08 December 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Promotes “Upcycling” this Christmas to Reduce Trash, Stretch Budget (Waste and Pollution Watch Group Makes a Pitch for Christmas Decorations from Discarded Materials)

With Christmas just around the corner, a non-profit group campaigning for waste prevention and reduction urged the public to give typical household discards a new lease of life by “upcycling” them into holiday decorations.

The EcoWaste Coalition made a pitch for “upcycling” – or the conversion of discarded materials into something creative and useful – at a joint event with Santo Cristo Elementary School in Quezon City that showcased Yuletide adornments from trash.

“The ‘upcycling’ of discards is a sensible way of reducing the high volume of waste that is hauled to dumps, especially during Christmastime when crass consumption and disposal are at its peak.  It’s no secret that our society generates tons of extra waste during the festive weeks of shopping, partying and gift-giving.  Also, ‘upcycling’ will help lower our holiday spending and allow us to save hard-earned money for more essential family and personal needs,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“By recycling, we reduce the environmental costs of our merry making, including lessening the demand for virgin materials for new products to be manufactured.  This will mean fewer trees cut and mountains mined, more energy saved and decreased amounts  of pollutants emitted,” she explained.

“In this era of climate change, we are called to be mindful of what we consume and what we throw away.  Ecological consumption is a timely response that, hopefully, will help in restoring simplicity, which is the very heart of Christmas,” she emphasized.

To demonstrate the extent of what can be done with “upcycling,” student representatives of each grade level from kinder to grade six of the Santo Cristo Elementary School made Christmas lanterns out of recycled materials.  

Their teachers, on the other hand, prepared a lantern from consumed paper cups, a Snowman from used papers, and a Christmas tree from candy wrappers.

For its part, the EcoWaste Coalition displayed a range of “upcycled” Christmas ornaments from fabric, glass, metal, paper and plastic recyclables.

Some of the more eye-catching “upcycled” Christmas decorations shown at the event include the following:

--- A corrugated board Christmas tree covered with used gift wrappers and newspaper comic strips and adorned with decorations made of used buttons, CDs, softdrink crowns and snack packs.

--- Angels fashioned out of fabric conditioner plastic containers with old shirts for costumes and pan de sal paper bags for wings.

--- Various figures of Santa Claus fashioned out of a corn starch canister, paper and plastic cups, roll-on deodorant and tetra packs.

--- Three Kings with tall softdrink plastic bottles as bodies and printer ink containers as heads.

--- Reindeers crafted from toilet paper rolls, wine bottles and native baskets. 

--- Lanterns made of empty cans painted with lead safe paint.

--- A variety of Christmas wreaths and other decorations using empty cans of juice, liver spread and canned tuna, egg trays and plastic bottle lids.   

“These ‘upcycled’ items are mere examples.  There are countless ways of transforming our discards into functional and, yes, beautiful, things.  We can go zero waste or darn close,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.  


07 December 2016

Toxics Watch Group Urges FDA and PNP in Region XI to Go After Dealers of Banned Mercury-Laced Cosmetics

7 December 2016, Quezon City.  A toxics watch group decried the unabated sale in Davao City of dangerous cosmetics banned by the national health authorities for containing mercury, a highly toxic chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition revealed that it was able to buy last weekend eight imported skin whitening facial creams that were among those banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury beyond the “allowable limit” of one part per million (ppm). 

“We are appalled at the ease of buying such contraband cosmetics that are heavily laden with mercury.  This is a threat to public health.  The people have the right not to be exposed to hazardous substances that can endanger life and the environment.  For the record, this is not the first time that we have found such dangerous goods being sold in Davao City,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, who recently visited the city for a public forum on the pitfalls of thermal waste-to-energy technologies at the Ateneo de Davao University. 

Dizon purchased the products himself for P50 to P140 each from discount retailers at DCLA Plaza along Ramon Magsaysay Avenue.

