25 November 2008

Arugaan, EcoWaste Coalition Urge DOH to Take Precautionary Action against Bisphenol A

Quezon City. Advocates for children’s health and chemical safety have combined their voices in urging swift precautionary action against the continued use of bisphenol A (BPA) in infant and other consumer products.

Arugaan, a staunch advocate of breastfeeding and children’s health, and the EcoWaste Coalition, a keen campaigner against hazardous chemicals, jointly called on the authorities to act with urgency to safeguard public health from exposure to BPA.

The public interest groups urged the Department of Health to issue without delay a health advisory that will inform consumers about the hazards of BPA to human health, especially for developing fetuses and newborns.

After the melamine-tainted milk crisis that shook the world, new studies have rekindled concern on BPA, a synthetic chemical compound that is widely used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins for lining metal cans.

Polycarbonate plastics such as baby feeding bottles, reusable water bottles, pitchers, storage bottles, tableware and food containers carry the recycling symbol #7 and are sometimes marked “PC.”

“The leaching of BPA, an endocrine disruptor, from polycarbonate feeding bottles can result to serious developmental and reproductive disorders,” warned Ines Fernandez of Arugaan, adding that “such a toxic threat to babies provides another compelling reason why mothers should breastfeed and shun artificial breastmilk substitutes.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has recently launched a campaign on hazardous chemicals, believed that the new studies should oblige policy makers into adopting a precautionary ban on BPA-contaminated products.

“Let us heed the early warnings from the numerous studies on the toxic health effects of BPA, particularly to fetuses, babies and children who are most vulnerable to injuries from hazardous chemicals. It is our collective responsibility to take precaution now by banning BPA and promoting ecological alternatives to eliminate harm,” said Sonia Mendoza of the Mother Earth Foundation, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The Journal Sentinel published in Milwaukee, Wisconsin released last November 20 a report from a study it commissioned which shows that “microwave-safe” meals and containers, including plastic baby feeding bottles, baby formula and baby food, leached toxic doses of BPA when heated. The report is available at:

The said study has been reported as spurring state and federal lawmakers in US into calling for the eradication of BPA from food and beverage containers.

Also last week, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine reported three new studies linking BPA exposure to impaired fertility in both women and men, qualifying that the findings need to be further examined.

These studies, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, should inform the process being facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry towards the identification and phase-out of non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging materials as required by Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.

In the absence of a BPA ban in the Philippines, the groups recommend the following consumer tips to prevent or reduce exposure to this toxic chemical:

1. Nourish your child with breastmilk, the most complete and ecological food. Go for exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continue breastfeeding for two years and more.

2. Refrain from using polycarbonate plastic containers; use safer alternatives such as glass, ceramics or stainless steel.

3. Avoid microwaving food and beverage in plastic or plastic cling wraps.

4. Reduce consumption of canned foods as can liners may contain BPA; opt for natural food or food stored in safer containers.

5. Check the product labels and select the ones that say “BPA-Free”

“Pursuant to the goals of the Strategic Approach on International Chemicals Management (SAICM), we urge the government to act decisively and protect the most vulnerable members of our society from BPA contamination,” the groups said.

SAICM refers to the international policy framework that governments, including the Philippines, adopted in Dubai in 2006 to ensure that chemicals are used and produced in ways that no longer pose significant harm to public health and the environment.

"What will happen to the next generation if babies now become infertile because of the adverse effects of the hazardous chemical BPA found in plastic bottles and tin cans? Who will continue the Filipino society?” the groups reminded the authorities.

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

20 November 2008

Groups Urge RP to Champion Zero Waste at Climate Talks

Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition and allied groups called on the Philippine delegation to the upcoming climate talks in Poznan, Poland to take up the cudgels for the climate by pushing for the quickest and cheapest strategy to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Governments and other stakeholders, including public interest groups, will converge in Poznan for the United Nations Conference on Climate Change on December 1-12, 2008 to deliberate and agree on future commitments, actions and collaborations to deal with climate change.

In a letter given to former senator Heherson Alvarez, Presidential Adviser on Global Warming and Climate Change and to the Secretariat of the Inter-Agency Committee on Climate Change (IACCC), the waste and climate groups pressed for RP leadership in urging the global community to embrace and support Zero Waste as a strategy to stop the wasting and warming cycle.

“The huge challenges weighing down the world’s climate, environment and economy demand the application of the most innovative citizens-driven solutions such as Zero Waste, which has all the potentials of reducing emissions while creating green infrastructure and livelihood for local communities,” Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), said.

Calonzo pointed out that Zero Waste will also foster the goals of major chemical safety agreements such as the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and the Strategic Approach for International Chemicals Management that governments, including the Philippines, adopted in 2001 and 2006.

In their letter to Alvarez, who will be leading the Philippine delegation to Poznan, the EcoWaste Coalition, Mother Earth Foundation and GAIA referred to a “triple win” if countries go for and implement Zero Waste.

