18 April 2014

More Photos: The Trashing of the 2014 Lenten Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City, 17-18 April 2014

EcoWaste Laments the Trashing of Streets as an Unholy Act of Penance (Group Commends Street Sweepers and Waste Recyclers for Picking Up after the Pilgrims)

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, minced no words to criticize the widespread littering that again marred the annual Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday.
“The massive littering of major streets by pilgrims who were supposed to fulfill an act of penance is unholy, unkind and unacceptable,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Why dirty the environment with garbage as we beg for forgiveness for our sins and renew our faith?  Why spoil the air with cigarette smoke as we seek reconciliation with the Lord,” she asked.

“We respect our people’s freedom of belief and religion, but it should never be at the expense of the public health and the environment,” she pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers lamented seeing major thoroughfares leading to Antipolo City, particularly Ortigas Avenue Extension from Pasig City, littered with various trash.

“Garbage was most visible in areas where people congregate and rest such as the environs of churches, the areas surrounding the Stations of the Cross, as well as in street junctions, parking lots and open spaces in front of shopping malls,” the Basura Patrollers said.

Like in previous Alay-Lakad activities, the Basura Patrollers spotted cigarette butts, plastic bags, food packaging, polystyrene coffee cups, paper noodle bowls, “suman” wrappers, and soiled newspapers everywhere, “as if it was a feast day for disposables and litterbugs.”  

As if the trashing of the streets was not enough, litterbugs shamelessly left a carpet of used newspapers and other discards on the ground of the Antipolo Cathedral and the adjacent Dimasalang Park despite constant reminder from the Oplan Semana  Santa Command Post for the public to dispose of their trash in proper receptacles, the Basura Patrollers said.

A biblical reminder from 1 Thessalonians 4:7, which says “for God has not called us to uncleanness, but in holiness,” was repeatedly broadcast from the public address system to encourage the throngs of pilgrims to keep the area clean, but to little avail.

It is some consolation to note, the EcoWaste Coalition said, that dozens of informal waste recyclers were quick to see the livelihood opportunity in such a mammoth event as they collected paper and plastic recyclables and thus reducing the volume of discards to be hauled and sent to the landfill by the city’s waste personnel.

The group likewise commended the hundreds of street sweepers assigned by the city governments of Antipolo and Pasig and the municipal governments of Cainta and Taytay for the round-the-clock cleanup efforts along the penitential route.

“The garbage situation would have been far worse if not for the service rendered by the street sweepers and the waste recyclers who picked up trash by hand during and after the penitential walk,” Lucero said.

R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits and penalizes acts that could put the public health and the environment at risk, particularly the littering, dumping and burning of garbage.

Litterbugs can be penalized with a fine of P300 to P1,000, compelled to render community service at the local government unit (LGU) where the act was committed or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition called the attention of the public to avoid some souvenir items sold in Antipolo City that may pose risk to human health for containing excessive amounts of lead, a potent neurotoxin.

The souvenir products were purchased for P130 to P15 each from street vendors on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence screening device for toxic metals, the group detected lead up to 5,984 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm for lead in paints, in some key chains and religious figures that are coated with paint.

An angel candle holder had 5,984 ppm of lead, while a statue of the Holy Child and a statue of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (also known as the Virgin of Antipolo) had 4,029 ppm and 1,794 ppm of lead, respectively.

A “suman” key chain had 5,409 ppm of lead, a pencil key chain had 4,282 and a cashew key chain had 2,017 ppm of lead.

“We hope that our discovery of toxic lead in some of Antipolo’s favorite mementos would encourage souvenir makers to stop the use of lead paint for consumer health and safety,” Lucero said.    

15 April 2014

Litter-Free, Smoke-Free Lenten Alay-Lakad Urged (Faithful Urged to Heed Pope Francis: "Counter the Culture of Waste and Disposable")

A waste and pollution watchdog group has requested Catholic devotees joining the Alay-Lakad to Antipolo City on Maundy Thursday to make the penitential walk free of trash and cigarette smoke.

At the same time, the group reminded the devotees to pay attention to the advice made by Pope Francis for the Catholic faithful to “counter the culture of waste and disposable.”

“We appeal to the pilgrims, particularly the youth, to treat the streets leading to Antipolo with due respect and shun littering that has literally turned past Alay-Lakad into Alay-Kalat, creating mounds of trash along the way,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We fear that litterbugs will again rear their ugly heads and defile the sacrificial walk that hordes of people do in memory of Christ the Redeemer to affirm their faith, seek atonement and ask forgiveness for past wrongs,” she said.

“Even the hallowed ground of the Antipolo Cathedral is not spared as  improvised sleeping materials such as newspapers are left scattered by some devotees,” she lamented.

Among the discards often left abandoned in streets and sidewalks are food and beverage materials such as disposable plastic bags, bottles, containers, cups and straws and snack wrappers, as well as bamboo skewers, food leftovers, soiled papers and cigarette filters.

“We also often see pilgrims puffing on cigarettes as they perform their act of penance and then throwing the butts anywhere, unmindful of the hazards of tobacco smoke and the toxins in the butt waste,” she added.

“We hope that smokers will refrain from smoking during the Alay-Lakad for their own health and the health of people around them.  Please give up smoking even only for a day.  Of course, the better choice would be to quit smoking altogether,” she suggested.

“Ensuring that this year’s Alay-Lakad will be litter-free and smoke-free will be consistent with the Pope’s plea for environmental responsibility, and we hope that everyone will heed his wise counsel,” she said.

Last year, during the World Environment Day, the Pope said “
I would like us all to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter.”

