29 March 2020

Prayers of the Faithful for the Heroic Health Workers on the Frontline of COVID-19 Fight

In response to the call for prayers today, 29 March 2020, by the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for the country’s medical frontliners against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the women and men of the EcoWaste Coalition earnestly offer the following prayers:

1.  For the doctors, nurses, clinical laboratory technicians, administrative personnel, ancillary staff, paramedics, funeral home and crematorium workers, as well as volunteers, that they may remain healthy -- physically, mentally and emotionally -- as they continue putting their own lives at risk to be of service to others in these troubled times (Lord, hear our prayer);

2.  For the families of healthcare workers and other frontliners to have hope, serenity and peace of mind that their loved ones will be spared of coronavirus infection as they perform their all-important services for society (Lord, hear our prayer);  

3.  For all healthcare frontliners to be provided with continuous supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as medical-grade masks, facecovers, goggles and gowns to protect themselves from being exposed to the dreaded coronavirus in the line of duty (Lord, hear our prayer);

4.  For the bereaved families of healthcare frontliners who succumbed to COVID-19 to find solace in the fact that the whole nation is with them in spirit as they mourn the passing of their loved ones (Lord, hear our prayer)

5.  For healthcare frontliners undergoing home quarantine not to develop symptoms of coronavirus infection and for them to be able to re-join their colleagues on the frontline of the fight against COVID-19 outbreak (Lord, hear our prayer);

6.  For more doctors, nurses and other medical professionals and volunteers to come forward to replace those who have fallen ill and to attend to the growing number of COVID-19 cases (Lord, hear our prayer);  
7.  For the stigma and discrimination being faced by some healthcare frontliners to come to an end, and for such paranoia to be replaced with love and respect that all frontliners deserve for their selfless and most courageous service in the face of an invisible enemy (Lord, hear our prayer);

8.  For local government units, hotels, churches and other institutions to open their facilities to healthcare workers and other frontliners where they can adequately and comfortably rest and recharge after work (Lord, hear our prayer);

9.  For the government and hospital authorities to also look after the mental health of frontliners, ensuring their access to counseling services and other mechanisms to cope with fatigue and stress (Lord, hear our prayer); and    

10.  For us, the Filipino people, to express our deepest gratitude to all healthcare workers and other frontliners by staying at home during the COVID-19 lockdown, observing basic protective measures, and by caring for ourselves, our families and communities during these trying times.

Lord, hear all our prayers.  Amen. 

28 March 2020

Zero Waste Groups Push for Home Composting in the Time of COVID-19

The anticipated increase in domestic food scraps as millions heed the government’s stay-at-home order in the face of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic prompted zero waste groups to make a strong pitch for home composting.

Through a joint press statement, non-profits Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition urged the general public to embrace easy on the pocket composting methods to recycle kitchen and garden waste into excellent soil conditioner and organic fertilizer during the quarantine period and beyond.

According to the “Solid Waste Management Made Easy” published by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, “composting is an inexpensive way of reducing the volume of trash (that) makes use of the natural process of decay and breakdown of organic matter through the action of microorganisms in the soil.”

“Composting is the most practical way of halving our waste production since food waste and other organics make up 50 percent or more of the waste we generate and dispose of.  You don't need a fancy machine to do it at home; your 10 fingers will do!  Without doubt, composting will drastically reduce the volume of waste materials requiring disposal during the global coronavirus public health emergency, while generating essential nutrients to enhance soil health,” said Noli Abinales, founder of Buklod Tao, trustee of the EcoWaste Coalition and an avid composter.

“Composting is also an effective strategy in mitigating climate change, the other global emergency facing humanity," Abinales pointed out.  "It is the easiest way of halting the formation of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, in mixed waste dumps and landfills." 

To reduce household waste disposal during the COVID-19 outbreak, the EcoWaste Coalition and Buklod Tao encouraged households to try these 12 easy steps to home composting:

1.  Separate biodegradable waste (fruit and vegetable peelings, egg and seafood shells, dry leaves, grass cuttings, twigs, etc.) from non-biodegradables or recyclables.

2.  Choose the right size and type for your composter (pile, pit, pot, or any container) depending on how much compostable waste your household generates. 

3.  Select a convenient location for your composter, preferably one that is even, well-drained, and sun-drenched.

4.  Chop biodegradable wastes into small pieces for easy decomposition. Paper that is not suitable for recycling such as heavily soiled or greasy paper or box can be composted (shred them, too).

5.  Mix the chopped dry and wet biodegradables so that the mixture is not too wet or too dry. Place the mixture into the composter.

6.  Start with a layer of coarse materials such as dry leaves and twigs to allow for aeration and drainage.

7.  Add kitchen and garden waste as they accumulate, alternating green nitrogen-rich materials and brown carbon-rich materials.

8.  Place a thin layer of soil on top of the materials and sprinkle it with a small amount of water.

9.  Continue to add layers until the composter is full.

10.  Maintain the composter; turn the materials once a week to aerate the pile to help the breakdown process and get rid of the smell.

