20 January 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Detects Toxic Chemicals in Tondo’s Fiesta Banderitas (Green Group Scores Toxic Plastic Banderitas)

Banderitas with high lead content.

The unchecked use of plastic banderitas in community fiestas is not only adding to the volume, but also to the toxicity of garbage.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, issued this statement after detecting heavy metals, particularly lead, in samples taken from banderitas strung across the crowded streets and alleys of Tondo, which is celebrating today the popular feast of Santo Niño.

“Plastic banderitas add to the volume and toxicity of rubbish generated by our popular but wasteful fiestas,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“These unnecessary accessories may look safe to the naked eye.  However, when these banderitas are finally disposed of in dumpsites, landfills or incinerators, or thrown in water bodies, their toxic chemical additives can enter the environment  posing a risk to public health,” he said. 

“Burning these banderitas will cause the formation and release of even more toxic byproducts such as dioxins,” he added.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical instrument, the group detected lead in 12 of 25 samples of plastic banderitas in the range of 512 to 9,931 parts per million (ppm).

Bright orange-colored banderitas, as well as those promoting certain products were among those found with high lead content.

The presence of lead in some of the sampled buntings may be due to the use of lead compounds as plastic stabilizer or as plastic colorant, the group explained.

According to the World Health Organization, “lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system,” while “dioxins can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer.”

The renewed efforts by the national government to clean up and rehabilitate Manila Bay should prompt the local authorities, church leaders, and community residents into stopping wasteful practices that contribute to the pollution of the bay, including the rampant use of banderitas and other single-use plastics, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Corporations should also ensure that their product packaging, as well as product promotional materials such as banderitas, are reusable, recyclable or compostable, and are safe from chemicals that are harmful to humans and the environment, including aquatic life, the group pointed out.
Banderitas with low or non-detectable lead content. 





19 January 2019

Tondo’s Plastic Banderitas Not In Step with Moves to Clean Up Manila and Manila Bay

The single-use plastic banderitas adorning the streets of Tondo in celebration of the feast of Santo Niño tomorrow are not in sync with the government’s plan to clean up Manila and rehabilitate the highly polluted Manila Bay.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, made this observation after visiting last Wednesday and Friday the immediate vicinity of the Santo Niño de Tondo Church and finding the streets and alleys excessively decorated with plastic buntings as if there was no tomorrow.

“We are appalled by the extreme use of plastic bags, plastic strips, plastic packaging scraps and plastic product advertisements as fiesta banderitas as if the 1,175 tons of garbage that Manila churns out daily is not yet enough,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“These banderitas are basura in the making.  After the festivities this Sunday, the banderitas will be taken down and transported by barge, along with other post-fiesta discards, to the Navotas Sanitary Landfill, the dumping ground for Manila’s garbage,” he said.

Alejandre pointed out that “reckless wasting as manifested by the banderitas hanging on every street and alley of Tondo goes against the moves to clean up Manila and reduce the city's huge waste production.”

“Some of these banderitas may end up as street litter or blown away to the sea while being hauled to the loading station at Pier 18 and onto the landfill near Manila Bay,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged city, barangay and church officials to act decisively against the unnecessary hanging and irresponsible disposal of plastic banderitas that are simply thrown away after the fiesta. 

“We can easily do away with wasteful banderitas as these are not crucial to the good conduct of any community celebration,” Alejandre said.  

The group also suggested that May 2019 poll candidates should stop politicizing faith-based activities with hollow "happy fiesta" banners and other campaign materials.

“These ‘happy fiesta’ tarpaulins only add to the street clutter, as well as garbage.  We urge our well-meaning political aspirants to be always mindful of the environmental impact of their campaigning activities,” Alejandre said.  

The EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that “the true essence of our time-honored festive celebrations does not rely on the length and color of plastic buntings crisscrossing our streets, but on how we relight our faith and share our community blessings through the fiesta.”
In lieu of wasteful banderitas and banners, the group suggested that funds for these non-essentials be spent for public information drive towards waste prevention and reduction, which can improve people’s live and protect public health and the environment. 


16 January 2019

Group Questions Widespread Use of Plastic Tarpaulins for Election Propaganda

The waste and pollution watch group, EcoWaste Coalition, has expressed serious concern over the countless  election propaganda tarpaulins that have sprouted all over Metro Manila ahead of the official campaign period for the May 2019 midterm polls.

“Tarpaulins promoting the names of politicians eyeing elective positions have replaced Christmas decorations that used to adorn our streets.  You can see the ubiquitous tarps hanging on electric posts, phone and TV cables, and on trees,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ‘battle of the tarpaulins’ is more obvious in communities that are set to observe the feast of Santo Nino this coming Sunday.  The whole stretch of Jesus Street in Pandacan, Manila, for example, is dotted with tarpaulins of mostly local candidates that are competing for voters’ attention and support,” he said.

