14 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition to Candidates: Please Don't Give Away Toxic Baller Wristbands

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, urged political aspirants to think twice before ordering baller bands as giveaways for the upcoming national and local polls in 2016.

The group issued the precautionary warning after finding lead, a toxic chemical, in mostly polyvinyl chloride (PVC) rubber baller wristbands that it bought from Divisoria retailers for P10 per piece.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence analyzer, the group detected lead in 27 out of 30 samples of baller bands in the range of 1,325 to 8,465 parts per million (ppm) of which 15 had lead content above 4,000 ppm.  Lead was not detected in the other 3 non-PVC baller bands.

“Made-to-order baller bands are popular campaign giveaways.  Sadly, not all baller bands are equal as there are types that contain harmful chemicals,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Dizon zeroed in on PVC baller bands laden with lead, a heavy metal, which according to the World Health Organization (WHO)” is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”

“While not originally intended for kids, these wrist accessories may end up in children’s hands and mouths and directly expose them to lead, a hazardous substance that attacks the brain and the central nervous system,” he said. 

WHO has warned that “there is  no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

Aside from lead, PVC baller bands may contain other dangerous chemical additives such as phthalates that are added to the material to give it some useful properties, including elasticity and malleability.

To avoid giving away toxic campaign souvenirs, the EcoWaste Coalition advised candidates, political parties and party-list groups to obtain certificate of analysis from vendors to confirm the non-presence of lead and other chemicals of concerns not only in baller bands, but in all other campaign materials.

“In this manner, political aspirants avoid spending for campaign stuff that can poison human health and harm the environment,” Dizon said.

The careful selection of campaign materials to buy, show or give will benefit the public health and the environment as this will:

a. prevent chemicals of major public health concern from being introduced to the market and the environment;

b. avoid potential human exposure to dangerous substances;

c. cut trade in products containing harmful chemicals;

d. push consumer demand for non-toxic products; and

e. reduce disposal of toxic-laden waste materials in cement kilns, incinerators, dumpsites and landfills.




12 October 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Urges COMELEC, Candidates to “Green” Poll Campaign

An environmental watchdog group dared the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and all political wannabes to “green” the electoral campaign as aspirants for elective posts file their certificates of candidacy (COCs) this week.

At a rally held in front of the COMELEC headquarters in Intramuros, the EcoWaste Coalition  urged Chairman Andres Bautista  “to take proactive steps to safeguard not only the sanctity of the ballot,  but also to protect the environment from being degraded further due to  irresponsible campaign activities for the 2016 polls.”

Through a letter, the group requested COMELEC “to exercise its authority to enjoin candidates and their campaign machineries to commit to ‘green’ their campaign and do away with the traditional ‘guns, goons, gold and garbage’ that have long typified our vibrant but ecologically flawed democratic exercise.”

EcoWaste Coalition’s Zero Waste Campaigner Tin Vergara stated that “we need to change the way we conduct our elections as the country’s environment degenerates due to ever increasing resource extraction and pollution from chemicals and wastes.”

“Greening the campaign track from the filing of COCs to post-election cleanup is not rocket science.   What is needed is for the candidates and their backers to turn apathy towards the environment into simple acts of compassion for Mother Earth such as by not littering and burning campaign materials,” she said.

“Instead of the four Gs (guns, goons, gold and garbage), the entire nation should rally behind the three Rs (reduce, reuse , recycle) and make the elections less wasteful and kinder to the environment,” she added.

The group insisted that the COMELEC, with its legal and moral authority, should throw down the gauntlet to presidential bets Binay, Duterte,  Poe, Roxas and other aspiring public servants for them to embrace ecologically-responsible campaign activities that meet the minimum requirements of the country’s electoral, health and environmental laws.

Among the group’s recommendations for the “greening” of the 2016 polls, include updating, re-issuing and enforcing COMELEC Resolution No. 9615, which “encourages parties and candidates to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda.”

The group also urged COMELEC to re-issue the Memorandum Circular on “Basura-Free Elections” that it released along with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2013 to, among other things, “reduce the amount of generated waste during the campaign, election, and post-election periods.”

The EcoWaste Coalition further submitted a number of other specific proposals for the COMELEC to consider, including:

A. Requiring all individuals and groups running for election to sign a Memorandum of Agreement stipulating the obligation of candidates to comply with lawful and environmentally-friendly campaign practices, including a mandatory post-campaign clean up.

B. Incorporating environmental responsibility in the COMELEC’s public information drive for clean, orderly, peaceful, honest and fair elections.