11.  When the interior of the pile is no longer hot and the materials have turned into dark and crumbly soil, composting is finished.

12. Harvest and use your compost as a soil conditioner or fertilizer.

“Using up all the compost and planting on all plantable containers such as empty cans, plastic bottles and others will further help in reducing the volume of trash that goes to the dump,” the groups added.




26 March 2020

Green Group Encourages Households to Reduce Waste during the COVID-19 Lockdown

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has appealed to all households to cut down on trash produced and disposed of during the novel coronavirus contagion.

While the volume of commercial waste has declined as expected due to the closure of most establishments in a bid to keep the contagion in check, the amount of household waste may increase with more people staying at home, consuming more perishables, or ordering ready-to-eat food wrapped in single-use packaging, the group said.

“As we need to reduce what we throw away in normal and even in abnormal times, we appeal to each and every household to take concrete steps to avoid the production of garbage,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

According to the group, preventing and reducing the generation of household garbage during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak will yield a number of benefits for human health and the environment such as the following:

1.  Protecting residents and waste workers from being exposed to disease-causing germs.
2.  Depriving disease-carrying pests such as mosquitoes and rats of places to breed and live.
3.  Avoiding the disposal of useful resources that can be repaired, reused, recycled or composted.
4.  Minimizing single-use plastic packaging waste.
5.  Reducing greenhouse gases formed in disposal sites, such as methane from food and yard waste, that contributes to climate change.
6.  Preventing the leakage of waste and chemical pollutants into the marine ecosystems that can threaten aquatic life.

The group also emphasized the importance of separating discards as a key measure to control potential coronavirus infection of formal and informal waste workers who often handle waste with minimal protective masks, gloves, and garments.  

“While the coronavirus is transmitted mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets, it is also possible for a person to get infected by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching his mouth, nose or eyes.  This is why we need to be extra careful on how used face masks, tissues and wipes are disposed of, which are often mixed with other trash and collected by unprotected waste workers,” he said.

To curb wasteful and unhealthy practices, as well as to keep trash safe for waste workers to handle, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with these 25-point ecofriendly suggestions in the time of coronavirus:

1.  Prepare a list of things you need before heading out to the grocery, supermarket or public market to avoid frequent trips outside, as well as the long queues due to the physical distancing being enforced.

2.  Plan ahead, write out your daily and weekly meal plan and stick to your chosen menu as much as possible. 

3.  Shun single-use plastic bags; bring reusable bags for dry goods and reusable containers for wet purchases.

4.  Ask the cashier or bagger to put your purchases in a box if you forgot to bring reusable bags and containers with you.

5.  Refrain from buying products wrapped in wasteful single-use packaging. 

6.  Check the “best before,” “use by” or expiration date on the product label and pick items with a longer shelf life.

7.  Buy healthy food for snacks like saba banana, cassava, sweet potato, fruits and vegetables, the peels of which can also be composted.

8.  Eat more real foods, and cut back on overly processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

9.  To reduce packaging waste that comes with food delivery, opt not to receive single-use utensils, straws and stirrers.

10.  Shun throw-away cups, plates and cutlery; wash reusable items thoroughly in between uses.

11.  Strictly observe “zero food waste” at home; only cook or prepare food that can be consumed.

12.  Create just enough home-cooked meals based on your weekly meal plan.

13.  Make use of your freezer to extend the life of perishable foods.

14.  Store food and leftovers properly in clean and labeled containers in the fridge or freezer.

15.  Safely recycle food scraps and leftovers; turn excess vegetables into broth or stock.

16.  Give leftovers to pets or stray animals; mind the chicken bones.

17.  Sort and shred fruit and vegetable discards for home-based composting and gardening.

18.  Collect and dry seeds for planting or giveaways; reuse empty containers for seedlings.

19.  Combine vinegar and citrus peels into a homemade cleaning agent.

20.  Use reusable rags to clean up rather than paper towels.

21.  Conserve water; collect water from hand washing and use it for flushing the toilet.

22.  Reuse water for washing rice, fruits and vegetables to water the plants.

23.  Do not mix household waste; separate discards into different bins, repair, reuse or recycle the non-biodegradables, compost the biodegradables, safely store and dispose of hazardous waste.

24.  Put soiled masks, tissues, wipes and other potentially infectious waste on a separate bag and keep them segregated from other discards.

25.  Do not leave garbage bags or cans outside the door or gate; wait for the waste collection truck to arrive.


24 March 2020

Group Reminds Consumers to Buy Only Registered Rubbing Alcohol and Notified Hand Sanitizer

The chemical safety watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to be vigilant when buying rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizer products during this period of public health crisis caused by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Consumers should be on their guard against the spread of unregistered rubbing alcohol and unnotified hand sanitizer in the market, including online stores, as the COVID-19 crisis deepens.  Using these unverified products, the safety and efficacy of which is questionable, may give consumers a false sense of security in the time of coronavirus,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group echoed the plea for consumer vigilance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Director General Rolando Enrique Domingo who issued two successive advisories against the consumption of topical antiseptics and antibacterials lacking the required Certificate of Product Registration, and hand sanitizer with no Certificate of Product Notification. 