“Politicians and their supporters have without doubt exploited the loopholes in the election law as regards premature campaigning,” he said.

“The lax regulation has emboldened political wannabes and their supporters to mass produce tarpaulins and to put them up anywhere even in restricted and unsafe places,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition also underscored the waste and toxicity issues resulting from the wild use of propaganda tarpaulins.

“Time will come when a tarpaulin has to be removed and disposed of.  Even if reused for other purposes, it will still be thrown away after it has worn out or is no longer needed.  These tarps, sooner or later, will get buried or burned somewhere,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Sad to say, tarpaulins are not harmless materials.  Mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, tarpaulins may contain toxic chemicals such as cadmium, lead and phthalates that can leach and contaminate the surroundings,” he explained.

“It’s possible that some of the tarpaulins that we see on the streets might even end up being burned and this will cause far more dangerous pollution,” he warned.

Dizon explained that when chlorinated materials such as PVC plastic are burned, toxic byproducts called dioxins are unintentionally formed and released to the environment.

Dioxins are among the persistent organic pollutants, or POPs, that are targeted for global minimization, if not elimination, under the Stockholm Convention on POPs, an international treaty of which the Philippines is a state party.

To prevent and reduce tarpaulin-related waste and pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition urged policy makers to draw up a regulation that will control tarpaulin production, use and disposal.

In the absence of such a regulation, the group appealed to all politicians and their backers to moderate their use of tarpaulins, or better yet opt for ecological campaign methods and materials, and to wait until the official campaign period for the upcoming polls has begun. 


15 January 2019

DENR Urged to Ban Plastic Waste Importation to Prevent Dumping and Pollution (Government should act now to stop influx of plastic waste imports before it's too late, says EcoWaste Coalition)

The waste and pollution watch group, EcoWaste Coalition, urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to look into banning plastic waste importation in light of the Canadian and Korean garbage dumping incidents.

“We request DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to impose tough measures that will prevent discarded plastics that could no longer enter China from being diverted into the Philippines due to loopholes in existing regulations,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“With the ban on plastic waste imports in effect in China since 2018, we are seeing increased waste exports from South Korea to the Philippines,” she warned.

Lucero cited data from the Korea Customs Service published in November last year indicating that 2017 waste exports from South Korea to Philippines rose from 4,398 tons to 11,588 tons after China closed the door for plastic waste and other waste imports from overseas.   Waste exports from South Korea to Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan also increased.   On the other hand, South Korea’s waste exports to China dropped from 119,575 tons in 2017 to 9,379 tons in 2018.

“Waste traders from industrialized countries are frantically looking for places with lenient regulations where their plastic waste can be shipped  for so-called ‘recycling’ like what we have seen in the controversial plastic garbage shipments from Canada and South Korea.  We need to take action now, like what Malaysia and Vietnam did, before it’s too late,” Lucero added.     

According to news reports, Vietnam stopped issuing plastic waste import licenses in July 2017. Their waste imports went from 2,000 – 5,000 tons per month to 300 – 400 tons per month.  Malaysia made the same move reducing their plastic waste imports from 1,000 to 2,000 tons per month in 2017 to 56 tons in 2018.   Malaysia last October 2018 also announced its plan to phase out imports of all plastic wastes in three years.

The EcoWaste Coalition is definitely not the lone voice calling for preventive action to stop the influx of plastic waste imports into the Philippines.

At the ceremonial send-off rites last Sunday for the 51 containers of illegal garbage exports from South Korea, Rep. Juliette Uy (Second District, Misamis Oriental) conveyed her support for “stringent policies” to deter plastic waste dumping into the country.

“We need to adopt new stringent policies to prevent the importation of plastic and other types of waste since we do not want our province and our whole country for that matter to become a global garbage dump,” she told the crowd assembled at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT).

MICT Port Collector John Simon also signified the need for “stringent policy measures” to protect the country from plastic wastes and pollutants.

“It’s our shared responsibility to proactively prevent plastic wastes, which often come unsorted and contaminated with hazardous materials, from entering our ports.  Stringent policy measures should be adopted, including banning the importation of waste plastics, which should be treated at source and not sent to developing counties like ours,” he said.

Zero waste advocate Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao, agreed with Simon: "We should send a clear message to waste traders and traffickers that our country is not a dumping ground for the world's trash.  Disallowing plastic waste importation will compel governments and industries to think of innovative ways to prevent the creation of garbage and ensure their environmentally-sound management at the country of generation."

In July 2017, China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) of its intent to prohibit the importation of scrap plastics by the end of December 2017 “to protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health.”

According to the notification sent by the MEP to the WTO, “large amounts of dirty wastes or even hazardous wastes are mixed in the solid waste that can be used as raw materials… pollut(ing) the environment seriously.”

