19 December 2014

“Cut on Christmas e-waste” – advocacy groups urge public

“Think Environment! Prevent and Reduce E-Waste."

This is the joint message aired by the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog promoting “zero waste and chemical safety,” and the Philippine Misereor Partnership Inc. (PMPI), a network espousing “integral human development and social transformation,” at an event held this morning at the MRT North Avenue Station in Quezon City.

As consumers go for the Christmas shopping frenzy, EcoWaste and PMPI volunteers donning huge mock cellphone, laptop, tablet and TV distributed leaflets to commuters to encourage them to minimize the creation of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) or what is referred to as e-waste.

Christmas shopping spending for new electrical appliances and electronic gadgets, which is good for business could spell trouble for our fragile environment with the generation of e-waste, including dead electronics as well as those that are still useable but have become outdated with the rapid advance in science and technology, the groups observed.

According to a policy brief published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), WEEE are “discarded computers, office electronic equipment, entertainment device electronics, mobile phones, television sets and refrigerators” and “includes electronics destined for reuse, resale, salvage, recycling or disposal.”

Aside from handing out e-waste prevention leaflets, the volunteers also sang Christmas carols, including “Jingle Bells” with its lyrics modified to illustrate the mammoth problem with e-waste, described by UNEP as “the fastest growing waste stream globally” at an estimated 50 million tons each year.

“Home and consumer electronics are becoming the favorite acquisitions by consumers during the Yuletide season. These products, which are loaded with hazardous materials beyond threshold quantities, can turn into ecological nightmares if improperly discarded, recycled or disposed of. The problem is exacerbated by the global trade in used electronics that are mostly sold in surplus shops and the lack of an e-waste take-back system in which the producers of electrical and electronic equipment assume responsibility for the end-of-life management of their products,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Unnecessary purchases due to reinforced urge for more modern hi-tech gadgets, coupled with heightened consumerism due to the proliferation of holiday promos, add to an increase in potential e-waste generation,” added Primo Morillo, Advocacy Officer of the PMPI.

“Indeed, the lure of so called hi-tech gadgets for gifts and even for personal enjoyment to celebrate Christmas with, brings with it the accompanying dread of e-waste, which can end up in dumpsites and landfills or are burned, contaminating the environment and putting the health of communities and other life forms at great risk,” the groups emphasized.

The groups cited a UNEP warning that “inappropriate methods like open burning, which are often used by the informal sector to recover valuable materials, have heavy impacts on human health and the environment.”

The groups added that aside from the toxicity issue, people must also be aware that producing electrical and electronic equipment requires massive and destructive mining. To make cellphones, laptops, tablets, TVs and other e-products, mountains have to be flattened and islands destroyed, to obtain the metals and other minerals necessary for the production of these electronics.

E-wastes contain highly hazardous materials that include halogenated compounds, such as polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs in condensers and transformers, flame retardants (TBBA, PBB, and PBDE), chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, and polyvinyl chloride or PVC; heavy metals and other metals (such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and chromium VI among others); toner dusts from printers and copiers; and even radioactive substances like Americium, which is present in smoke and fire detectors for example.

Harmful emissions of hazardous substances, explained UNEP, mainly come from: 1) the product itself (if landfilled) such as lead in circuit boards or CRT glass, and mercury in liquid crystal display (LCD) backlights; 2) substandard processes resulting to dioxin formation during burning of halogenated plastics or use of smelting processes without suitable off-gas treatment; and 3) reagents used in the recycling process such as cyanide and other strong leaching acids, nitrogen oxides (NOx) gas from leaching processes and mercury from amalgamation.



The groups have listed the following recommendations for consumers to consider to prevent the generation of e-waste during the holiday season or later on:

1. Extend the life of your existing electronics instead of buying new ones. Consider whether you truly need to get new ones before rushing to buy the latest stuff. (Watch the “Story of Electronics” video at http://storyofstuff.org/movies/story-of-electronics/, which tells the story about where our gadgets come from, and how the things we buy impacts our planet.)

2. Have broken electronics repaired.

3. Have outdated component of an electronic product refurbished or upgraded instead of buying an entirely new replacement.

