31 August 2014

Zero Waste Group Urges Metro Residents to Temper Throwaway Culture as Churches Mark "Season of Creation"

Photo Courtesy of Dennis Sabangan/EPA
In response to the call by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle for lay participation in the observance of the “Season of Creation,” the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, appealed to Metro Manila’s 12 million residents to embrace waste prevention and recycling as a daily habit.

The group, which espouses  Zero Waste resource management sans incineration, said that the national capital region’s projected waste generation in 2014 of 9,060 tons per day, up from 8,601 in 2012, could be dramatically reduced if all waste generators – a person, household, institution, business and industry – consume responsibly and tame, if not forsake, the ever growing throwaway culture.  

Citing data from the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the EcoWaste Coalition described Metro Manila’s trash as 52% biodegradable, 41% recyclable, and  7% residual.   

“As the Season of Creation is observed, we exhort everyone to reflect on the throwaway culture that has seeped into our consciousness and way of life as if the earth’s resources are limitless,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.  

“As if we live on an infinite planet with perpetual resources to exploit and bottomless dumpsites and landfills to bury our trash,” she added.

“Let us subdue our wasteful culture and shrink our garbage and its toxicity to the minimum by preventing useful stuff that can be reused, repaired, repurposed, recycled or composted from being dumped or incinerated,” she pleaded.

Pope Francis had previously asked the faithful “to combat the culture of waste and of throwing out so as to foster a culture of solidarity and encounter,” Lucero said, recalling the papal message for World Environment Day last year. 

Zero Waste resource management, she pointed out, will not only conserve resources from being squandered while protecting the environment and the climate, but will safeguard the health of people who eke out a living from collecting and recycling waste, including the waste pickers - the least protected sector in the recycling chain.

Zero Waste offers an opportunity to fuse and deepen the inherent linkage between “environmental ecology” and “human ecology,” with the huge potential of enhancing the people’s quality of life, the group noted.

Aside from reminding the public to segregate their discards and refrain from mixed waste disposal and dumping, the group also urged the public to stop the toxic practice of open burning.

A report released last week showed that the open burning of domestic waste “is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere,” saying that “that more than 40 percent of the world's garbage is burned in such fires, with emissions that can substantially affect human health and climate.”




29 August 2014

Labor and Environmental Groups Bat for Greater Public Protection against Lead Exposure

Environmentalists have joined forces with trade unionists in a bid to provide greater protection for the workers, children and the general public against exposure to lead-based paints.

The common plea aired by the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP),  Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP), NAGKAISA Labor Coalition and the EcoWaste Coalition coincided with the 91st anniversary of an International Labor Organization (ILO) convention banning the use of white lead in painting that entered into force on August 31, 1923.

C013, or the White Lead (Painting) Convention, is considered a historic act by the ILO during the time of the League of Nations (the precursor to the United Nations) to control lead levels in paint used on interior areas of housing.

C013, among other provisions, prohibits “the use of white lead and sulphate of lead and of all products containing these pigments, in the internal painting of buildings,” but makes it “permissible to use white pigments containing a maximum of 2 per cent of lead.”

“ILO’s early recognition of the problem with toxic lead in paint was a commendable move indeed. Their effort resulted on a number of countries adopting restrictions on the lead content of paint. As the C013’s 91st anniversary of its entry into force is quietly observed, we find it fitting to call for a review of the landmark agreement for it to be in step with the global consensus to eliminate lead paints that is being advanced by the UN-backed Global  Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP),” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program serve as joint Secretariat for GAELP whose purpose is “to prevent children’s exposure to lead via paints containing lead and to minimize occupational exposures to lead in paint.”

“To get the review process initiated by the ILO’s Governing Board, we urge our government through the Department of Labor and Employment to make the necessary representation and action,” said Josua Mata,Co-Convenor of NAGKAISA, the country’s biggest labor coalition composed of BMP, TUCP, Federation of Free Workers, National Confederation of Labor, Partido ng Manggagawa, Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Manggagawa and other workers’ organizations.

“It’s been over nine decades since C013 entered into force and lead poisoning via exposure to lead contaminated paint chips, dust as well as products such as toys remains a huge threat for the health of children and workers in many countries,” said Allan Tanjusay, Spokesman and Policy Advocacy Officer, ALU-TUCP.

“An updated Convention will surely bring in more measures that will protect paint industry workers and painters from lead exposure,” stated Gie Relova, Secretary-General, BMP National Capital Region.