“To protect China’s environmental interests and people’s health, we urgently adjust the imported solid waste list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluted,” the MEP said.

The import ban applies to 24 waste categories, including eight types of post-consumer plastic scrap materials.

“We hope DENR will follow suit and ban plastic waste importation to safeguard human health and the environment,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.






13 January 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Hails Re-Export of South Korean Garbage as “Triumph for Environmental Justice” (Return of waste shipments to South Korea rekindles demand for Canada to take back their garbage)

Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental/Quezon City.  The waste and pollution watch group, EcoWaste Coalition, applauded the departure from the Philippines of 51 containers of illegal garbage exports from South Korea extolling the move as a “triumph for environmental justice, morality and the rule of law.”

Speaking at the ceremonial send-off rites held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT), Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, underscored that “the waste shipments violated Korean and Philippine customs and environmental laws, as well as the Basel Convention,” and “sending the garbage back to its origin is only just, moral and lawful.” 

“Our resolute stance to get the garbage returned to its sender shows how much we, the Filipino people, want our fragile ecosystems to be protected against the adverse effects of waste trafficking, which is a serious threat to our people’s lives, their health and  the environment,” she said.  

To emphasize their stance versus waste trafficking, the group held a banner that reads “stop exporting garbage to the Philippines.”  They also brandished placards saying “we are not a garbage can for Korean waste,” “Korean waste should be treated in Korea,” and “don’t transfer Korean waste to the Philippines.”

“By saying ‘no’ to garbage dumping from Korea and other countries, we say ‘no’ to the derogation of our country’s dignity and sovereignty, ‘no’ to the disrespect for national and international laws, and ‘no’ to the harm they will bring to our communities,” Lucero told the crowd assembled.  

“As a civil society group dedicated to promoting a zero waste and toxics-free Philippines, we promise to remain vigilant to ensure that our country does not become a dumpsite for any country’s garbage,” she assured them.   

MICT Port Collector John Simon echoed Lucero’s stance as he said: “May our victory serve as a lesson to big nations that small nations like the Philippines can rise and fight for its right to have a clean environment free from the hazardous waste of the most powerful and industrialized nations of the world.”

Lucero was quick to point out “the struggle for environmental justice, morality and the rule of law is not yet over” as there are still 5,176.91 tons of bulk waste languishing on a government land in Barangay Santa Cruz, Tagoloan waiting to be sent home.  

“For the sake of the Tagoloan people’s health and their environment, we call upon the Korean government to continue its fruitful cooperation with the Philippine government to ensure the rapid re-export of these wastes to Pyeongtaek City!,” she said.

Last December 27 and 28, 2018, the governments of the Philippines and South Korea resolved to have the 6,500 tons of illegal garbage re-exported to the latter.  Philippine authorities have determined the waste shipments as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health.”

Not forgetting about the 103 containers of reeking Canadian residual wastes disguised as plastic scraps for recycling, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed that “the repatriation of the South Korean garbage to its source should rouse Canada into resolving the festering garbage dumping controversy.”  

It will be recalled that illegal garbage exports from Canada entered the port of Manila in several batches from 2013 to 2014.  In 2015, wastes from 26 of these 103 containers were illegally disposed of at a landfill in Tarlac rubbing salt into the wound.   

Canada ’s indecisiveness to take their reeking garbage back violates the rule of law and is immoral, the  EcoWaste Coalition said.  Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assurance in 2017 that “it is now theoretically possible to get it back,” the Canadian garbage continues to fester with no end in sight, the group lamented.  

The return of the dumped waste to South Korea shows doing the right thing is not just theoretical, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, expressing its hope that Canada will finally come into compliance with the Basel Convention. 

South Korea’s mixed plastic waste cargoes in 51 containers -- wrongly declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” -- were in violation of DENR DAO 2013-22 as per the investigation report by the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB)– Region 10.  The said regulation, which implements the provisions of Republic Act 6969 (Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act), states that “no importation of heterogenous and unsorted plastic materials shall be allowed.”  

EMB inspectors, according to the report, found assorted plastics such as bottles, straws, gloves, shower hose, utensils, toothbrushes, Styrofoams, wrappers and cellophane, as well as textiles, wood, metal rods, vinyl tiles, broken glasses, paper boxes, spray cans, shoes, slippers, gloves, diapers, etc. 

Also found in the shipments were waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE),  popularly known as e-waste, including printers, keyboards, electric fans, cables, cellphone batteries and chargers, dry cell batteries, and LED lamps.

Among the environmental groups present at the send-off rites were the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, Bantayo Aweg, Davao Pobre Bikers Association Ecoteneo-Ateneo de Davao University, Interface Development Interventions Inc., No Burn Pilipinas-Mindanao and the Youth for Climate Justice.