4. Never dispose of unwanted but still usable electronics. Pass them on to relatives and friends for reuse or donate to charities and schools. What might be of no use to you, might come in handy for some people.

5. Collect spent household batteries, cellphone batteries, fluorescent lamps, empty ink cartridges and the like, label and safely store them in a container with cover and kept out of reach of children and pets. These should be safely managed or disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner and not mixed with regular waste.

6. Visit the manufacturer’s website or call the dealer to find out if they have a take-back program or scheme for your discarded electronics.

7. Earn from your e-scrap. List it on online auction websites or consider appropriate recycling options. Contact the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) for advice on environmentally-safe recycling options.

8. If you really need to spend for new electronics, choose items with less hazardous substances, with greater recycled content, with higher energy efficiency, with longer life span, and those that will produce less waste.

a. Scan through Greenpeace International’s Guide to Greener Electronics, ranking top manufactures of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs, and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling, and climate change. Search the Internet for other green purchasing tools.

b. Find products that have the RoHS logo – an indicator that a product complies with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances, which restricts the use of six hazardous materials in the manufacture of various types of electronic and electrical equipment. These restricted chemicals are cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead, polybrominated biphenyls, and polybrominated biphenyl ethers.

c. Find the product with the specifications that you need and one that can be easily upgraded with the rapid technological advancements.

d. Look for the Energy Star label, indicating that the product is energy efficient, conserving electricity use and reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked with energy production and use.

e. If battery operated, look for rechargeable instead of disposable batteries.

f. Go for products with good warranty and take-back policies.

g. Avoid buying imported, used, or surplus electronics as they are certainly discarded for being near obsolete by the country of source and they don't have warranties.

9. Take good care of your electronic device – whether it’s brand new, refurbished or hand-me down - as sound maintenance will prolong its lifespan. Read the instruction manual carefully and get acquainted and trained on easy fix-it-yourself guide.

10. Make it a point to have your e-scrap properly recycled by authorized recyclers so that they don’t end up as e-waste to be thrown away or burned.




16 December 2014

“Iwas PapuToxic” Campaign Urges Kids to Desist Using Firecrackers to Avoid Injuries, Pollution

Environmental groups and health advocates led by the EcoWaste Coalition, together with about 2,000 students from Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School in Paco, Manila, today jumpstarted the annual campaign against the use of firecrackers by staging an on-campus noise barrage simulating a festive welcome of the New Year using safe and eco-friendly noisemakers.

In lieu of high-risk firecrackers, the school assembly, led by Principal Corazon Garcia, showed how the New Year can be as lively by sounding alternative noisemakers fashioned from recycled materials such as shakers made from cans and plastic bottles filled with seeds, coins and pebbles; tambourines from flattened bottle caps; cymbals from pots and pans; as well as the perennial favorite torotot from cardboards.

The activity was held to relaunch the EcoWaste Coalition’s “Iwas PapuToxic” drive. Now on its ninth year, the campaign complements the Department of Health’s firecracker safety drive by encouraging the public, especially the youth, to refrain from blasting firecrackers throughout the holiday season, and instead opt for safer and eco-sensitive alternatives in ushering in 2015 that will not imperil life, property and the environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition held poster and slogan making contests with the theme, “Iwas PapuToxic: Buhay, Kalusugan, Klima Sagipin,” as students with the most ingenious anti-paputok posters and slogans were cited.

The most resourceful noisemakers made from recycled materials were similarly rewarded.

“Firecrackers jeopardize our children’s health and safety, as statistics identify these as the major source of accidental deaths, human injuries and chemical pollution during these times of the year. It is our responsibility as adults to protect our children from toxic exposure and injuries that could endanger their health and development,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“These kids present here today have shown us that with a little creativity, we can look forward to a joyous New Year sans health-damaging and environment-polluting firecrackers,” she added.

Data from the DOH showed that there were 1,018 fireworks-related injuries from December 21, 2013 to January 5, 2014, 997 of which were due to fireworks, with one reported casualty. Piccolo remains the top culprit especially among children with 359 registered cases.

Joining the students in the “Iwas PapuToxic” activity was newly-crowned Miss Earth 2014 Jamie Herrell, who, along with Santa Claus and a number of cosplayers, led the group in performing Kidz Bop Kids’ “Timber,” echoing the importance of an injury- and toxics-free holiday celebrations.