By “triple win,” the groups mean the 1) elimination of waste without the pollution caused by incinerators and landfills, 2) the creation of local enterprises and jobs with far less financial outlays, and 3) the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

The waste and climate groups asked the Philippine climate negotiators to ensure that mitigation funds in the waste sector should help accelerate the achievement of Zero Waste targets and programs.

“We urge you to make incinerators, landfills, and other ‘waste-to-energy’ projects which undermine Zero Waste ineligible for mitigation funds, offset credits and other forms of climate-related financing and subsidies,” the groups said.

The groups cited the report “Stop Trashing the Climate” to bolster its position that Zero Waste can help countries in achieving dramatic greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The report released in June 2008 shows that along with waste prevention, expanded recycling and composting can have the same climate protection impact as closing 21% of the 417 coal-burning power plants in the US, the nation’s largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The call to make Zero Waste a core strategy to combat climate change is supported by GAIA, which has over 600 affiliates from the Philippines and 81 other countries across the globe.

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

11 November 2008

EcoWaste Coalition Calls for Action versus Dirty Air

Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, today urged the public to take simple but vital steps to improve the air quality as the country marks the annual Clean Air Month this November.

“There are many easy ways of cleaning the dirty air that has become a scourge of relentless urbanization in Metro Manila and elsewhere,” said Christopher Peralta of the university-based environmental group EARTH UST, reminding that “small or big, personal or communal, we all must take action to protect the air, a shared resource, from degrading any further.”

For her part, retired teacher Esther Pacheco of the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP) urged everyone to plant and nurture trees as “trees cleanse the air by absorbing pollutants such as carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide and supply humans and animals with oxygen.”

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. IƱiguez, Jr. cited the value of raising public awareness and action to combat air pollution. “Educating our people about the Clean Air Act and its implementation is most basic,” he said in a text message in response to the EcoWaste Coalition’s survey for
ideas on how to clean the air.

The EcoWaste Coalition is concerned about the high quantities of TSP in the national capital region as reported in a 2008 profile prepared by the Population Reference Bureau on population, health and environment issues in Metro Manila.

TSP or total suspended particulate matters are tiny airborne particles or aerosols from human or natural sources that enter and pollute the atmosphere.

In Metro Manila, smoke-belching vehicles, open burning of trash and the uncontrolled releases from industries are top sources of particulate emissions which can lead to ill health or death.

The children, the elderly and those suffering from heart and respiratory diseases such as asthma, bronchitis and emphysema are most susceptible to the adverse effects of TSP exposure.

The Philippine Environment Monitor released by the World Bank in September 2007 showed that nearly 5,000 people in Metro Manila die each year due to respiratory and cardiovascular ailments from chronic exposure to air pollutants.

To inform and inspire Filipinos, the EcoWaste Coalition has identified the following steps that can contribute to improving the air quality:

1. Never dump or set your trash on fire. Cut your waste size to the minimum by consuming wisely and making it a daily habit to segregate, reuse, repair, recycle and compost.

2. Compost - don’t burn - grass trimmings, rice straws, fallen leaves and other biodegradable discards from the garden, farm or kitchen.

3. Grow and nurture plants and trees to improve the quality of air around us.

4. Quit smoking to prevent tobacco smoke, a known human carcinogen, from harming your lungs and the health of those near you.

5. Walk or bike whenever possible, ride the emission-free “padyak” (pedicab) or commute using the LRT, MRT, Pasig River Ferry and other mass transport.

6. Find carpool or vanpool partners and share the ride to your office, school and other destinations.

7. Explore “teleworking” or working at home to minimize the need to go out and travel.

8. Squeeze your workweek to reduce the financial and ecological costs of going to your workplace.

9. Refrain from buying extra cars for personal or family use.

10. Travel less by planning ahead and combining errands into a single trip.

11. Avoid driving during peak hours to avoid sitting in traffic and causing pollution.

12. Don’t top off your gas tank to avoid release of harmful vapors such as benzene.

13. Convert to cleaner fuels if possible. Campaign for tricycles to switch to biodiesel.

14. Report smoke-belchers to the Environmental Management Bureau or to your provincial, city or municipal environmental officers.

15. Have your car serviced regularly and drive properly.

Also, to improve mileage as well as minimize smoke belching, car owners are advised to avoid “jackrabbit” starts and high speeds, go easy on the brakes, refrain from excessive idling, remove unnecessary items in the trunk, keep tires properly inflated and aligned, and get regular car
maintenance checks and tune-ups.

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

06 November 2008

EcoWaste Coalition Partners with the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation to Empower Consumers against Hazardous Chemicals

Quezon City. The spate of cases linking hazardous chemicals in products to serious health and environmental problems has roused a green coalition into enhancing its work on chemical safety issues.

“We are deeply alarmed by the unhindered use of hazardous chemicals in stuff that we find in the market today, many of them are reproductive and developmental toxins, carcinogenic and toxic to the brain,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“Consumers need to be adequately informed and protected against health and environmental toxicants in production processes, products and disposal practices that are harmful to humans, wildlife, environment and the climate,” Calonzo stressed.