According to the labor and environmental groups, C013 has to be updated to make it applicable to all lead pigments and dryers, ready-to-use paints, as well as to exterior applications.

They also insisted that the 2% limit, which is equivalent to 20,000 parts per million, has to be radically lowered to mirror current knowledge of the health effects of lead exposure even at lower levels.

An updated C013 will be a boost to the recently promulgated “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds” (CCO) issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Philippines last December2013, the groups said.

The CCO limits lead in paints at 90 ppm and further establishes a three-year phaseout period for leaded decorative paints (2013-2016) and a six-year phaseout period for leaded industrial paints (2013-2019).

The CCO also provides for “regular  basic  awareness,  knowledge  and training  of  employees  and industrial  users  for  appropriate  work practices  to minimize the creation and exposure to  lead hazards during production or on the risks and  hazard potentials  involved in the storage, handling, use, manufacture, transport  and/or  disposal  of generated  wastes of lead  and lead  compounds.”

Citing data from the Asia Regional Paint Report published last March 2014  by IPEN with support from the European Union, 76% of the 803 paint samples from the Philippines and six other Asian countries contained lead at concentrations greater than 90 ppm, and would not be permitted for sale in most highly industrialized countries.

In addition, at least a quarter of the said 803 paint samples contained dangerously high lead levels above 10,000 ppm.




CCO for Lead and Lead Compounds:

Asia Regional Paint Report:


EcoWaste Coalition, launched in 2000, is a public interest network of 150 groups from various sectors and regions promoting sustainable and just solutions to waste, climate and chemical issues.  It is running a “Lead Paint Elimination Project” with support from the European Union and IPEN, a global civil society network for a toxics-free future.

ALU, founded in 1954, champions the ideals of free trade unionism.  It is affiliated with the TUCP, the biggest confederation of labor federations in the Philippines, and with four global union federations, including the Building and Wood Workers International (BWI).

BMP (Solidarity of Filipino Workers), formed in 1993, is a political labor center, composed of socialist, militant and democratic organizations of the working class, from both the formal and informal sector.  It is a member of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and International Center for Labor Solidarity (ICLS).

NAGKAISA, established in 2011, is a multi-ideological and multiform network of labor organizations, consisting of over 50 labor centers, federations and national unions.

28 August 2014

125 Intense Chemical Odor Releases Detected from Cavite Hazardous Facility

August 28, 2014, Silang, Cavite. In the span of six weeks, residents of Barangay Maguyam, a populated but highly industrialized barangay in Silang, Cavite, detected 129 intense chemical odor releases from different facilities, 125 of which came from a controversial hazardous waste treatment facility.

“We are constantly suffering from foul smells coming from the hazardous waste treatment facility of Cleanway Environmental Management Solution Inc. (CEMSI). We can smell chemical odors day and night and these smells are always so strong that they trigger headaches, nausea, eye irritation, stomach aches and induce vomiting especially in our children,” said Erlinda Olivo, a volunteer community environmental monitor.

Located inside the Meridian Industrial Complex, the Cleanway facility is one of the biggest hazardous waste treatment facilities in the country. The company treats various hazardous waste ranging from acid and alkaline waste to pesticides, infectious and special waste containing heavy metals.

From the 16th of May to 26th of June 2014, Olivo and other volunteer monitors recorded all the odors that they encounter in their day-to-day activities and described these and the immediate health impacts that they felt upon encountering the odors. Aside from 126 chemical odor incidents, the volunteers also recorded 21 different chemical odors coming from the facility of CEMSI such as the smell of rotten egg, paint, mixed waste, human feces and others.

Upon smelling these odors, the volunteers felt splitting headache, nausea, dryness of throat, throat itchiness, difficulty in breathing, eye irritation and stomach ache.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued a Notice of Violation (NOV) against CEMSI in September 2013 for the company’s failure to address chemical odor leaks, poor handling and storage of hazardous waste, absence of wastewater treatment and dumping of untreated hazardous wastes in their landfill.

“It is evident that Cleanway continues to violate our environmental laws. Yet, DENR continues to do nothing and treats these foul odors coming from the plant as a mere nuisance rather than attribute these smells to possible chemical pollution. The people have the right to know what the industries around them are releasing to the environment. Full public pollution disclosure will avert ecological degradation and minimize, if not prevent, future chemical leaks and disasters from happening,” said Eloisa Tolentino, Coordinator of Cavite Green Coalition (CGC).

