28 November 2015

EcoWaste Coalitions Joins the November 28 "March for Climate Justice Pilipinas"

"The EcoWaste Coalition asks the Paris Climate Conference to aim for an ambitious and fair agreement that will radically and rapidly reduce global warming pollution, protect human health and the environment, and ensure food security, sustainable livelihood and climate justice, particularly in climate disaster-prone nations and communities.  We specifically ask governments to include zero waste programs among their priority mitigation plans and shun deceptive solutions such as waste-to-energy incineration."

26 November 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Lead in Baby Cribs, Urges DOH to Initiate Recall Order

To mark the National Children’s Month, the EcoWaste Coalition held a press briefing today to draw the attention of government regulators and parents on lead-containing baby furniture and the urgent need to prevent infant exposure to toxic lead.

“Our discovery of lead in locally-made cribs prompted us to hold this event in order to inform the public and to push the government to act, on the basis of the precautionary principle, to protect helpless babies from being exposed to toxic lead in paint chip and dust,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Using a handheld  X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, high levels of lead were detected  on the yellow painted balls of two locally-made wooden cribs that the group bought from furniture stores in Maypajo, Caloocan City and Sta. Cruz, Manila City.

The yellow coated balls of the crib from Maypajo, costing P2,000, had lead content reaching 7 ,871 parts per million (ppm), and the one from Sta. Cruz, costing P1,000, had 6,938 ppm, exceeding the target 90 ppm maximum allowable limit for lead in paint under the DENR Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

Dizon clarified that not all of the painted balls on the cribs had lead.  Lead was not detected on the blue, red and turquoise colored balls, as well as in the white-coated frame, providing evidence that lead-safe paints are available for use in children’s furniture. 

“While this is not the first time that we detected lead on children’s furniture, we were deeply shocked to find lead on infant beds that may be exposing babies to this health-damaging substance at an extremely sensitive stage of their development,” he said.

Dizon recalled that in 2013, seven kiddie chairs sent by the EcoWaste Coalition to a private laboratory were found to contain lead up to 20,680 ppm.

The EcoWaste Coalition is concerned that the lead painted surfaces will crack or peel over time and get ingested by babies. 

“Babies may swallow the leaded paint chips or leaded dust through their usual hand to mouth behaviour.  They may even bite on the lead-painted balls, especially during the teething phase, thus increasing the risk of exposure,” Dizon said.

For her part Dr. Annabelle Sinlao stated that “even at very low exposures, lead causes serious and permanent health effects, especially for children, such as brain and central nervous system damage, mental retardation, decreased bone and muscle growth, hearing, speech and language problems,   learning disabilities, low school performance, poor impulse control and aggressive behaviour.  Sinlao is lecturer at Manila Central University College of Medicine and resource person of Health Care Without Harm.   
Quoting the World Health Organization’s study on “Childhood Lead Poisoning,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that “the  consequences  of   brain  injury  from  exposure  to  lead  in  early  life are  loss  of   intelligence,  shortening  of   attention  span  and  disruption  of  behavior.”

According to WHO, “the  human  brain  has  little  capacity  for  repair,  these effects  are  untreatable  and  irreversible.  They cause diminution in brain function and reduction in achievement that last throughout life.”

The WHO has warned that “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage,” stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

Chemist Jeiel Guarino, Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaigner of IPEN (an international NGO network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices), said that “it’s our shared responsibility to remove sources of lead pollution in children’s environment such lead-containing paints used at homes, schools, day care centers and playgrounds.”

“While the phase-out period for lead-containing decorative paints will take effect in December 2016, we urge paint consumers, including furniture makers, to choose lead safe paints to curb childhood lead poisoning,” he said, adding that “a range of paints without added lead are available in hardware and paint stores.”

To prevent potential childhood lead exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition has asked the Department of Health (DOH) as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to act.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically requested DOH Secretary Janette Garin to initiate a product recall order to prevent the further distribution and sale of the lead-tainted cribs as indicated in the letter that the group sent to the agency on November 25.

The group also urged DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje to consider expanding the list of prohibited uses of lead under the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds to include the prohibition on the use of lead in the production of children’s furniture and other items that are likely to cause childhood lead exposure.