With the public health and safety in mind, the EcoWaste Coalition, an active network of some 75 public interest groups, has launched a project called “ChemSafe,” which is short for “Enhancing Consumer Knowledge and Action towards Chemical Safety.”

The project seeks 1) to empower consumers to make informed decisions that will protect them from the adverse effects of toxic chemicals, and 2) to strengthen the capacity of the civil society to address chemical safety issues and concerns using the Strategic Approach on International Chemicals Management (SAICM) Global Plan of Action as reference.

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC), the largest and most influential environmental organization in Sweden, is supporting the said project under its small grant program on toxic chemicals.

“We are impressed by EcoWaste's work. By starting this global collaboration on toxic chemicals we will strengthen civil society to the benefit of public health and the environment, in the Philippines and elsewhere,” said Mikael Karlsson, President of SSNC.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the presence of hazardous chemicals in food, water, child care articles, toys, school supplies, household items, cosmetics, computers and other products present factual risks and hazards that consumers must know and be really concerned about.

The group noted that Republic Act 7394 or the Consumer Protection Act of 1992 has been unsuccessful in protecting consumers from the onslaught of goods containing hazardous chemicals that can afflict humans and animals alike with toxic body burdens, while polluting the overall surroundings.

In launching the ChemSafe, the EcoWaste Coalition hopes to make available to the general public accurate and intelligible information on injurious industrial chemicals such as those that are known to be persistent (or remaining in human bodies and the environment for long periods of time), bioaccumulative (building up in animal and human tissue) and toxic (causing serious harm to the health and life of living organisms).

Aside from disseminating fact sheets, posters and other information materials, the EcoWaste Coalition will carry out popular education activities to explain the risks and hazards of priority chemicals and draw support for the application of precaution, prevention and substitution to prevent exposure to toxic harm. A national workshop is also being envisaged on the topic “Chemical Safety: Protecting the Filipino Consumers from Toxic Harm.”

Some of the chemicals in the EcoWaste Coalition’s priority list include arsenic, lead, chromium and mercury and other heavy metals, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls and other persistent organic pollutants, and phthalates.

“Through ChemSafe, we hope to add value to the shared responsibility and work of empowering the Filipino consumers, especially the most vulnerable groups, with essential information to make sound choices and actions towards chemical safety and environmental health,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

The children, elderly, pregnant women, farmers, workers, waste pickers and other informal recyclers are widely recognized as most susceptible to the adverse effects of exposure to toxic chemicals.

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

05 November 2008

EcoWaste Coalition Welcomes Change in America!

"We join the American people in welcoming the dawn of a new era under President-elect Barack Obama. Like the rest of the world, we expect his administration to initiate bold steps to prevent the global climate crisis from getting worse. On top of our wish list are two commonsensical things that his presidency can easily do: 1) make "Zero Waste for Zero Warming" a keystone in his declared intent to cut greenhouse emissions and create green jobs, and 2) attend the climate talks in Poznan, Poland to demonstrate US commitment to work in solidarity with all nations in putting a lid on all emission sources and in crafting a holistic and funded strategy to combat global warming. The financial crunch should in no way slash the required resources to beat climate change. In fact, what we need now to improve the US as well as the global economy are major investments in green, climate-friendly solutions such as Zero Waste and clean and renewable energy," said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

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

04 November 2008

EcoGroup to Atienza: Close the Dumps Now!

Quezon City. The pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition criticized Environment Secretary Lito Atienza's lack of political will to keep his six months ultimatum of closing down the toxic waste dumps existing in the country. The environment secretary declared the ultimatum in a public forum last May 5, 2008.

Based on the latest data of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), there are still 712 existing open dumps and 273 controlled dumps in the country. Most of these dumpsites are located near marginalized communities and along environmentally-critical areas such as protected areas, watersheds, foreshore lands, riverbanks etc. The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 has already banned the use of dumpsites since 2004 for open dumps and 2006 for controlled dump facilities.

Atienza promised that local government officials who will defy his six months ultimatum on dump closure will be brought to court. Six months have passed and not a single case was filed by the Secretary against any public officials.

"A traditional politician, Atienza's promise of safeguarding the welfare of the people and the environment are all empty words. These blatant violations of our environmental laws are signs of weak leadership and governance," said Rei Panaligan of the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the group, dumps are major contributors of toxic leachate that can contaminate adjacent surface and groundwaters. It is also a major source of methane gas, a very potent greenhouse gas with as high as 25% climatic impact compared to carbon dioxide. Also, maintaining a "collect and dump" management system of solid waste is very expensive and a waste of meager public funds.

"As the environment secretary, Atienza has the power and the responsibility to close down these toxic facilities. No one will follow the law if they saw that the implementors don't even bother or care," said Panaligan.

RA 9003 provides a framework for local government officials on how to properly manage their municipal solid waste. Ecological solutions to garbage woes should be based on decentralizing the solid waste management system to barangay levels, community education, setting up eco-centers and proactive waste prevention, segregation at source, recycling and composting.

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