26 March 2008

NGOs Back Ground-Breaking Project on PCB Wastes

Quezon City. Non-government organizations working on chemical safety, public health and environmental justice issues welcomed a United Nations-assisted project that will help rid the Philippines of its polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) stockpiles.

PCBs are very toxic chemical compounds. They are considered probable human carcinogen or cancer causing substance by institutions such as the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

Due to the danger they pose to people and the environment PCBs were placed in the initial list of "dirty dozen" toxic chemicals that the international community had agreed to restrict and ultimately eliminate under the 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). The treaty, which the Philippine Senate ratified in 2004, imposed a ban on the production of PCBs and gave countries until 2025 to eliminate the use of PCBs in certain equipment.

The Ban Toxics!, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, and Health Care Without Harm expressed their shared support for the project that will demonstrate the viability of destroying PCBs-containing materials and wastes using a non-combustion technology, to be carried out with the critical participation of public interest NGOs.

"This project, we hope, will spur public concern and participation in completing the country's inventory of PCBs and in ensuring their safe containment and destruction or irreversible transformation in an environmentally-sound manner, so that these exceedingly toxic compounds no longer pose threats to the health of Filipinos and our environment," the groups said in a statement.

“The project brings together the confluence of interests of government, industry and civil society. More importantly, the project will help the Philippines achieve its 2014 deadline for the phase out of PCBs use or storage as directed by the 2004 DENR Chemical Control Order for PCBs, and drive the country to becoming self-reliant in managing its hazardous wastes using ecological non-incineration solutions,” added the groups.

The project is funded through the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) as the implementing agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources - Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB) as the national executing agency, and the Philippine National Oil Company - Philippine Alternative Fuel Corporation (PNOC-PAFC) as the operating entity.

The other key project partners are the Manila Electric Company (MERALCO), National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), the National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) and the public interest NGOs.

PCBs are thin, light-colored liquids to yellow or black waxy solids used as heat exchange fluids in electric transformers or capacitors, and as plasticizers in paints, plastics, and rubber products and as additives in dyes, pigments, sealants and carbonless copy paper.

These extremely toxic chemicals have been demonstrated to cause cancer in animals, as well as a range of other destructive health effects on the endocrine, immune, nervous, and reproductive systems.

Data gathered from the National Implementation Plan (NIP) for the Stockholm Convention that was launched in 2006 show that the Philippines was never a manufacturer of PCBs and that majority of the inventoried PCBs-containing equipment are transformers (97.16%), capacitors (2.57%) and oil circuit breakers (.27%).

According to the NIP, the main source of entry of PCBs into the country was through importation, mostly as part of electrical transformers. However, the number of imported PCB transformers could not be reliably determined due to inadequate records.


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

18 March 2008

Holy Week Pilgrims Urged to Cut Use of Plastic Water Bottles

Quezon City- As Filipinos flock to bus terminals, seaports and airports for the Holy Week exodus, a waste and pollution watchdog asks travelers to reduce their consumption of water in plastic bottles as they journey back to their hometowns or go on a pilgrimage.


"Many consumers find bottled water convenient as they carry on with their plans for the Holy Week. However, it is worth reminding the public that the ever increasing demand for bottled water is polluting and warming the planet," Baby Reyes of the Mother Earth Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition said.


"Cutting back on the number of plastic water bottles that we consume is a simple act that will have tremendous benefits to the environment and the climate. It will be eco-friendly to use reusable water container and fill it with clean tap water from home or, if necessary, with filtered or boiled water," Reyes stated.


"If buying bottled water cannot be avoided, we remind consumers not to throw the empty ones out of vehicles, leave them on the sidewalk or beach, or burn them along with other trash, but to place them into the 'recycling' bin," she added.


The EcoWaste Coalition explained that fossil fuels such as coal and oil are burned to produce, ship, deliver, advertise and dispose plastic water bottles. The burning of fossil fuel energy and the ensuing toxic pollution, the group stressed, is mainly to blame for the climate change.


Last year's report "Take Back the Tap" by the US-based Food and Water Watch confirms that the production of plastic water bottles "consumes energy, pollutes the environment and contributes to global warming."


To illustrate how much fossil fuel energy is used in the production of plastic water bottles, the EcoWaste Coalition, citing figures from the Earth Policy Institute, revealed that 1.5 million barrels of oil is consumed annually in US to produce plastic water bottles. This is said to enough to fuel some 100,000 cars in US for a year.


