30 January 2008

Green Group Bats for Reduced Consumption of Plastic Bags to Save on Energy

Quezon City. A quick solution to the energy crisis is precisely in the bag says an environmental advocacy group.

In a press statement released in time for the ongoing Energy Summit, the EcoWaste Coalition drew the attention of policy makers and consumers on one simple yet concrete measure which, if implemented, will reduce oil consumption amidst rising oil prices.

“Cutting back on the excessive use of plastic carry bags will lessen the demand for expensive oil as well as minimize the waste and pollution resulting from the production, consumption and disposal of plastic bags,” said Gigie Cruz of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Plastics, adding that “our voracious consumption of plastic bags is increasing our dependence on imported oil and polluting the environment.”

The eco-group cited the decision made by China’s State Council banning plastic shopping bags in all stores nationwide effective 1 June 2008. This will reportedly save 37 million barrels of crude oil that is required to manufacture plastic bags that Chinese consumers use every year, while
reducing plastic litter and disposal costs.

San Franciso, USA, a densely populated city of 740,000 people that consumes up to 200 million plastic bags per year, also took the decision to ban plastic grocery bags. Supermarkets and pharmacies will have to use recyclable or compostable sacks in lieu of plastic bags.

The ban that took effect in November 2007 is expected to reduce oil consumption by almost 800,000 gallons a year, and reduce as well carbon dioxide emissions by 4.2 million kilograms annually.

The “plasticization” of our lifestyle, observed the EcoWaste Coalition, ties into the swelling demand for oil as plastic bags and other plastic stuff are made of crude oil, natural gas or other petrochemical byproducts. For plastic bags alone, it is estimated that some 430,000
gallons of oil are needed to produce 100 million pieces of these omnipresent consumer items on the planet.

Information obtained from the Worldwatch Institute, an independent research organization, indicates that plastic factories around the globe mass-produce 4-5 trillion bags yearly and that consumers throw about 500 billion bags annually. Plastic bags can last for over 1,000 years.

The EcoWaste Coalition identified several levels of intervention – from voluntary lifestyle changes to policy reforms – that will dramatically reduce the local consumption of plastics carry bags and also of fossil fuel that is driving the climate crisis.

Consumers, for instance, should simply say no to plastic bags and make it a habit to bring reusable bags when they go to the market, mall or the nearby sari-sari store. They can also use their purchasing power to persuade stores to stop giving bags for free, or to offer their customers
a discount for not using plastic bags. Consumers can also create their own reusable bags out of used clothes, curtains and fabric scraps at no cost.

Well-meaning retailers can build on the positive efforts of National Bookstore, Shoe Mart, Shopwise and other major stores to introduce reusable bags and help in reducing Pinoy’s plastic bag habit.

Consumers can also lobby local and national authorities to pass ordinances and laws that will ban plastic bags like what China and San Francisco did, or impose tax on plastic bags like that in Ireland that resulted to a 90% drop in plastic bag use during the past five years.

At the Senate, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed Senate Bill No. 1443 or the Plastic Bag Recycling Act, while Sen. Manny Villar filed a bill requiring malls and stores to use environmentally-friendly shopping bags instead of plastic bags.

At the House of Representatives, Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (2nd District, Cagayan de Oro City), recently filed House Bill No. 2512 which would mandate the use of recyclable or biodegradable materials for the packaging of consumer products.

“Consumers need not wait for these laws to be adopted. Let’s forgo the use of plastic bags now by reliving our bayong culture, by bringing our own reusable bags, and by simply saying no to plastic bags and other plastic disposables,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376

26 January 2008


Quezon City. As the country’s waste law enters its eight year today, a waste and pollution watchdog sounded the warning bell against unchecked violations, pointing out that its poor enforcement is not only a national embarrassment but a serious threat to public health and the climate.

The EcoWaste Coalition, in a statement said, that Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law on 26 January 2001 few days after she assumed the presidency has “dismally failed” in resolving the garbage crisis.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the prevalence of littering, open dumping, open burning, mixed waste disposal, the proliferation of non-environmentally acceptable packaging materials and other acts prohibited under the law as visible evidence to the failure of the multi-agency National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) to curb wasting and promote ecological solutions to the waste crisis.