Based on the chemical screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, six of the eight samples were found to contain mercury ranging from 391 to 2,991 ppm, way above the one ppm limit.

Among those found contaminated with mercury were six variants of Jiaoli and S’zitang skin whitening creams banned by the FDA.  The other two banned products, Bihuayn and Erna skin whitening creams, were found negative for mercury.  

Users of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics may experience skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and reduced skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, while repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, the nervous system and the kidneys, according to the World Health Organization, which has listed mercury as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”

“To finally bring this unlawful trade to a close, we urge the offices of the FDA and the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region XI to undertake immediate law enforcement action and bring the culprits to court,” Dizon suggested.

“This will be a good test case for the FDA and the PNP following the signing last week of a Memorandum of Agreement aimed at strengthening the the enforcement of FDA-implemented health laws,” he noted.

Last November 28,  the PNP led by Police Director General Ronald Dela Rosa and the FDA led by Director General Nela Charade Puno signed an agreement deputizing the PNP to  assist and augment FDA’s capabilities in the conduct of pre- and post- market surveillance activities and operations.

The PNP, with proper authorization from the FDA, shall conduct necessary investigation, search and seizure, as well as apprehend erring individuals and entities responsible for the proliferation of unregistered, counterfeit, adulterated, misbranded or substandard health products in the market.

The EcoWaste Coalition had already reported the matter to the FDA headquarters in Muntinlupa City.

05 December 2016

No Such Thing as "Clean Incineration," Wastes Experts Say

Wastes experts debunked claims that the incinerator technology in facilities like waste to energy (WtE) plants are environment-friendly, saying that these power plants still produce toxic pollutants that need to be handled properly.

 "There is no such thing as 'clean incineration', said Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, former chief technical advisor of the United Nations Development Program on global environment waste projects .

"All incinerators release toxic particulates, toxic gases such as carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, toxic metals such as lead and mercury and other pollutants in addition to dioxins, including 2,3,7,8-tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin, the most toxic compound known in science," he said.

Emmanuel, who is in Davao today to headline a public forum on Waste-To-Energy Technology , organized by the Sustainable Davao Movement ,  the EcoWaste Coalition and the Ateneo University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council (UCEAC) at the Ateneo de Davao University, also noted that the Philippines does not have the technical in-country capability to carry out regular testing of dioxins from incinerators and to conduct frequent independent spot checks of facilities in order to enforce current dioxin limit standards.

"The use of pollution control devices such as filters and electrostatic precipitators merely move the pollutants from the air into the waste water or the solid filters. These pollutants do not disappear; they are concentrated into other media that must still have to be treated as hazardous waste,” he said.

 Also speaking at the public forum is environmental activist Von Hernandez, who won the 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize for his advocacy work in banning waste incinerators in the Philippines. He will talk about sustainable and ecological alternatives to waste incineration in the public forum.

 "It is lamentable that national government agencies are still pining for costly magic bullets to solve or waste problems, when proven, safe and sustainable solutions are already enshrined in our existing policies,” said Hernandez who was founding convenor of the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition.

 "The real question is whether our officials have the political will and the creativity to move our society away from dirty and polluting waste management systems towards material recovery options that generate jobs for our communities. This is the unfulfilled promise of the 15 year old R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, whose implementation remains hostage to government ineptitude and vested interests," he said.

For his part, Thony Dizon, Project Protect Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, reiterated the need for national and local government agencies, as well as the general public, “to take extra steps to put the waste prevention and reduction provisions of R.A. 9003 in force, such as the segregation-at-source, which if genuinely implemented, will facilitate the optimum reuse, recycling and composting of discards for cleaner, healthier and sustainable communities.”  

The Sustainable Davao Movement said that the Public Forum is geared towards providing Dabawenyos a venue to raise and clarify their issues and concerns on technologies such as the WtE. 