The World Watch Institute estimates that 86 percent of the used plastic water bottles in US get dumped instead of being recycled.


In addition to the pollution issues, the EcoWaste Coalition also raised concern about the possible leaching of chemicals from the plastic bottles into the water, especially Bisphenol A, which is a known endocrine disruptor that is widely used chemical in the manufacture of plastic polycarbonate bottles.


"Aside from trimming down our consumption of water in plastic bottles, it is our hope that the consumers, lawmakers, water regulatory bodies, water service providers and other stakeholders can put their acts together to ensure people's access to clean and healthy drinking water," the EcoWaste Coalition said.


15 March 2008

EcoGroups Calls Green Celebration of Holy Week

As Christian Filipinos begin a week of remembrance, penance and charity to mark the agony, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the EcoWaste Coalition makes a pitch for a clean and green holy week.

The group releases 10 helpful hints for an eco-friendly Holy Week following the plea of Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, as contained in the Pastoral Letter for Alay Kapwa Sunday, where the Manila prelate exhorted the Filipinos "to live up to our Christian responsibility to protect and preserve mother earth and commit to living a simple life."

Bishop Deogracias S. IƱiguez, Jr., Chairperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) Public Affairs Committee, welcomed the EcoWaste Coalition's latest eco-advisory, stressing that "protecting the environment from trash and other polluting and destructive practices should form part of the renewal that we seek as we recall the blessings of redemption through the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ."

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, the neighborhood "pabasa" (chant reading of the Passion of Christ), the "senakulo" (Passion play) in some communities, the pilgrimage to Antipolo City, the "visita iglesia" (church visitations) on Maundy Thursday, the Stations of the Cross, the solemn Santo Entierro (holy burial) on Good Friday, and the jubilant Easter "Salubong" can potentially yield garbage if the faithful are not mindful of their environmental responsibility.

To make this very special week holy, clean and green, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with a list of tips that caring and sharing Christians should find useful:

1. Make it a point to ensure that nothing is wasted nor littered as you fulfill your sacred vows.

2. To avoid having to purchase water in plastic bottles, bring your own reusable water jug as you carry on with your spiritual duties in the scorching summer heat.

3. Cut your car use to save on energy and reduce climate pollution; walk, cycle or take the public transportation for your Holy Week trips; for example, commute from one church to another for the Visita Iglesia pilgrimage.

4. Put aside plans for non-essential long distance travel and consider giving the money saved to the Alay Kapwa Lenten evangelization-action program (www.nassa.org.ph), the "Pondo ng Pinoy" (www.pondongpinoy.com.ph) or to any of your favorite charities.

5. If you intend to go nature tripping during the long weekend, please stick to the eco-creed "take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time"; reduce plastic bag pollution by bringing a few handy reusable bags in case you need to pick up some stuff from the grocery store or buy souvenirs.

6. Choose reusable over disposable cups, plates and cutlery for meals and drinks served to "pabasa" readers; consider serving vegetarian meals with plain water, throat-soothing "salabat" (ginger tea) or buko juice, a natural isotonic beverage.

7. Keep the "kubol" (makeshift structure) for the "pabasa" simple, ensuring that materials can be easily disassembled for reuse or for donation to the homeless; keep the children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups, especially pregnant women and people with asthma, safe from second-hand smoke by making the "kubol" and the immediate vicinity a "no smoking" zone.

8. Refrain from overdoing the "carrozas" (floats) for the Santo Entierro, enhancing them only with biodegradable stuff like sampaguita and other natural flowers and plants.

9. Keep the "Salubong" rites eco-friendly by not blasting firecrackers and throwing confetti to mark the joyful encounter between the risen Christ and Mater Dolorosa (sorrowing mother); petals and leaves can be used in place of confetti.

10. For Easter egg hunt, color the eggs using only natural ingredients or dyes. Desist from giving children junk food and promote a healthy and balanced diet.

12 March 2008

Protect Our Children from Junk Food and Bad Health

Quezon City. Healthy and balanced diets for hale and hearty children and a waste-free environment.

This is the call of the EcoWaste Coalition as it joins Consumers International in celebrating the World Consumers Rights Day (WCRD) on March 15 to seek global and local action to stop the marketing of unhealthy food to children.