“R.A. 9003 visibly suffers from the same lethargic implementation that we see in other poorly enforced environmental laws,” said Rei Panaligan, coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, adding that the Commission, currently headed by Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, has dismally failed in its duty and has to “wake up from a deep slumber and get the law working for the people and the environment.”

“We urge the NSWMC and all local government units and sectors of the society to pursue ecological solutions to the waste crisis and progress towards Zero Waste to rid our communities of stinking dumps and bring in green jobs and livelihood opportunities from clean recycling for our people, especially the waste pickers,” Panaligan stated.

Figures obtained from the Commission’s website show that over a thousand dumpsites continue to operate in the country despite the explicit ban on dumping. The data, the Coalition clarifies, do not include “guerilla” dumps often seen in street corners and vacant lots.

As for the required barangay-based Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) or Ecology Centers, government statistics show that only 1,714 MRFs serving 1,921 barangays of the country’s 41,994 barangays have been set up to date.

The EcoWaste Coalition warned that dumping, illegal and punishable under the law, presents grave threats to the health of residents and to the air, water and food supply as dumps yield toxic garbage juices called leachate and discharge huge quantities of methane gas and other pollutants that contribute to global warming and ill health.

The group lamented that some of these dirty disposal facilities are located near or within water systems, watersheds, and protected areas such as those in Pier 18 in Tondo, Manila; Payatas, Quezon City; Tanza, Navotas City; and in Rodriguez, Rizal. They also criticized the siting of new
dumps in environmentally-critical areas such as those being constructed or proposed in Norzagaray, Bulacan; Ternate, Cavite; and Alburquerque, Bohol.

“We decry the Commissions’ promotion of so-called sanitary landfills, which are justifiably unwanted by communities, as solutions to the garbage disposal crisis,” complained Romy Hidalgo, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Dumps/Landfills, adding that until now sustained steps to promote and implement waste prevention, reduction, segregation at
source, reuse, recycling and composting are disappointingly lacking.

At their recent assessment and planning meeting held on 23-24 January 2008 in Antipolo City, the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee resolved to strengthen its campaign for Zero Waste to clean the environment and prevent climate change, including the closure of dumps and the pursuit of pollution-reducing solutions such as eco-friendly lifestyle changes, sustainable consumption and clean production.

For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at 9290376.

Notes for the Media:

1. R.A. 9003 is the first law signed by PGMA when she assumed the presidency in 2001. It calls for the adoption of a “systematic, comprehensive and ecological waste management program” and the adoption of “best environmental practices in ecological waste management excluding
incineration” to protect the public health and environment.

2. Under R.A. 9003, the barangay is tasked to develop an ecological solid waste management program, promote waste separation at source, enforce a segregated collection for biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste, and establish Materials Recovery Facilities (MRF) or Ecology
Centers in every barangay or cluster of barangays.

3. Relevant figures from the NSWMC’S website at www.denr.gov.ph/nswmc -
Open dumps – 677
Controlled dumps – 343
Dumps with submitted closure and rehabilitation plans – 307
Dumps given the “authority to close” – 199
The open dumps, according to Section 37 of R.A. 9003, should have been
closed on 16 February 2004 and the controlled dumps on 16 February 2006.

18 January 2008

Eco-Group Seeks Ban on Fiesta Buntings

Quezon City. As various communities celebrate the popular feast of the Santo Niño, the environmental advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition has called for a ban on non-reusable “banderitas” (buntings) on environmental and health grounds.

The eco-group observed that the “banderitas” have now become an environmental nuisance devoid of any spiritual or aesthetic value, especially with increasing use of super thin disposable plastic bags as buntings.

From the church plaza down to the neighborhood streets and alleys, multicolored buntings made out of plastic bags, packaging scraps, straws as well as product advertisements usually fly overhead to mark the fiesta.

“We urge the parish pastoral councils and the local government authorities to impose a complete ban on disposable buntings, and to persuade parishes and communities to go for environmentally-safe substitutes that can be removed, washed, stored and used again,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The eco-group pointed out 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.”

If buntings are deemed important by the fiesta organizers, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes the use of reusable ones from fabric scraps or the use of colored cloth banners hanging or drooping from bamboo poles as safer alternatives.

Unknown to many, the deceivingly harmless buntings can threaten the environment with toxic pollutants, particularly when the decorative items are littered, dumped or burned after the fiesta.