EcoGroups Urge DENR to Stop Influx of Dirty Waste Technologies

Ecogroups and communities trooped to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to call the attention of Secretary Gina Lopez to the flood of thermal or burn “waste-to-energy” (WtE) technology proposals in the country, which will undermine the country’s effort to curb environmental degradation and pursue a low-carbon development path. 

“We urge Secretary Lopez to take the lead in promoting ecological and sustainable solutions to the country’s garbage woes. We already have cities, municipalities and barangays thatare successfully implementing safe, proven and low-cost ecological management of municipal solid waste and their experiences can be replicated across the country,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“But once we allow burn WtE technologies, our citizens will be locked-in to years of dirty, toxic, and costly solid waste management systems. BurnWtE facilities emit greenhouse gases and toxic fly ash and bottom ash.  Allowing these facilities will sabotage our country’s efforts to clean our air and implement the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” said Tolentino.

The groups, which are part of the Stop Waste-to-Energy (WtE) Alliance, voiced their warning due to the inaction of the DENR to act on the petition sent by various environmental networks last September 1, 2016. The petition asksSecretary Lopez to repeal the National Solid Waste Management Commission Resolution No. 669, series 2016, which allows the entry and operations of burn WtE. The NSWMC is chaired by the DENR.

According to the groups, burn WtE technologies are rebranded garbage-burning facilities and incinerators used by waste industries and vendors to hide the technology’s dirty image and dupe unaware buyers and clients, particularly from developing countries like the Philippines.

Meanwhile a parallel anti-WtE forum was also held in Davao City organized by the Sustainable Davao Movement, Ateneo University Community Engagement and Advocacy Council and the EcoWaste Coalition. The said forum included presentations by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, former chief technical advisor of the United Nations Development Program on global environment waste projects, and 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize recipient Von Hernandez.

“It is lamentable that government agencies are still pining for costly magic bullets to solve our waste problems, when proven, safe and sustainable solutions are already enshrined in our existing policies,” said Hernandez. 

“The real question is whether our officials have the political will and the creativity to move our society away from dirty and polluting waste management systems towards material recovery options that generate jobs for our communities. This is the unfulfilled promise of the 15 year old Ecological Solid Waste Management law, whose implementation remains hostage to government ineptitude and vested interests,” he said.

The groups that marched to the DENR are composed of various environmental watchdog groups and advocates such as Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Consumer Rights for Safe Food, EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice, and Piglas ng Kababaihan. 

01 December 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Sounds the Alarm Over Hazardous Toys in the Market

As consumers go on pre-Christmas toy shopping spree, a non-profit watch group for consumer and environmental health urged parents to pick up toys that will not expose young children to hazards lurking in some play things.  

In today’s launch of its annual “Kid-Safe Toys for Zero Harm, Zero Waste,” the EcoWaste Coalition advised parents to insist on the right of their children to safe toys regardless of where the toys are sold and bought.

“Regardless where you shop for toys, please be on the lookout for dangerous toys that can injure innocent children.  As adults who control the purse strings, we can harness our purchasing power to ensure that our kids are provided with toys that promise good fun, entertainment and education, and are protected against physical and chemical harm.  Our children deserve nothing less than non-hazardous toys,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Project.

Dangerous toys are those that pose burn, chemical, choking, ingestion, laceration, strangulation and other hazards, including those that can injure the eyes and damage the ears, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“We appeal to the toy industry, particularly to the toy manufacturers, importers, distributors, and retailers, to respect our children’s right to safe toys and not to put toys in the market that have not undergone and passed the required physical and chemical safety tests and are not adequately labeled,” Dizon added.

To demonstrate the need for consumer vigilance against hazardous toys, the EcoWaste Coalition released the results of its latest test buys of 100 assorted toys obtained from formal and informal retailers in Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities.  The toys, costing from P10 to P220 each, were procured on November 24 and 26. 

Out of these 100 toys, 93 pose choking hazard for containing small parts that young children can ingest and cause difficulty in breathing.