“Junk food contributes to the childhood obesity epidemic and other preventable diseases, and also adds to the garbage crisis with the tons of trash created by the production and consumption of these unhealthy food that are often packed or served in single-use plastic materials,” Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Panganiban, a barangay nutrition scholar and grandmother of 19 children, actively promotes inexpensive, locally-sourced, tasty and healthful alternatives to junk food, including food containing malunggay, the “miracle” vegetable, which is known for its nutritional and medicinal properties.

Among her favorite substitutes to energy-dense and micronutrient-poor snacks include pan de sal with powdered malunggay, burger patty made of saba peelings or grated coconut leftover, crackers and chips from camote or squash, fresh fruits, and steamed or boiled banana, camote and corn.

In place of sugar-filled soft drinks, Panganiban recommends nutritious thirst quenchers like the “pink lady” (camote tops with calamansi), “white lady” (kamias or ginger lily with calamansi), “avo-pan” (avocado leaves with pandan), salabat or ginger tea and other creative concoctions from tamarind, star apple, dalandan and other tropical fruits.

Citing the 2006 World Health Organization (WHO) report “Marketing of Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children,” the eco-group stressed that children’s exposure to commercial advertisements promoting food and drinks high in fat, salt or sugar has a direct influence on children wanting and eating junk food. Experts believe that such food promotion has a deleterious effect on children’s food knowledge, attitudes, purchase behavior and consumption.

“Given the Filipino children’s over-exposure to TV ads that tend to promote unhealthy eating choices and habits and their vulnerability to such marketing pressure, we see the urgent need for concerted actions that will protect our young consumers from childhood obesity,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

The eco-group cited the effort of Ireland which has recently imposed a ban on TV advertisements for candy and fast food, and has stopped celebrity endorsements of unhealthy food to children. The Irish government now requires wrappers to carry warnings like, "Fast food should be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet," or, "Snacking on sugary food and drinks can damage teeth."

The WHO, the EcoWaste Coalition noted, has committed itself in the 2007 World Health Assembly to “promote responsible marketing including the development of a set of recommendations on marketing of foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children”.

According to Consumers International, unhealthy diets are a major cause of diabetes, heart disease and some cancers in low and middle-income countries, warning that some 22 million children under the age of five around the world are already overweight or obese.



For additional information, please log on to:

1. World Consumer Rights Day 2008:
www.consumersinternational.org

2. WHO report on the marketing of food and non-alcoholic beverages to
children:
http://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/Oslo%20meeting%20layout%2027%20NOVEMBER.pdf



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

09 March 2008

Eco-Group Backs Manila’s Proposal to Ban Plastic Bags

Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition has thrown its support behind the proposal of a Manila councilor to prohibit the use of plastic bags in the mega-city.

“The ordinance filed by Councilor Numero Lim banning the use of plastic bags as packing materials for goods sold in stores, malls and related enterprises is a step in the right direction. If Manila adopts and enforces the ban, it is likely that the entire nation will be inspired and
follow suit,” said student environmentalist Kris Peralta of EARTH - University of Santo Tomas, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee.

“This will definitely augur well for our rapidly deteriorating environment that is already suffocating from the uncontrolled use and disposal of plastic bags,” he added.

Lim, from the second district of Manila, last Thursday filed his proposed ordinance that seeks to regulate the use of the ever-present plastic bags and curb the ensuing creation of problematic non-biodegradable garbage that usually ends up being littered in the city streets and storm drains or hauled to Pier 18 and subsequently thrown in the Navotas or Montalban dumpsites.

The EcoWaste Coalition urges the Manila City Council to prioritize the consideration of the proposed ordinance on plastic bags to cut back on pollution from land-based sources and to press manufacturers, retailers and consumers into shifting to ecological alternatives.

At the same time, the waste and pollution watchdog also stated, "we call on the National Solid Waste Management Commission to speed up the listing and prohibition of environmentally unacceptable packaging materials and products as directed by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.”

The EcoWaste Coalition recalls that plastic bags and other synthetic packaging materials constituted 76 percent of the four cubic meters of garbage collected in the 2006 waste survey it had conducted with Greenpeace to verify the state of plastic pollution in Manila Bay.