Also present at the launch were representatives from the Department of Health, Philippine National Police and Bureau of Fire Protection.

Considering the tragedy typhoon Ruby has brought to numerous provinces in Luzon and Visayas last week, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the general public to put off their plans to light firecrackers or conduct fireworks displays.

“We request our kababayans preparing for their annual pyrotechnic shows to abandon your plans and otherwise contribute the money you’ll save in rehabilitation efforts for the typhoon victims,” suggested Lucero.

“Aside from reducing toxic chemicals emission and preventing firework-related incidents, such warm-hearted and selfless actions will definitely help affected families and renew their hopes for a promising New Year,” she added.

For a toxics-free New Year celebration, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following eco-friendly and inexpensive noisemakers as alternatives to firecrackers and fireworks.

1. Save a finger, blow a torotot (Pinoy-style trumpets).

2. Clang cymbals from pot lids and pan covers.

3. Shake maracas made out of used tin cans.

4. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle crowns.

5. Joggle "piggy banks" or "shakers" from paper box or plastic bottles with seeds, pebbles or coins.

6. Tap drums made of big water bottles, biscuit cans or buckets.

7. Create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.

8. Beat the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick.

9. Knock empty coconut shells.

10. Switch on the radio or play your favorite music or musical instruments.

11. Ring the alarm clocks or play ringtones altogether.

12. Honk bicycle or car horns.

13. Clap your hands and stump your feet.

14. Laugh your lungs out and bid your worries goodbye.

15. Do the “Timber” dance, twist and shout “Happy New Year!”


14 December 2014

Beware of Toxic Christmas Gifts

Quezon City. “Christmas gifts can make one merry, or sorry,” waste and toxic watchdog EcoWaste Coalition reminded consumers today amid the yuletide shopping frenzy.

The coalition issued the statement after 57 of the 100 common gift items they screened using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device were found laden with toxic substances, particularly lead, cadmium, and arsenic.

The harmful elements were detected in such items as coffee mugs and drinking glasses which the group bought in test buys conducted in Divisoria in Manila, in  Cubao and Commonwealth Market, both in Quezon City, and in Baclaran, Pasay City.

“We are aghast to find that some Christmas goodies out there are like gifts in Pandora’s box, cloaked with hazardous chemicals that can pose health risks to consumers,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We advise consumers not to shop for poison gifts.  To get the best value for our hard-earned money, we need to assert our inherent rights as consumers for product information and safety, including the chemical contents of a product and their effects to health and the environment if any,” he added.

Lead, cadmium and arsenic are among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” as identified by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Lead, found in 44 items, is a known neurotoxin, which attacks the nervous system. Small children are especially more vulnerable to the damaging effects of lead, as “even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” according to the WHO.

“It's worrisome that many of the items are improperly and insufficiently labeled, depriving consumers access to product information that is vital to making sound purchasing decisions,” stressed Dizon.

Dizon identified the top ten gift items that screened  with the highest lead content as follows:

1. Yellow water thermos jug with duck design (P240.00), 53,800 ppm
2. Mango glass bottle (P110.00), 41,700 ppm
3. Mickey mouse coffee mug with spoon (P51,00), 35,100 ppm
4. Angry Bird coffee mug (P75.00), 23,200 ppm
5. Mickey mouse tall glass (P70.00), 22,100 ppm
6. Beer mug with dice and bottle opener (P170.00), 21,200 ppm
7. Angry Bird pigs big mug (P50.00), 20,100 ppm
8. Winnie the pooh coffee mug with spoon (P75.00), 19,700 ppm
9. SpongeBob coffee mug with spoon (P51.00), 19,400 ppm
10. Grizzlies’ duck mug with lid (P100.00), 15,500 ppm

The tested merchandises range in price from P 10.00 to P240.00.

To aid consumers when buying Christmas goods, the coalition was quick to list the following earth- and budget-friendly shopping tips:

1. Take stock of what you have. Check for things that can be repaired, reused, recycled or even re-gifted before buying new items.
2. Write down all your holiday necessities and take this list when you shop to avoid impulsive purchases.
3. Organize and plan your trips to the market or malls to reduce transportation costs and help ease holiday traffic jams.
4. Set a budget and avoid straying from it.
5. Look out for holiday sales for stuff that you and your family truly need. Support charity fairs such as those meant to help survivors of typhoon Ruby in rebuilding their homes and lives.