At present, the said Chemical Control Order bans the use of lead in the production of school supplies and toys, among other things.



23 November 2015

Zero Waste Groups Join Clamor for Climate Justice ahead of Paris Climate Conference

Groups championing zero waste as an authentic and cost-effective solution to the climate crisis have added their voice to the clamor for climate justice ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference on November 30 to December 11 in France.

Through a joint press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) and Oceana Philippines urged government negotiators at the upcoming climate talks to support an ambitious, fair and legally binding agreement to dramatically and rapidly cut global warming pollution and promote climate justice.

In solidarity with grassroots communities and sectors who are most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change to livelihood, health and environment, the groups expressed support for the November 28 “March for Climate Justice Pilipinas” organized by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice.

The groups pressed negotiators to embrace zero waste solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to the waste sector, particularly from disposal activities such as waste incineration, dumping and landfilling.

“GAIA calls on all governments to include zero waste initiatives in their mitigation actions and, thus, finance zero waste solutions instead of false solutions like waste to energy technologies, and come up with firmer carbon accounting systems to weed out bogus actions from real,” said Paeng Lopez, Campaigner at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

According to GAIA, “zero waste solutions—including waste reduction, redesign, composting, biogas, producer responsibility, consumption transformation, and recycling—could be implemented today, using existing innovations, with immediate results.”

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, identified some specific measures, which, if carried out, would mean reduced emission of polluting gases from the burning and burying of discards, as well as from the linear production and consumption systems that depend on constant extraction of materials and use of energy to produce new goods.

“Some of these measures include stopping biodegradable materials from being disposed of in landfills and incinerators, upholding the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, phasing out single-use plastic products and packaging and providing incentives for locally-based reuse, recycling and composting programs, jobs and businesses,” she said.

Vergara also emphasized the importance of recognizing and integrating waste pickers who divert organics, recyclables and reusable resource materials from dumps, landfills or incinerators as stewards of greenhouse gas mitigation.,

Sonia Mendoza, Chairman of MEF, stated: “Let’s leave our children with a living planet.  Harness clean and sustainable energy from the sun, wind and biogas, not from coal, incinerators and nuclear power.”

For her part lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Vice-President of Oceana Philippines, said: “With the global decline of fish stocks, including in the Philippines, and the devastation of natural ecosystems due to our own irresponsible and fossil fuel dependent lifestyles, the impacts of climate change which are now felt by fisherfolks and have affected them deeply, will surely exacerbate the already  worrisome state.  We urge nations to cut the greenhouse gas emissions now and mainstream sustainable fisheries management and in the production and consumption of goods.  Think food security.  Think of our children’s future.”


21 November 2015

Watchdog Group Tells PM Trudeau to Take Back Canada’s Trash Now While Legal Loopholes Are Being Fixed

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to order the immediate return to Canada of their botched illegal trash shipments while his government devise a “Canadian solution” to solve the festering dumping scandal.     

The group insisted that the illegal garbage imports have nowhere to go but Canada and that the development of a “Canadian solution” should not be used as an excuse to justify the extended stay of the trash consignments in the country for temporary storage or permanent disposal. 

At a press conference held yesterday, Trudeau stated that a “Canadian solution” is being crafted to plug the loopholes that allowed the export of Canadian trash to the Philippines, but made no commitment on taking back their garbage as firmly demanded by concerned groups, legislators and citizens.

“I have obviously been made aware of the situation and I’ve also been told that there is a Canadian solution in the process of being developed. But, at the same time, I know that this has exposed a problem that needs fixing within our own legislation that we’re going to lean into and make sure happens,” Trudeau said.

In reaction, Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Prime Minister Trudeau must have been made aware that the Basel Convention has become part of the laws of countries that acceded to it through their ratification.  And that their enabling law cannot be inferior than the Convention.”

Pineda was referring to a legally-binding treaty called the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal,” which includes Canada and the Philippines as state parties, that aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of hazardous wastes and other wastes.

“And when he admits the loopholes in Canada’s enabling law, then that’s an indictment of their violation of the Basel Convention.  As no amount of amendment to Canada’s law would extricate them from culpability and international shame, Trudeau should have seized the golden opportunity to display real statemanhood required of every leader and commit to re-importing Canada’s garbage.  What a waste, what a shame!” he said.

