30 June 2009

New superhero for chemical safety bared, cheered

Quezon City . A new chemical safety superhero, clad in yellow and black and carrying a shield that bears the slogan “Dump Not! Burn Not!” has joined toxic prevention advocates in a bid to rid the country’s stockpiles of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

At a forum held in Quezon City to conclude the June environment month, the masked hero who calls himself “The PCB Eliminator” vowed to protect the Filipino people from PCBs, a class of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) commonly used as dielectric fluids in electrical transformers and capacitors.

“The ‘PCB Eliminator’ is the latest addition to our own league of green heroes with a special mission of protecting our people and the ecosystems from harm caused by exposure to these harmful substances,” said Rey Palacio of EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ‘PCB Eliminator’ will enlist public and private support for the non-incineration treatment of PCBs in the country that will ensure public and environmental health and safety,” he added.
The new green crusader joins the other heroes of the waste and pollution watchdog, namely “Boy Bayong,” an advocate against single use plastic bags, and “Super WA” (for “Walang Aksaya”) a champion for Zero Waste.

To the delight of forum participants, Environmental Management Bureau’s (EMB) Engr. Edwin Navaluna, the National Project Coordinator for the Non-Combustion POPs Project, announced that “the construction of the treatment facility employing a robust technology for the safe and non-burn elimination of PCBs and PCB-contaminated equipment, should be underway this August.”

Navaluna, who gave a brief talk about the project before the more than fifty attendees of the forum themed Working Together for a PCBs-free Philippines said that “the project fits very well with the policy objectives of the Chemical Control Order (CCO) for PCBs.”

The CCO for PCBs was issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to reduce and eliminate the use of PCBs, and regulate their transport, treatment and disposal to protect the human health and environment.

In support of the project, the participating NGOs adopted a statement expressing “full support, commitment, unity and action to contribute to the nation’s efforts toward the phase out and total elimination of PCBs by the year 2014 as targeted in the CCO for PCBs.”

“The pioneering Non-Com POPs Project will demonstrate the efficacy of environmentally-sound and safe non-burn approach for managing PCBs, and will surely contribute to both local and global push to eliminate PCBs and advance chemical safety,” Manny Calonzo of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) said.

“Its successful implementation has the potential of setting a precedent among developing countries in the sound management of POPs involving all stakeholders, including public interest groups,” he stated.

PCBs, which are targeted for elimination in the country years ahead of the Stockholm Convention goal, belong to so-called “dirty dozen” POPs that includes pesticides, industrial chemicals and unintentional byproducts of industrial and combustion processes.

With an estimated quantity of five million tons of PCBs oil and contaminated equipment worldwide, PCBs are reportedly among those that are widely distributed globally.

Preliminary inventories undertaken by the EMB yield some 6,879 tons of PCB containing equipment and wastes, comprising about 2,400 tons of PCBs oil. These are mostly found in electrical utilities and cooperatives, industrial establishments and manufacturing plants, servicing facilities, military camps and hospitals.

23 June 2009

Greenpeace blockades dumpsite on Laguna Lake Demands Clean Up, Not Cover Up

Taytay, Rizal, PHILIPPINES — Greenpeace Water Patrol activists today blockaded a polluting waste dump on the shores of Laguna Lake to halt shoddy "closure" operations that will do more harm than good to the lake and surrounding communities. The environment group, together with the EcoWaste Coalition, is demanding a proper clean up of the Taytay open dumpsite, rather than the cosmetic cover up currently being undertaken in the thirteen hectare trash heap.

Early this morning, the volunteers from Greenpeace shut the gates of the dumpsite in Barangay Muzon with chains and metal bars. Scaffolds with signs that said "Stop Water Pollution! Clean Up, Not Cover Up!" were used to further block the closed gates to prevent trucks from entering. Closure for the dump supposedly began last month, but despite the closure notice, garbage trucks still dump waste at the location, hurriedly covered up by truckloads of soil.

"It is clear that no clean up is happening in Taytay--instead, plans are underway for a massive cover up of this illegal dump. Greenpeace agrees that this dumpsite should be closed--but it should be closed down properly. The current closure procedure--unfortunately endorsed by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)--is worthless, and involves no semblance of rehabilitation at all. Unless there is a genuine clean up, toxic leachate from this dump, even when hidden, will continue to contaminate Laguna Lake and its surrounds for decades, endangering the health and well-being of communities," said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis.

The Taytay dumpsite is illegal under Republic Act no. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, which outlaws open dumpsites, RA no. 9275 or the Philippine Clean Water Act of 2004 which bans waste dumps or landfills near water bodies, and RA no. 8749 or the Philippine Clean Air Act of 1999 which mandates local government units to promote, encourage and implement in their respective jurisdictions a comprehensive ecological waste management that includes waste segregation, recycling and composting.