Out of 100 toys, 20 were found to contain toxic lead from 103 to 15,300 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm regulatory limit, which is mainly due to the use of lead-containing decorative paints.

Out of 100 toys,  20 have sharp edges, mostly toy knives and swords,  that may cause abrasion and laceration hazard. 

Out of 100 toys, 18 can pose a serious risk of eye injuries, including potential permanent damage to the eyesight. 

Out of these 100 toys, the EcoWaste Coalition picked the following as the 10 most dangerous toys that must not get into a child’s hands:

1.  A kiddie folding chair coated with yellow lead paint that has 15,300 ppm total lead.
2. A “Wonderful Music Xylophone” that has a highly leaded orange bar with 11,100 ppm total lead.
3. A “Snorlax” Pokemon character toy with 1,925 ppm total lead.
4.  A plastic toy knife that may cut or slice into the skin.
5. Play swords with sharp edges that pose laceration hazard.
6. Pellet guns that may cause serious eye injuries. 
7. A “Wild Sling Water Balloons” with 33-inch strap that may lead to strangulation hazard. 
8. A Hello Kitty guitar with 25-inch strap that may cause strangulation hazard.
9.  A mini-billiard set with Pokemon design that poses choking risk.
10. Plants vs. Zombies figures that present choking risk.

To assist consumers in selecting kid-safe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to observe the following tips:

1. Read the product label very carefully: pay attention to the warnings, age recommendation and safety instructions; look for the product manufacturing details and the license to operate (LTO) number, which is issued to authorized toy manufacturer, importer or distributor.

2. Select toys that are appropriate for the child’s age, aptitude, skill and temperament, and follow the age recommendation.

3. Look for toys that are bigger than a child’s mouth to avoid choking (“the smaller the child, the bigger the toy”); avoid toys that can easily break into small parts or with small unsecured components that may be ingested or placed in the nose or the ears.

4. Buy toys from reliable traders and obtain a valid proof of purchase to facilitate replacement, refund, compensation or warranty claim if needed.

5. Watch out for toxic toys or play things laden with health-damaging chemicals such as antimony, arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury and phthalates.

6. Avoid toys with paint coatings - unless certified as lead-safe - to prevent kids from being poisoned when they bite, chew, lick or swallow toys with lead coatings.   

7. Avoid PVC toys that contain many hidden toxic additives such as heavy metals and phthalates.

8. Avoid art toys and play cosmetics that are not confirmed as non-toxic.

9. Avoid toys that shoot small or pointed objects into the air that may cause eye or body injuries.

10. Avoid toys that have sharp edges or points that may bruise or cut a child’s sensitive skin.

11. Avoid toys with cords or strings longer than 12 inches that may wrap around a child’s neck and cut off a child’s circulation.

12. Avoid musical toys, rattles and squeeze objects making too loud noises or shrills that can damage a child’s sensitive hearing.

13. Avoid stuffed toys with small parts such as buttons or eyes that may be pulled loose and swallowed by a child; avoid those with pellet-like stuffing that may get into a child’s hand and
mouth when the toy breaks open; watch out for broken parts, seams and edges; and opt for washable stuffed toys.

14. Avoid battery-operated toys that are not firmly secured as batteries and their chemical ingredients may cause internal bleeding, chemical burns and choking when ingested.

15. Avoid toys that tend to induce aggression and violence such as toy guns, knives and other toy weapons.

Furthermore, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to:

1. Remove and keep the toy plastic packaging out of children’s reach to avoid risk of suffocation.  Refrain from throwing reusable toyboxes and wrappers to the bin; find other functional uses for toy packaging to reduce waste.

2. Follow carefully the procedures for proper toy assembly and use and keep the instructions for reference.

3. Teach a child how to play safely, and closely supervise small children to help prevent any untoward incidents.

4. Check toys regularly for signs of wear or broken pieces that may cause injury, and keep toys clean.

5.  Teach a child to put toys away after play to avoid accidents.