C. Regulating campaign motorcades, if not imposing an outright ban, to address rising problems with traffic congestion, air pollution and climate change, especially in urban centers such as Metro Manila.

“While not legally forbidden, we ask COMELEC to join us in asking all candidates and their supporters to desist from throwing confetti, exploding firecrackers and fireworks and releasing balloons and sky lanterns during their campaign activities for health and safety concerns,” the EcoWaste Coalition said

During the elections held in 2007, 2010 and 2013, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented how the country’s  electoral as well as health and environmental laws were ignored by candidates and their supporters in their efforts to campaign and win.

Some of the more familiar lapses include:

A.  The unchecked use of campaign materials that are seldom reused or recycled such as tarpaulins, posters and buntings, and confetti in campaign rallies.

B.  The uncontrolled plastering of campaign posters outside COMELEC-designated areas, most notoriously on trees, electric posts and walls

C.  The hanging of campaign flaglets, lanterns and streamers in streets and alleys;

D.  The display of “indirect” campaign-related banners such as graduation and fiesta “greetings” and announcements extolling the projects and achievements of politicians;

E.  The unregulated noise from mobile political propaganda and during campaign meetings;

F.  The rampant distribution and littering of sample ballots on election day;

G.  The open burning of campaign waste, which, like littering, is a prohibited act under RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act; and

H.  The massive use of polystyrene containers for drinks and meals served inside the polling centers for members of the Board of Election Inspectors, poll watchers and volunteers, and the lack of an ecological systems for managing discards such as food leftovers and their single-use containers.

I.  The failure to immediately remove campaign materials after the election period.


11 October 2015

Environmental Watchdog Promotes Composting and Organic Farming at Food Fair

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit watchdog group for a toxic-free environment, today urged the public to go for organic products and to compost biodegradable discards towards an ecologically sustainable food system and zero waste community.

As part of the Green  Action Week, a global campaign spearheaded by Consumers International and the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, the EcoWaste Coalition co-organized with the Barangay Philam in Quezon City an “Organic Food and Farming Fair” that lured citizens to “go organic” and also to exchange information and knowledge on ecological living.

Speaking at the opening of the event, Dr. Romeo Quijano, President of Pesticide Action Network-Philippines said that “patronizing organic foods will support our farmers’ efforts to curb extensive dependence on hazardous pesticides and synthetic fertilizers and restore ecosystem-based agriculture that is good for consumer health and is also climate and environment-friendly.”

Quijano, a toxicologist, added that the propagation of agroecology will protect farmers and farm workers from occupational and accidental exposures to hazardous substances used in the agricultural sector, many of which can cause serious injuries.

Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, described “composting as probably the cheapest and smartest strategy that consumers as citizens can adopt to address our nation’s mounting waste generation and the resultant disposal problem, as well as deal with our soil’s diminishing fertility and the rising toxic load on our natural ecosystems.”

Composting, Vergara explained, is nature’s way of recycling biodegradable discards such as kitchen and food waste, garden and farm waste, and other organics, which constitute over half of the generated wastes nationwide.

“With composting, we can improve the fertility of the soil, provide essential nutrients to plants, protect plants from pests and diseases, and cut use on toxic farm inputs,” she said.

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, expressed hope that more communities will promote composting and organic farming to achieve cleaner, greener and safer communities.

At the event, the shoppers and visitors also had the chance of learning about urban gardening, composting and ecological solid waste management, as well as Quezon City’s collection program for busted lamps and used batteries.

Aside from Barangay Philam residents, the event also drew participants from community groups Buklod Tao (San Mateo, Rizal), Piglas Kababaihan (Quezon City), Zone One Tondo Organization (Manila) and the Cavite Green Coalition.

The event was also graced by Environmental Management Bureau Director Juan Miguel Cuna, National Solid Waste Management Commission Executive Director Eli Ildefonso, Barangay Philam Chairman Simplicio Hermogenes, former Quezon City Councilor  Elizabeth Delarmente, Philippine Association of Supermarkets President Carlos Cabochan and EcoWaste Coalition Treasurer Eloisa Tolentino. 

Among the exhibitors of fresh and processed organic foods and other eco-products were the Balangay Cooperative, Buklod Tao, Dumagat Tribe, Taguig Waterlily Livelihood Program, Shoreline Kabalikat sa Kaunlaran, Sibol ng Agham at Teknolohiya, Villar Foundation and several organic farming practitioners.  . 