Out of these 76 percent plastic discards, 51 percent were plastic carry bags, 19 percent junk food wrappers and sachets, 5 percent styrofoams and one percent hard plastics. The remaining 24 percent were rubber (ten percent) and biodegradable wastes (13 percent).

According to Greenpeace, the huge volume of plastic trash which regularly finds its way to Manila Bay impacts greatly on the sea—suffocating vital marine ecosystems and the plant, animal, and human lives that these support.

Along with less visible but equally harmful pollutants, plastics have smothered the bay’s mangrove, sea grass, and coral ecosystems, and as in other coastal areas where plastic trash predominates, have led to the death of birds and marine animals via ingestion or entanglement.

To prevent plastics from ending up in Manila Bay, Pasig River and its tributaries or buried in toxic dumps, the EcoWaste Coalition urges consumers to switch to reusable bags and strive to break the plastic bag habit.

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

04 March 2008

Effects of Cigarette Butts on Environment Raised

Citing the hazards of cigarette butt litter to the environment, a green group has reiterated the warnings of the Department of Health (DOH) and the World Health Organization on the deadly effects of smoking to human health.

Retired nurse Elsie Brandes-de Veyra, a Steering Committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition, said not many people are aware that discarded butts can pose a heavy toll on the environment.

"Butts may look small but with the Filipinos' addiction to cigarette and tobacco and the quantity of carelessly thrown butts in the environment, these items can pose real toxic threats to humans and wildlife," De Veyra stressed.

"Cigarette butts are the most common form of trash and litter around us," noted Dra. Encarnita Limpin, Executive Director, Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP).

Limpin urged the public to help clean the environment of cigarette litter and safeguard the health and general welfare of the next generation.

The EcoWaste Coalition has joined forces with FCAP in urging Filipinos to quit the deadly and costly habit of smoking cigarettes and to shift to a healthy and eco-friendly lifestyle.

Discarded butts leak toxic chemicals into the water and soil as they corrode into tiny plastic powder.

Butts are often carried by wind and rain into the storm drains and the seas where they are mistaken as food by birds, fishes and other creatures, causing digestive blockages and the ingestion of toxic chemicals found in the filter such as arsenic, cadmium and lead. Littered butts also contribute significantly to sediment pollution.


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

02 March 2008

Public Information Drive vs. Open Burning Launched

Quezon City. To mark the Fire Prevention Month, environmental campaigners joined local community leaders and members in Barangay Kalusugan, Quezon City in raising the people’s understanding and support for the national ban on open burning.

"By raising public awareness about the problems with open burning, we hope that more people will abide by the law, as spearheaded by the barangay councils, and discontinue this unhealthy practice that only turns our solid waste problem into a serious chemical threat to our people's health,” Merci Ferrer of the EcoWaste Coalition said. “This is part of our active promotion of ecological solutions to the garbage crisis that continues to haunt us," she added.

The EcoWaste Coalition is specifically referring to Section 48 of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which, among others, bans the open burning of solid waste and penalizes violators with a fine amounting to P300 to P1,000 or 1 to 15-day imprisonment or both.
Residents led by Barangay Captain Robin Porlaje welcomed the advocates for the ecological approach to managing discards who briefed them about the adverse impacts of open burning, including respiratory diseases, cancers and other serious ailments that can be triggered or worsened by the toxic byproducts of burning waste materials.

"We commend the EcoWaste Coalition for this timely advocacy to protect the people's health from the toxic practice of burning garbage,” stated Porlaje, who leads this vibrant community of 2,600 individuals. “Our Barangay Council is committed to enhancing the health of our community members and will take action to enforce the ban on open burning. We exhort the other barangays in Quezon City and elsewhere to wage a common fight against open burning," he further said.

To get their message across, the environmental campaigners from the EcoWaste Coalition and Mascomthea dressed themselves in fiery colors of fire to mimic the illicit practice of burning discards, while others hold skull and crossbones cutouts of dioxins, the most notorious environmental pollutants resulting from the burning of chlorinated materials.

“Dioxins belong to an initial set of 12 extremely toxic substances known as the ‘dirty dozen’ that the international community, including the Philippines, seeks to eliminate for the protection of human health and the environment,” explained Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, a concerted action by all members of the society is required to rid the environment of these toxic contaminants, starting with concrete steps that will prevent and reduce the quantity and toxicity of discarded resources and promote the ecological management of resources.


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