1. Shun plastic bags and bring your own bayong or reusable carry bags when you shop.
2. Consider buying in bulk to cut on product cost as well as packaging waste.
3. Avoid excessively packed items.
4. Select products made of recycled materials and with the most recycled contents.
5. Buy goods that are durable and can be repaired, reused, recycled or passed on to other users.
6. Patronize locally-produced stuff, support the local economy, and lessen greenhouse gas emissions by cutting on energy consumption related to product distribution.
7. Save receipts in case you need to return defective goods and wrong sizes and requirements.
8. Check for product information and avoid those that are not properly labeled.

1. Think about re-giving gifts that you have obtained at one time but have not used.
2. Look into your closet and give away clothes and accessories that still look good and are usable like a pretty scarf, a nice jacket, and a cute bag.
3. Share books to friends and colleagues.
4. Write heartfelt messages to family and friends on recycled Christmas cards and include a photo or two you have of them.
5. Cut up old Christmas cards and reuse them as gift tags.
6. Send e-cards in lieu of paper cards. Personalize them with your own graphic designs or choice photos.
7. Share your signature home-made goodies and dishes, especially from “secret” personal or family recipes.
8. Cook Noche Buena dinners for street children or less fortunate families on Christmas Eve.
9. Tell your loved ones that instead of giving them gifts this year, you will make donations in their names to charities, orphanages and environmental projects.
10. Draw or paint creative stuff on flat and smooth stones to make paperweights, plain mugs to make pencil holder or bayong or katsa bag to make your shopping bags more "sosyal.”
11. Choose gifts that come with little or no packaging at all such as gift certificates, movie or concert tickets, bus or train passes, raffle coupons, etc.
12. Don’t wrap gifts. Otherwise, wrap them in old magazines or newspapers, discarded bandannas or fabric scraps.
13. Give gifts that grow and restore the environment such as plant and flower seeds or bulbs, kitchen herbs or tree saplings.
14. If you feel that you absolutely have to buy something, then patronize local products such as handicrafts made by indigenous and rural communities, jail detainees and the urban poor, non-toxic personal care items, organic products from health and wellness groups, reusable bags from women’s and environmental groups, and other gift items from charities and cooperatives.
15. Buy simple notebooks, cover them with attractive used fabrics, and decorate them with inspirational verses or excerpts from poems and songs.
16. When giving toys, choose ones that are free of choking, laceration, strangulation and toxic hazards; age-appropriate; and properly labeled.
17. Shun replica guns and other war toys. Go for toys that promote creativity, non-aggressive behavior and social harmony.
18. Gift your barangay by leading or getting involved in a neighborhood project that will serve the poor or preserve the community environment.

04 December 2014

Don’t Be “Plastic” This Christmas - EcoWaste Coalition

Manila. In time for the Christmas rush, zero waste campaign network EcoWaste Coalition today urge the public to shun disposable plastic bags and wrappers in celebrating the season, and go for reusable ones instead.

In an event held this morning at the busy Prime Block in Tutuban Center, Divisoria, City of Manila, EcoWaste Coalition members and volunteers paraded while wearing plastic bags bearing the slogan “Are you plastic? Go reusable!” in the midst of flashing placards and a huge streamer with similar calls to do away with plastics and go for reusable bags and containers this Christmas.

The slogan “Create Love not Trash on Christmas Day” on the huge streamer served as a fitting background to the tableau presented before the parade, which shows Santa Claus presenting 2 choices: a waste- and plastics-free Christmas represented by the use of bayong, cloth bags, and other reusable carry bags and containers or a wasteful Yuletide season characterized by plastic bag-wearing participants. Christmas carols echo the banner call with lyrics celebrating a zero waste Christmastide.

“Time and again the Yuletide season remains to be among, if not the most wasteful, festivity that the Filipinos celebrate, contrary to the profound simplicity of the first Christmas observance in a humble manger in Bethlehem, totally waste-free, if I may use the expression,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Program Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to Vergara, the Coalition would like to highlight this time the issue of disposable plastics as these continue to be the most stubborn and persistent trash generated year in, year out.

