna (Brazil) Kelantan River (Malaysia) Malaking Tubig (Philippines) Panvel Creek (India) Tambo, Pasay (Philippines) Yangon River (Myamnar) Zhujiang/Canton (China) Cagayan River (Philippines) Chilyar River (India) Douala Estuary Jalaur River (Philippines) Periyar River (India) Hamulauon (Philippines) Mithi River (India) Rio Ozama (Dominican Republic) Sungai Kuantan (Malaysia)

Possible solutions to Sachet and Plastic mismanagement in the Philippines

Circular Economy

Currently creating a circular economy for plastic is a pipe dream, atleast for the philippines. There is a high-cost attached to the recycling of plastic with high electricity price and logistic costs.


Several solutions have been passed to address the philippines problems with sachets. In the Philippines we have RA9003, which is a law that tells companies that they are responsible for their own waste, however nothing is specifically stated for sachets.

Corporate Responsibility

Most corporations have entertained the idea of phasing out the production of sachets and, most acknowledge its effect on the environment. Corporations like Unilever are working on creating biodegradable materials and trying to help build the infrastructure for waste management. But ultimately their stance on plastic sachet are that it gives opportunity to low income households to afford their products. It is prevalent in the Philippines because sachets are the cheaper alternatives. Although cheaper for the individual, sachets are very difficult to recycle and would cost the country more down the line.

What can Consumers do?

Passing the blame on the consumers for the never ending mismanagement of plastic waste is a terrible prospect, But most Filipinos are burdened with challenging lives, and not much thought goes into waste management. But one method that is currently being tried is to promote or create programs that buy back this plastic waste from consumers. Several cities in the Philippines like Quezon City have started a program called trash to cashback. These programs attempts to create a circular economy for sachets and educate the average Filipino.

Just a 5% improvement in mismanaged plastic waste handling in the Philippines is as effective as clearing out ocean plastic emission from 87 other countries