CEMSI has already received various complaints in the past years due to chemical leaks from its plant and its poor environmental compliance. In October 2009, more than 100 residents were hospitalized for various complaints such as dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty of breathing and asthma attacks due to extremely strong chemical smells coming from Cleanway.

Lack of systematic ambient air monitoring and the non-disclosure of industries’ emissions data have prevented Maguyam residents to determine the quality of the air that they breathe and identify the presence of chemicals that could have short or long term effects on their health.

To generate their own data, Olivo and other barangay residents underwent training on community environmental monitoring which was facilitated by CGC and the Philippine Pollution Monitor in partnership with EcoWaste Coalition.

The Maguyam environmental monitors continue to systematically record chemical odor incidents coming from CEMSI and other industries in Maguyam. 

27 August 2014

EcoWaste Coalition: Toxic Counterfeit Cosmetics: A Costly Choice for Your Health and Wallet

Counterfeit cosmetics are cheaper and pleasing to the purse, but may be laden with hazardous ingredients that can result to long-term ailments and hefty medical bills, the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, warned.

Taking its cue from a recent US news report about excessive lead in a counterfeit version of a “MAC Mineralize Skinfinish “compact powder, the group went to 999 Shopping Mall in Divisoria, Manila on August 25 and bought a fake MAC for P150.

The original version of the said item, which has the obligatory product notification from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), sells for P2,050 from an official MAC store at TriNoma Shopping Mall in Quezon City, the group said.

Based on the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, the counterfeit MAC compact foundation had 997 parts per million (ppm) of lead, way above the 20 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

Lead, a neurological and reproductive toxin and endocrine disrupting chemical, is strictly prohibited in the manufacturing of cosmetics under the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources last December 2013.

“We make this information known to the public not to endorse any company or product line, but to educate and alert our consumers, both women and men, about the health risks of using toxic cosmetics and personal care products,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Cosmetics, be it an original or imitation, should not contain harmful ingredients and impurities that can cause allergies, infections and other more serious damage to the body, and endanger a person’s reproductive health,” she pointed out.   

Citing information from the website of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Lucero reiterated that “lead is a well-known and proven neurotoxin that has been linked to learning, language and behavioral problems and has been linked to reduced fertility in both men  and women, hormonal changes and menstrual irregularities.”

“Pregnant women are especially vulnerable because lead crosses the placenta and may enter the fetal brain, and (lead exposure) has also been linked to miscarriage,” said the non-profit coalition that is based at the Breast Cancer Fund in US.   

To avoid toxic exposure via cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to:

- Buy from a licensed retailer, not from unauthorized sidewalk vendors, mall stalls, online dealers and other unofficial traders, and get a valid receipt.
- Check the FDA website at www.fda.gov.ph to confirm if the product is duly registered.

- Have doubts about the authenticity of the product if its price is drastically cheaper.

- Scrutinize the product packaging and note any difference in color, font or design.

- Carefully read the product information, including the ingredients, batch number and manufacturing details.




25 August 2014

EcoWaste Coalition Backs People's Initiative to Abolish Pork Barrel System, Says "Zero Corruption, Zero Waste"

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, has expressed support for the abolition of the pork barrel system through a people’s initiative.

At the multisectoral “Stand Up, Sign Up” rally held in Rizal Park today, the group proudly put up a handmade paper banner that says “zero corruption, zero waste,” their battle cry.

The green activists also wielded walis tingting (broomsticks) to stress the need to sweep out corruption that has seeped into the whole government through the “toxic” pork barrel scheme.
“We reject the toxic pork barrel system that has made corruption and patronage deeply ingrained in our nation’s politics,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is toxic because it is acting as or having the effect of a poison, inflicting serious harm to the government and the people it is meant to serve,” she explained.

“By doing away with the pork barrel system, once and for all, we can stop this poison of corruption and injustice and establish accountability and transparency in the government that we crave for,” she added.

“Zero corruption will translate to zero waste of public funds, which should be solely used to improve our people’s quality of life and protect the environment, and not to enrich private pockets,” she emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition lamented that the embezzled P10-B pork barrel funds could have been used to support the implementation of underfunded environmental laws such as Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

The stolen funds could have been utilized to build grassroots understanding and support for zero waste resource management as envisioned under the said law, the group said.

The plundered funds could have supported efforts to close, clean up and rehabilitate polluting open dumpsites across the country, and their replacement with sustainable and socially just solutions, it added.

Joining the delegation of the EcoWaste Coalition were members of the Cavite Green Coalition and Zero Waste Philippines.