To effectively plug the loopholes that have caused trade in hazardous wastes to flourish, Pineda challenged the governments of both Canada and the Philippines to ratify the “Basel Ban Amendment.”

The “Basel Ban Amendment,” introduced in 1995, prohibits highly industrialized countries from exporting hazardous wastes to developing countries “for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.” This amendment to the Basel Convention has yet to enter into force.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier commented that “unless the Philippine government ratifies the ‘Basel Ban Amendment’ and reflects its intent in our national laws, the country will continue to be a recipient of hazardous garbage from overseas, made possible under the guise of recycling or recovery.“

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago in September 2014 filed a resolution calling for “an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on ways to decisively prevent illegal waste dumping from abroad, including the ratification of the ‘Basel Convention Ban Amendment’ and other legal measures to protect the country from becoming a global dump for hazardous wastes.”

From June 2013 to January 2014, a total of 103 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, misdeclared as “plastic scraps” for recycling, entered the country in 10 batches and subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.

After sitting in the ports, 26 containers of these trash consignments were illegally disposed of at the Metro Clark Landfill in Tarlac between June 26 to July 8, 2015, drawing the ire of local officials and residents.


19 November 2015

Omission of Garbage Issue in Aquino-Trudeau Bilateral Talk Dismays Environmental and Labor Leaders

Omission of Garbage Issue in Aquino-Trudeau Bilateral Meeting Dismays Environmental and Labor Leaders

The conspicuous exclusion of the Canadian garbage dumping issue in yesterday’s bilateral talk between President Benigno S. Aquino III and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit drew a chorus of disapproval and protest from environmental and labor leaders.

“What a total letdown!  Aquino and Trudeau both missed the chance to exercise real leadership and do the right thing.  They could have demonstrated to the world what bilateral trade should not look like.  Ignoring and sweeping the Canadian garbage scandal under the carpet will not earn you the respect of your people and other nations,” said environmentalist Von Hernandez, 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, 2007 Time Hero of the Environment, previous Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia and former President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It’s a shame that Mr. Trudeau and new members of his government chose not to take responsibility over the Canadian garbage that has been soiling good relations between Canadians and Filipinos for some time now.  By not acting toward his government taking back the stinking trash from the Philippine soil for good, the Filipino people will now begin to doubt Mr. Trudeau’s sincerity and capacity to lead the Canadian people to his campaign promise of an environment-caring shared prosperity,” said Alan Tanjusay, Spokesperson of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

“This is unconscionable!  It sends the message to our trading partners that our people’s welfare is for sale,” said Josua Mata, Secretary-General, Sentro ng mgaNagkakaisa at ProgresibongManggagawa (SENTRO).

Rene Pineda, Vice-President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “Much to our regret, we are forced to seek redress and judicially compel the Philippine government to do its mandated duty under our national laws and the Basel Convention and require Canada to take back its waste.” 

Had Trudeau made the right move to resolve the issue, the EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, would have reacted differently and would have released the following statement: 

“He did not fail us!  Hats off to PM Trudeau for heeding our plea for environmental justice that his unbending predecessor Stephen Harper chose to ignore.  We’re sure that Filipinos will remember him not only for his towering height and good looks, but for this splendid ‘gift of justice’ to fix a long drawn-out dumping scandal that has pricked the national consciousness, dignity and pride.”

The group would have also said: “We hope that this controversy will conclude with both Canada and the Philippines taking firm action to prevent the recurrence of such illegal waste trade, including the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment that prohibits hazardous waste exports from developed to developing countries for recycling and final disposal.”

From June 2013 to January 2014, a total of 103 container vans of mixed garbage from Canada, misdeclared as “plastic scraps” for recycling, entered the country in 10 batches and subsequently intercepted by customs authorities.  

After sitting in the ports, 26 containers of these trash consignments were illegally disposed of at the Metro Clark Landfill in Tarlac between June 26 to July 8, 2015, drawing the ire of local officials and residents.

The Tarlac provincial board then stopped the illegal dumping, prompting other local government units such as the province of Bulacan and  Navotas and Quezon Cities, to follow suit and prohibit foreign waste disposal in local landfills to protect the public health and the environment.