06 October 2015

Environmentalists to Push for “Zero Waste” at Summit of Conscience for the Climate


Environmental advocates vowed to espouse waste prevention and reduction measures as ethical and practical solutions to global warming and climate change at a historic summit spearheaded by Senator Loren Legarda.

On October 9, the Senate Committee on Climate Change, together with the Climate Change Commission, Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Embassy of France, will convene the Summit of Conscience for the Climate “to inspire Filipinos to act against climate change by caring for our environment.”

Environmentalist Sonia Mendoza, one of the speakers, welcomed the summit as an opportunity “to steer greater citizen and government support to ecological waste management to overcome society’s dependency on landfills and incinerators.”                          

Mendoza, who is Chairperson of Mother Earth Foundation and concurrent President of the EcoWaste Coalition, hoped that the summit “will generate renewed interest and commitment to climate-friendly zero waste strategies, including waste reduction, reuse, recycling and composting that save resources and energy while creating jobs and livelihoods.”  

To demonstrate the advantage of the zero waste approach, Mendoza cited the study “More Jobs, Less Pollution: Growing the Recycling Economy in US,” which “provides strong evidence that an enhanced national recycling and composting strategy in the United States can significantly and sustainably address critical national priorities including climate change, lasting job creation, and improved health.”

The said study, for instance, estimates that a 75 percent diversion rate for municipal solid waste and construction and demolition debris by 2030 in US alone will result to lower greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to shutting down 72 of the country’s coal power plants, while generating 2.3 million jobs. 

As politicians gear up for the 2016 polls, Mendoza further urged those seeking elective posts to emphasize climate and environmental protection in their platforms and to walk the talk by campaigning in a responsible manner that will not cause harm to humans and the ecosystems. 

“We need a new breed of political leaders who will stand up and take action for climate, environmental, health, gender and social justice.  In particular, we need leaders who will champion the enforcement of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other environmental laws,” she said. 

At the summit, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers will distribute brochures published by the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the International POPs Elimination Network describing how zero waste strategies are able to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants, mercury and other dangerous pollutants, among other advantages.

The Summit of Conscience for the Climate in Manila is an adaptation of the first Summit held on July 21, 2015 in Paris, France where various political, faith, culture and arts and environmental leaders met to influence negotiations at an upcoming United Nations conference.   

On November 30 to December 11, negotiators and other stakeholders will troop to Paris for the much anticipated 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework on Climate Change (COP21) and hopefully reach agreement aimed at keeping global warming below 2°C.



05 October 2015

Groups Push Improved Information Sharing within ASEAN to Protect Consumers from Unsafe Products

As the nation observes the Consumer Welfare Month (CWM) this October, public interest groups urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to strengthen mechanisms for sharing product hazard and safety information as the region moves towards economic integration.

The Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly called for improved information sharing on product recalls and product safety-related incidents in line with this year’s theme for the CWM: "Consumer Protection in the Asean Economic Community."

“As various sectors tackle the hurdles towards regional economic integration, ASEAN member states need to work double time to bolster consumer product safety regulations to protect consumers from inferior quality and unsafe products, including those sold in e-commerce, that can put consumer health at risk,” said Rene Pineda, President of CRSF, a member group of the National Consumer Affairs Council.

“In line with the consumer right to know, current mechanisms for sharing information on products that pose serious threats to health as well as to the environment should be reviewed and strengthened and be made more publicly available,” added Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

A system for more efficient notification and public disclosure procedures on hazardous and substandard products have become more important as impediments for cross-border trade are removed, especially with the emergence of on-line commerce, the groups said.

The ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection (ACCP) launched in 2012 the website www.aseanconsumer.org to serve as the main reference point for consumers on matters pertaining to certain banned or recalled products.

The website contains “Lists of Official Recalled/Banned Products and Voluntary Recalled/Banned Products in ASEAN” based on submissions by member states.

The effectiveness of the said website, the groups said, should be reviewed with inputs from all stakeholders to determine necessary improvements that should be introduced.

According to the ASEAN-published “Consumer Protection Digests and Case Studies: A Policy Guide,” “defective  products  impose  various  direct  and indirect  costs  on  consumers and  the  broader  community.”

“A particular concern in developed countries worldwide (and increasingly now  middle-income countries), including among ASEAN Member States, has been  the influx of low-priced manufactured goods from major exporting nations,” the report said.

“ASEAN  Member  States  are  also  increasingly  integrated  into  pan-Asian production chains, with components being sourced in the region for assembly and  exporting  to  developed  country  markets  through  a  rapidly  growing network of free trade agreements,” the report also noted.