28 January 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes DOH to Ban Hazardous Chemical in Baby Feeding Bottles and Sippy Cups

A public interest group promoting chemical safety and public health today pressed the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to release a long-pending Administrative Order banning Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups.

BPA is a synthetic compound used in polycarbonate plastic.  A recognized endocrine disrupting chemical, BPA has been linked to various health problems such as asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, infertility, erectile dysfunction, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and breast and prostate cancers, even at low doses of exposure.

In a letter sent to the DOH, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to Acting Secretary Janette Garin “to hasten the issuance of the proposed DOH Administrative Order entitled the “Prohibition on the Manufacture, Importation, Advertisement and Sale of Polycarbonate Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups Containing Bisphenol A in the Philippines.”  The first policy draft was made publicly available in May 2013.

As early as July 2010, the EcoWaste Coalition has been urging the health authorities to impose a precautionary ban on BPA starting with children’s products such as baby feeding bottles due to the mounting concern about the adverse effects of exposure to BPA on human health.

“The EcoWaste Coalition is deeply concerned with the lamentable delay in issuing the said Administrative Order in light of increased global concern over human exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) and the string of scientific studies validating such concern,” wrote Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Our country’s lack of technical capacity to analyze baby feeding bottles and sippy cups for BPA content should not stop the government from moving ahead with the precautionary ban, an essential measure to safeguard children’s health,” he said.

Dizon emphasized that the burden of proving that baby feeding bottles and sippy cups are safe from BPA rests with their manufacturers, importers and distributors.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that over 30 states have already banned BPA, particularly in baby feeding bottles, such as in Canada, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa, USA and the 28-country European Union, with France banning BPA in all food contact materials in 2015.  China, the country’s largest trading partner, banned BPA in baby feeding bottles way back in June 2011.

In their letter to Garin, the group informed the health official that the EcoWaste Coalition, along with over 50 non-government and civil society organizations, had twice sent a petition to the DOH and FDA in April 2013 and January 2014 for the banning of BPA in baby feeding containers.

The group noted that Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has proposed the “BPA In Baby Products Prohibition Act” (SBN 395), while Representatives Rufus Rodriguez and Angelina Tan have filed similar bills (HB 4234 and HB 2340, respectively) at the House of Representatives.

“As a medical doctor and as the highest health official of our country, the health and safety of Filipino children is certainly among your top priorities.  We therefore respectfully urge you to take
action now against BPA, starting with a prohibition on its use in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

As we seek the ban on BPA in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups, we wish to restate our stance to “defend the right of every baby to mother’s milk, the first complete and Zero Waste food, from the direct assault of deceptive advertising and promotion of artificial breastfeeding and chemical pollution,” the group told Garin.


Environmental Experts Pitch for Non-Incineration Solutions to Garbage Woes

The grassroots campaign to avert a congressional move to lift the incineration ban under the Clean Air got a boost at a government-organized summit to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, another law that forbids the
burning of trash.

Speaking at the summit organized by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, Mariel Villela Casaus of Zero Waste Europe and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives was elated to say that “incinerators are on their way out in Europe,” stating that “in the past half-century, citizens have successfully defeated thousands of incinerator proposals and made it very difficult to build an incinerator in many parts of the world.”

The visiting climate and waste expert from Spain noted that even the European Parliament has taken the view that the 28-nation bloc’s “7th Environment Action Plan should set more ambitious prevention, re-use and recycling targets, including a net decrease in waste generation.”

“The reality of incineration overcapacity in many countries in Europe has provided eye-opening facts about up to what point incinerators prevent real waste reduction, reuse, recycling and resource efficiency. This is clear in Northern Europe, where incinerators are fed waste that is imported from all over the continent,” she said, “an awakening moment for cities and countries that have invested heavily in incineration infrastructure,”
Villela said.

“Today, many of these old incinerators are arriving at the end of their life, opening up a door for municipalities to consider the opportunities in an incineration-free system. This is, a system aiming at zero waste that would minimize reliance on waste disposal by means of reduction, reuse, recycling and better design of products,” she said.