The Pope further emphasized the need to “cultivate and care” for the environment, saying it is part of God’s plan that man “nurture[s] the world with responsibility,” transforming it into a “garden, a habitable place for everyone.”




13 April 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Finds Toxic Lead in Some Religious Statues

Lead, a neurotoxic chemical impinging on brain function and development, was detected in some religious sculpture with paint coatings.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, made the discovery after screening religious statues bought today,  Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week,  from sidewalk vendors in the vicinity of the historic Quiapo Church in Manila.

The images, all made of fiberglass and with decorative coatings, are sold from P200 to P400 each.

“We respect the practice of the Catholic faithful to kiss or touch religious icons to express their belief as well as to seek divine guidance and intercession,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“However, the frequent kissing or touching of revered statues or wiping them with handkerchiefs or towels may cause their paint coatings to be disturbed and to come off in time,” he said.

“Chipping paint raises a health concern, particularly if the paint contains lead and contaminates the dust that humans, especially young children, pregnant and nursing women, may ingest or inhale as they kiss or touch the sculpture,” he explained.  

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group screened the paint coatings on six religious statues for lead, a toxic substance used as pigment in some enamel paints.

A chemical control order (CCO) for lead and lead compounds issued by the Department of
Environment and Natural Resources last December 2013 has set a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paints, and has further established a phaseout period by 2016 for leaded decorative paints and 2019 for leaded industrial paints.

As per XRF screening, the following religious statues were found to contain excessive levels of lead:

1.  An 11-inch Santo Niño de la Pera worth P250 had 33,300 ppm of lead.
2.  A 5-inch Familia Sagrada worth P200 had 8,785 ppm of lead.
3.  An 11-inch St. Joseph worth P250 had 8,774 ppm of lead.
4.  An 8-inch St. Therese of Lisieux worth P200 had 7,880 ppm of lead.
5.  A 16-inch San Roque worth P400 had 7,257 ppm of lead.
6.  A 9-inch Blessed Pope John Paul II worth P200 had 1,146 ppm of lead.

To eliminate the risk of lead exposure from the popular custom of kissing or touching religious statues, the EcoWaste Coalition urged manufacturers to substitute lead paint with unleaded paint and duly put proper labels on their products to assist consumers in exercising informed choice.

“We also urge the Catholic Church to employ its moral authority to persuade manufacturers to create and sell only lead-safe religious statues for public health and safety,” Dizon said.

“The cooperation of statue makers will help in minimizing lead hazards in a child’s environment from a highly preventable source,” he stressed.

“We further suggest that only lead-safe paints are used in church-run facilities, including the interiors and exteriors of churches, hospitals and schools, as an essential measure to prevent lead exposure,” he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern.”  The WHO has confirmed “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

According to WHO, “at high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioral disruption.

“At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms, and that previously were considered safe, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems,” the WHO said.

“In particular lead affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as shortening of attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment,” the WHO explained.


08 April 2014

QC Environmentalists Caution City Government against Falling into the Incineration Trap

Quezon City-based zero waste advocates expressed dismay over a resolution adopted by the City Council asking the House of Representatives to lift the ban on waste incineration under two of the country’s foremost environmental laws.

Von Hernandez, Sonia Mendoza and Joey Papa, QC residents and vocal environmental leaders, decried such move by the city’s councillors, warning that tinkering with the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003 will cause a death blow to ongoing waste prevention and recycling initiatives and lead to further degradation of the environment.

R.A. 8749, the Clean Air Act, prohibits the “burning of municipal, bio-medical and hazardous wastes, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes,” while R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, promotes “the adoption of best environmental practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”

“This is regressive and despicable move on the part of the City Council.  Not only does it betray the QC government’s utter inability to implement real solutions already prescribed in law.  It also shows that these politicians would not hesitate to burn and waste taxpayers’ money on polluting facilities,” said Von Hernandez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“What is being presented as a ‘quick fix’ is actually a scheme to increase the already stratospheric costs of waste management and disposal in QC.  The public has a right to ask who will be benefitting from this proposal,” said Hernandez, who is also the Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"The trouble with ‘quick fix’ measures is they usually compound the problem.  Waste-to-energy incinerators will compound the garbage problem by increasing health hazards from waste. What QC needs is to aggressively reduce the garbage it produces by securing cooperation of residents.  That may be long and slow but it is sustainable,” said Shalimar Vitan, Asia-Pacific Coordinator, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.
For her part, Sonia Mendoza, President of the Mother Earth Foundation, reminded the councillors that “incinerators emit loads of pollutants, including cancer-causing dioxins that can put the health of people at grave risk.”
“Incinerator peddlers would always say ‘nothing to worry, it’s zero emission,’ but even the most technologically advanced waste burners with expensive, high-tech emission control devices still emit various contaminants, often failing emission standards,” she said. 

“And in whose backyard are they planning to dispose of the hazardous ash after combustion?,” she asked. 

Joey Papa, President of Bangon Kalikasan Movement said that “incineration terminates the resource cycle and competes with recycling, which is beneficial for the people, the economy and the environment.”
“Instead of being fixated with this lazy man’s dangerous technology, our city officials should focus on optimizing recycling and providing incentives for households to separate their discards at source, recycle and compost,” he said.
According to the environmentalists, the incineration ban under the two laws has, among others benefits, prevented waste resource from being converted into hazardous ash, prevented pollutants from contaminating the air, water and soil and the food supply, and prevented funds from being wasted for expensive, imported and unnecessary materials destruction technology.
“If only properly enforced, both R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003 would have assisted in eliminating waste and pollution and move the nation to a more sustainable path through the adoption of zero waste principles and practices,” they said.