Through FDA Advisory 2020-422, the agency enjoined consumers “to be vigilant in the purchase and use of these types of products in light of proliferation of unregistered/unnotified products during this time when a state of calamity has been declared due to COVID-19 threat in the country.” 

The said advisory provided updated lists of notified hand sanitizers and registered topical antiseptics and antibacterials, including rubbing alcohol, to guide consumers in making informed purchasing decisions.

Prior to this, the FDA through Advisory 2020-421 warned consumers “to be mindful of (online)  transactions as there are unscrupulous individuals who are taking advantage of this situation for personal gain.”

“Among those reported to be sold online are products that are unregistered/unnotified hand sanitizers, antiseptics, antibacterials, and other toxic chemicals with unverified claims regarding the elimination of COVID-19,” the FDA said.

To avoid being misled, the FDA advised consumers to carefully check  product labeling information, including the country of manufacture, name and address of the company that placed the product on the market, manufacturing or expiry date, product batch number, ingredients’ list, instructions for use and precautionary warnings.

Last March 20, the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the FDA about the unlawful sale in Paco, Manila of an inadequately labeled and unnotified hand sanitizer, which has been subsequently referred to the Regulatory Enforcement Unit for action.

Also, the group last March 12 wrote to the FDA to make available to the public a summary list of duly registered or notified antiseptic and disinfectant products that are effective and safe to use, including rubbing alcohol (ethyl and isopropyl), alcohol spray, “alcogel,” “alcologne,” hand sanitizing gel, disinfecting wipes, and similar products.

The request was made in line with the state policy under the Consumer Act of the Philippines “to protect the interests of the consumer and promote his general welfare,” particularly the consumer right to information to facilitate sound choice, and the right to be protected against hazards to health and safety.





22 March 2020

How to Say “Thank You” to Frontliners in the Time of Coronavirus (Group cites ways how a grateful nation can show appreciation to COVID-19 frontliners)

As many cities and municipalities are placed under strict quarantine amid threats posed by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), an environmental health group has cited ways as to how the general public can show their appreciation to healers, carers and others on the frontline of the battle against the virus.

“We can show our grateful appreciation to all the COVID-19 frontliners by taking personal and collective steps that will prevent the further spread of the coronavirus and keep our families and communities safe from the disease,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Taking preventive steps to protect ourselves and others from being exposed to this virus will help in controlling the number of people requiring extraordinary medical care, and this is the best way through which we can support and say ‘thank you’ to the heroes of the unfolding public health crisis, especially the doctors, nurses and other hospital workers,” she emphasized.

"Taking the necessary steps to stay safe from the virus will surely help the healthcare system from further overburdening and straining itself," she said.   

"We also would like to offer our special thanks to workers managing the waste in healthcare facilities, ensuring that the infectious fraction of such waste is safely treated and disposed of,“ she added.

Specifically, the EcoWaste Coalition cited top 10 ways of expressing our thanks and appreciation to the COVID-19 frontliners:      

1. Stay home and follow the community quarantine rules.

2. Clean your hands often, practice good respiratory hygiene and maintain safe distancing.

3. Keep yourself safe from being ill, especially from ailments that will require hospital consultation and admission.

4. Do not hoard essential medical and non-medical supplies.

5. Be judicious in buying surgical masks and N95 respirators to prevent shortage.

6. Discard used face masks properly.

7. Practice ecological waste management at home and workplace.

8. Use and store home disinfectants with utmost care; do not decant bleach into other containers to avoid chemical poisoning, especially among young children

9. Be vigilant against misinformation.

10.  Last but not the least, say a little prayer for the safety of the frontliners and their loved ones at home

Aside from thanking doctors, nurses and other hospital workers on the forefront, the EcoWaste Coalition also invited the public to thank other COVID-19 frontliners for services being rendered to our communities, including the:

--  Local government and barangay officials and workers implementing the quarantine guidelines;

--  Law enforcers managing the health/check points;

--  Immigration officers supervising the air and sea ports;

--  Disinfectors, street cleaners and garbage collectors;

--  Farmers, fishers and truckers who keep the food supply flowing;  

--  Public and private employees and volunteers preparing, packing and distributing food packs;

--  Suppliers, distributors and deliverers of food, water, medicines and other essential commodities;

--  Employees of key public utilities and financial services; and

--  Members of the media who keep the public informed about the epidemic.

“We recognize and thank all frontliners for their indispensable services to our communities as we lean on each other to win our nation’s fight against the coronavirus.  Thank you for risking your lives, for strengthening our faith, and for giving us light and hope in these troubled times.  Together as one people, we shall overcome,” said Lucero.

While we are in the thick of the COVID-19 crisis, the EcoWaste Coalition urged everyone to manifest our solidarity with one another by performing voluntary acts of compassion and kindness, including supporting programs and projects benefiting the frontliners and others whose jobs and livelihoods have been disrupted by the pandemic, notably the poor, daily wage and informal workers.