"As Europe is walking the path towards Zero Waste strategies and overcoming a lock-in model based on waste incineration, we warn the Philippines model not to make the same mistakes and ensure that waste disposal stays out of their systems," she said.

Villela noted that “zero waste solutions that reduce, reuse and recycle municipal waste are effective and high-impact means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

“When discarded materials are recycled, they provide industry with an alternative source of raw materials from which to make new products. This results in less demand for virgin materials whose extraction, transport and processing are major sources of GHG emissions,“ she explained.

“Zero Waste solutions thus reduce emissions in virtually all extractive industries: mining, forestry, agriculture, and petroleum extraction,” she pointed out.

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), “Zero Waste solutions also directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both.”

The IPPC report explains that “burning waste emits carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O); and landfills and dumps are a primary source of methane (CH4), as well as CO2,” stressing that “in fact, incinerators produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity than coal-fired power plants. “

The report further said that “burning waste also drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators, landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns.”

Also speaking at the summit, environmental scientist Dr. Jorge Emmanuel discussed the health and environmental problems associated with the incineration of medical waste, describing “medical waste incinerators as a major source of global dioxin emissions,” and that  viable non-burn treatment options are commercially available for treating the infectious waste stream.

To assist Pinoy campaigners, Emmanuel provided the following guide questions that citizens should seriously find answers to as the country’s incineration ban is threatened by a controversial move to amend Section 20 of the Clean Air Act:

1. Who benefits from the technology?

- Does the technology enhance public health and the environment?

- Does the technology improve the physical, mental, social, and cultural well-being of the people?

2. Have stakeholders been consulted about or participated in finding a solution?

3. Has the potential solution been examined from a life-cycle perspective taking into consideration environmental health and socio-cultural impacts?

4. Has the precautionary principle been applied?

Groups in the forefront of the spirited campaign to save the incineration ban from being “slaughtered”  include the Aksyon Klima, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Earth Justice Center, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation.



IPCC, AR4, Working Group 3, Chapter 10.


25 January 2015

Environmentalists Call for Faithful Enforcement of R.A. 9003 to Protect Community Health, the Environment and the Climate

As the 14th anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, is observed tomorrow, environmental leaders urged local and national government agencies to implement the law faithfully.

R.A. 9003, enacted by the 11th Congress in December 2000 six months after the Payatas dumpsite tragedy and signed into a law by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on January 26,2001, stipulates the “adoption of best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management, excluding incineration.”

Environmentalist Von Hernandez and Sonia Mendoza, who both received “Zero Waste” awards at the culmination of the three-day “Zero Waste Fair” yesterday in Quezon City, urged concerned citizens and entities to take tough action against non-conforming local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies (NGAs) if only to rouse officials who are sleeping on the job and compel them into enforcing the law.

Hernandez, the outgoing President of the EcoWaste Coalition, cited three things to hasten the enforcement of the waste law, which seeks to conserve resources, curb pollution, including the emission of greenhouse gases, and protect the public health, climate and the environment.

To remedy the languid enforcement of R.A. 9003, responsible officials must implement the law faithfully, replicate and mainstream successful Zero Waste programs and initiatives, and hold recalcitrant LGUs and NGAs accountable for their failure to enforce the law,” said Hernandez.
“After more than a decade, responsible government units should stop making excuses, including pushing the use of incinerators, as if that will solve our perennial problems with trash. If local government units like the city of San Fernando have proven they can do it and benefit immensely from the faithful implementation of the law, there is really no excuse why others cannot, except  failure of leadership," he emphasized.
Mendoza, the incoming President of the EcoWaste Coalition, called for “intensive public information
, education and communication activities to popularize Zero Waste values and practices, for decentralized  waste management down to the barangay level and for legal action to put R.A. 9003 in force.”
“Sueing erring mayors and other officials has strong legal basis in the law,” said Mendoza, citing Section 52 of R.A. 9003, which provides for the filing of citizen suits in order to enforce the provisions of the law.