“What’s sad and annoying is, disposable plastic carry bags and wrappers are normally used just once by many of us, and immediately find their way into streets, canals, drainage systems, rivers, the ocean, and dumpsites and landfills to create environmental and health havoc for hundreds of years,” explained Vergara.

Vergara asserted that “the season of love, joy and giving should not be celebrated in a shallow manner by flashing fancy smiles and talking empty greetings, while the One whose birthday we celebrate must be looking down on us sadly as we trash His creation in frenzy with our Christmas trash.“

According to the EcoWatch website, approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide each year.

In the July 2014 waste audit in Manila Bay, conducted jointly by green groups including the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Mother Earth Foundation, plastics have been reported to comprise 61.9 percent of the flotsam, with plastic bags topping the list at 23.2 percent followed by composites or plastic wrappers at 18.8 percent.

But the plastics story is not all sad: Some local governments appear to be heeding EcoWaste Coalition’s anti-plastic bag calls by passing plastic bag ban and/or regulation ordinances.

In Manila, City Ordinance 8282, which was signed and approved on September 3, 2012 bans the use of any form of plastic bags on dry goods and regulates its use on wet goods. It also prohibits the use of polystyrene and similar materials as containers for food and other products.

Very recently, the European Union joined the anti-plastic bag caravan by passing a policy that aimed to cut Europe’s throwaway plastic bag use by 80 percent over the next decade.

The Coalition stressed that the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 highlights a provision mandating the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to make a list, for prohibition, of non-environmentally acceptable products (NEAP), where disposable plastic packaging and containers fit very well.

“We call on the NSWMC to do its job well by putting disposable plastics in the NEAP list where they belong. We urge the public to join us in pushing the commission to do just that. Who knows, next year’s Christmas might see a wane in disposable plastics,” Vergara added.




02 December 2014

Groups Call For Transparency Before Congress Vote To Grant PNoy Emergency Powers

Energy and environmental justice groups such as Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, Health Care Without Harm, Greenpeace, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, and Green Convergence today condemn the apparent haste in the House of Representatives to pass the resolution to grant President Noynoy Aquino III emergency power, and demand for a public consultation before they vote on the matter.

“In the guise of solving an artificial energy crisis, the suspension of related laws in House Joint Resolution 21 will not relieve us of our problems but exacerbate the Filipino people's vulnerability by burying us deeper in economic, health, and environmental problems," pointed out Kathryn Leuch, energy policy campaigner of the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

“If this crisis is remotely true, it behooves the House of Representatives to involve the people in deciding whether or not an emergency power is necessary; and whether or not we, the people, are ready to give up policies that protect our general welfare to go with it,” Leuch demanded.

For her part, Merci Ferrer of Health Care Without Harm declared that, "Instead of reinforcing policies that advance our rights and welfare, HJR21 gives the President the right to bypass those policies. Moreover, it is unacceptable to grant the President emergency power that erodes our democratic processes as House Joint Resolution 21 circumvent laws and trample on people’s rights to resist projects which are detrimental to them,” Ferrer added.

As mandated in the resolution, all national government agencies and local government units are authorized to suspend the operability of pertinent laws, rules, and regulations including, but not limited to mitigating measures adopted for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the Biofuels Act, Clean Air Act, The Philippine Grid Code, The Philippine Distribution Code, which may affect the operation and transmission of the contracted generation capacities under the Joint Resolution.

Von Hernandez, Greenpeace Executive Director and EcoWaste Coalition President pointed out that, “This administration is squandering the opportunity to do the right thing and make the correct decisions for our future. Instead of meeting our energy challenges in a democratic and enlightened manner given what science is already telling us about toxics pollution and climate change, technocrats and politicians of this administration remain myopic, intent on deepening the country’s dependence on discredited and polluting powers sources.”

“Instead of prioritizing energy efficiency and renewable energy—as mandated by the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, to ensure that the country’s energy needs are met through safe, clean and sustainable energy sources— this government continues to give premium to dirty, polluting and unsustainable energy sources like coal-fired power plants and waste-to-energy incineration schemes,” Hernandez added.