The dumping of fiesta buntings and other trash into the storm drains, esteros and rivers pollutes water paths and causes flooding that transports disease-causing organisms.

Burning plastics, on the other hand, releases toxic smoke and other extremely hazardous compounds such as dioxins that can result to a host of health problems, including cancers. Children and people with heart conditions and respiratory ailments are especially sensitive to air

For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at 9290376.

14 January 2008

LETTER: It's High Time to Green the Quiapo Fiesta

The photo taken by Edd Gumban (Philippine Star, January 11, 2008) should stimulate serious reflection, dialogue and action on how garbage can be minimized and hopefully eliminated as the popular Feast of the Black Nazarene is observed.

From the picture, one can easily see the piles of garbage left behind by the devotees, vendors and other citizens on January 9, including tons of plastic bags and wrappers, and Styrofoam food and beverage containers. TV news reported that seven truckload of trash were collected the following day in the vicinity of the holy shrine.

A closer look at the photo will show a “green” reminder that was put up by the Parish Youth Ministry of the Quiapo Church. The banner says “malinis na kapaligiran sa kapistahan, alang-alang sa kalusugan at kalikasan,” a simple message that many obviously failed to acknowledge.

While deeply touched by the timeless devotion of Catholic Filipinos to the Black Nazarene, we cannot help but notice how the wellbeing of our fragile environment is easily disregarded by many as they fulfill their fervent vow.

Given the state of our ailing environment, we see the need for all human activities, including our faith-inspired fiestas, to aim for the least use of resources and to reduce wasting to zero or darn close.

The Church can show the way by consciously greening all rites and fiestas, ensuring that all forms of worships and celebrations are not wasteful and polluting to nature.

It is high time for the Catholic bishops and the entire Church to revisit the pastoral letter on ecology issued on January 29, 1988, and provide concrete directions on how the society can act together to rescue Mother Earth from further degradation.

Manny C. Calonzo
Secretary, EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court, 26 Matalino St., QC

03 January 2008

Quiapo Church, Barangays and Devotees Urged to Work for a Waste-Free Fiesta

Quezon City. “Show your devotion to the beloved Señor Nazareno by dumping no garbage and helping Quiapo cope with the praying throngs of faithful believers.”

The environmental advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition made this plea as millions of devotees from all walks of life prepare for the grand feast day of the famed Black Nazarene of Quiapo on January 9.

In separate letters delivered yesterday to church and barangay leaders, the EcoWaste Coalition asked the authorities to pay attention to the habitual problem of littering and pollution as the preparations for the popular Quiapo fiesta go into full swing.

The mounds of garbage left on Plaza Miranda after the recent New Year revelry, which was shown on national television, prompted the environmental network to approach the church and barangay leaders.

“We have requested Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio and some of the concerned barangay captains to enjoin residents and visitors not to spoil the feast of the Black Nazarene with litter,” said Manny Calonzo, Secretary of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Our pious devotion to the Black Nazarene should also find expression in the way we treat the streets of Quiapo and care for the environment,” he added.

In their letter to Msgr. Ignacio, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed the inclusion of ecological reminders in the homilies and suggested that slides be shown before and after the Masses to encourage the faithful not to waste and litter.

Barangay Chairpersons Josie Dee (Barangay 306), Tessie Sharief (Barangay 384), Rudy Chua (392), Rosie Ruz (Barangay 393) and Goyang Lipana (Barangay 394) have all agreed to put up banners with the EcoWaste Coalition that will remind the public to care for the environment during the festivities.

The EcoWaste Coalition drew the attention of fiesta organizers to “plan the feast with the environment in mind” and offered its “Guidelines for Zero Waste Fiestas” as source of practical tips towards an eco-friendly celebration of faith and life.

The Guidelines include the four basic steps outlined by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin when he exhorted the faithful to make the 2003 World Meeting of Families a “zero waste celebration of life.” These are: 1) minimize the creation of waste by using as few resources as possible at the various events, 2) avoid using plastic and disposable items, 3) separate discards into biodegradable and non-biodegradable, and 4) put them into their proper containers to facilitate recycling and make simpler the work of cleaners and collectors.

“We hope that the maroon-clad ardent devotees of Señor Nazareno will also serve as models for green values that our nation very much need to clean up our streets and communities and bring back the health of our degraded environment,” said the EcoWaste Coalition.

For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at 9290376.