According to Section 52,
any citizen may file an appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action in the proper courts/bodies against any public officer who willfully or grossly neglects the performance of an act specifically enjoined as a duty by the law.
Section 52 also allows the filing of citizen suits against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or other implementing agencies with respect to orders, rules and regulations issued inconsistent with R.A. 9003.
The EcoWaste Coalition noted the following as some of the most conspicuous violations of R.A. 9003:

1.  The illegal operation of over 1,000 open and controlled dumpsites across the country, which should have been shut down in February 2004 and February 2006, respectively.
2.  The sluggish establishment of materials recovery facilities or MRFs in every barangay or cluster of barangays to assist with the segregation, composting and recycling of discards, and minimize the volume of residual waste requiring final storage or disposal.

3.  The construction and operation of so-called “sanitary landfills” in watershed areas, in flood-prone places and near water bodies, which receive mixed waste instead of just residuals.

4.  The wanton disregard of specific acts prohibited by R.A. 9003 such as littering, open burning, open dumping, construction of dumps in environmentally critical areas, and the manufacture, distribution, use or importation of non-environmentally acceptable products and services.



22 January 2015

Repurposed Pope Francis' Welcome Tarpaulins

Friends of Buklod-Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition from Bulgaria, Canada and Indonesia show off repurposed functional items such as an apron, organizer and carry bags from tarpaulins welcoming Pope Francis that were put on display at the Zero Waste Fair held at Quezon Memorial Circle in observance of the Zero Waste Month this January .  Creatively repurposing used tarps into practical items will prevent these materials from going to waste and exacerbating the enormous trash generated from the papal events. 

21 January 2015

EcoWaste Coalition: "Please Recycle Pope Francis' Tarpaulins"

With the departure of Pope Francis after five days of cherished encounters with the Filipino people, an environmental watchdog wasted no time proposing that the tarpaulins used to welcome the “green pope” should not go to the dumps and further swell the volume of garbage collected throughout the papal visit.

“Sooner or later, the Pope Francis’ tarps hanging on electric posts, street lamps, church buildings, schools and other establishments will be taken down,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We need to find new uses for these tarps to prevent them from going to waste and adding to the 1,271 tons of trash generated during the papal events,” she emphasized.

Based on published figures, the Manila City Government collected 1,133 tons of garbage, while the Metro Manila Development Authority hauled 138 tons during the Pope’s activities in Manila.  

“We can keep these tarps out of dumps, landfills, cement kilns and incinerators by giving them a new lease of life through appropriate recycling,” she emphasized.

“Avoiding the haphazard disposal of used tarps will cut the volume of waste being disposed of, as well as curb the environmental pollution from their dumping or burning, knowing that tarps are mainly vinyl-based containing toxic chemicals,” she explained.

Vergara recalled that the chemicals screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition right after the 2013 elections detected cadmium and lead in 200 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tarpaulins used by political wannabes.

Tarps can be recycled or repurposed for non-food and non-child uses depending on their colors, designs, materials, thickness, grommet strength and sizes, the group said.

Large tarps, often seen in building facades and fences, can be reused as protective cover sheets for a variety of things, including carriages for religious icons, vehicles, recycling "kariton" and anything else that need protection from dust, dirt, sun and rain.

Even the homeless people in our midst have been using tarps as cover, “blanket” or sleeping sheet, the group observed.

The more sturdy tarps can be used as roofing materials for makeshift shelters of disaster victims.

Smaller tarps such as those hanging on lamp posts can be sewn into carry bags, storage sacks, shoe rack, paint drop clothes, utility aprons, multi-purpose holders, etc.

Pedicab, jeepney and tricycle drivers will find such tarps useful as hood or shield for protection against intense heat and strong rains as tarps can be easily rolled up and down as needed.

To demonstrate some of these repurposing ideas, the EcoWaste Coalition has collaborated with Buklod Tao, a community group in San Mateo, Rizal, to create samples of tarps transformed into functional items.

The repurposed tarps will be displayed at the 3-day Zero Waste Fair starting tomorrow at Quezon Memorial Circle in observance of the first-ever “Zero Waste Month” by virtue of Proclamation 760 issued by President Benigno Aquino III.  

To address the chemical, health and environmental concerns associated with tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed that the government should regulate their production, use and disposal.