The Laguna Lake Development Administration (LLDA) awarded the municipality of Taytay with the "Nakakasulasok Award" (shameful award) in 2007 and 2009 for the continued operation of the facility. Closure operations in the site began only in May 2009. Currently, plans are underway to build a multi-million sports complex and school buildings on top of the garbage heap. Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition are questioning the soundness of the proposal, as these facilities will literally be built on a toxic and unstable mound of trash, jeopardizing the health and safety of children in particular.

"The threat of far-reaching pollution is real. This is why the current dumpsite closure guidelines need drastic improvement. We need to discontinue dumping and put in place all the essential measures and safeguards to reduce, if not thwart, the threats of chemical pollution. It is not enough just to fence the dumps and cover the stinking trash with soil. These are contaminated spots requiring stringent rehabilitation and monitoring even after their closure," said EcoWaste spokesperson Manny Calonzo.

Greenpeace and the EcoWaste Coalition are at present circulating a document that will improve on current guidelines for closure and rehabilitation of dumpsites and other waste disposal facilities. According to the groups, the "best practice" for dumpsite closure includes: public disclosure of closing and rehabilitation plans; formation and empowerment of a multipartite monitoring team per dumpsite with strong representation from the concerned stakeholders at the start of the process; a historical assessment of the dumpsite/waste disposal facility to get a better understanding of the nature of wastes in the dump and determine appropriate measures to deal with the closure and rehabilitation properly; as well as the establishment of leachate collection systems.

"In particular, Greenpeace is asking for proper closure, clean up and rehabilitation of dumpsites near or around bodies of water such as the Laguna Lake. The pollution of freshwater sources is a serious problem, one that will inevitably aggravate the major water crisis which experts predict will most likely occur in the country in the next decade. We are therefore challenging the local government of Taytay, in particular Mayor Gacula, to adopt these guidelines if he is indeed sincere in his claims to protect Laguna Lake," said Baconguis.

22 June 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Promotes Steps to Improve Air Quality as Clean Air Act Goes 10

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog today celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Clean Air by disseminating doable tips to enhance citizens’ role in the uphill task of improving the air quality.

Signed on 23 June 1999 by former President Joseph Estrada, Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act seeks to promote and protect the citizens’ right to breathe clean air.

The landmark law seeks to curb pollutants from both mobile and stationary sources such as motor vehicles, cigarette smoking, garbage disposal facilities, farms, industrial plants, power installations, cement factories, and other sources that emit pollutants.

“Poor air quality, both indoor and outdoor, is bad to health. There are a number of practical actions that we can take to reduce emissions and make our air cleaner and safer,” actor Roy Alvarez of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee said.

“We invite all caring citizens to consider these clean air tips and truly make a difference,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition’s clean air tips include the following:

1. Do not dump nor burn your trash. Reduce your waste size by consuming responsibly and recycling more.

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

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, bike or carpool whenever possible, ride the emission-free “padyak” or take the public transport to get to your destination.

6. Think of car-sharing before buying a vehicle. When you must buy one, look for reduced-emission vehicle.

7. Travel less by planning ahead, linking all of your errands into a single trip, and patronizing businesses near you to cut down on driving time, cut emissions and boost the local economy.

8. Opt for water-based paints to cut back the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are dispersed into the atmosphere and cause pollution.

9. Avoid consumer spray or aerosol products to cut VOC emissions, and pick more eco-friendly substitutes like gels, sticks and solids.

10. When you must drive, drive smoothly and properly, and get your car serviced regularly.

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

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 and other highly-urbanized places, 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.

A World Bank report released in 2007 shows that nearly 5,000 people in Metro Manila die each year due to respiratory and cardiovascular ailments from chronic exposure to air pollutants.

21 June 2009

Waste Incinerators: Harmful to People, Climate and Economy

Quezon City. The Philippines set a positive and leading example for the world when it banned waste incinerators as part of the Clean Air Act whose enactment ten years ago, according to environmentalists, rightly envisaged the need to veer away from wasteful, destructive and polluting practices that contribute to runaway climate change.

To commemorate the 10th year of the said law, the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) today released a new report that spells out ten reasons why incinerators and their modern variants should be outlawed, saying that the same reasons validate the pollution prevention logic which went behind the adoption of the incineration ban.

Green activists are quick to point out though that while the intent of the Clean Air Act was clear in terms of outlawing waste incinerators due to the toxic and poisonous fumes associated with the process, some waste management companies sanctioned by government authorities have also been busy in their efforts to undermine the law.

“Despite the ban, vendors would not stop peddling costly incinerators, camouflaging their waste burning processes as ‘green’ solutions and giving them modern-sounding labels such as pyrolysis, gasification, plasma, cement kiln co-processing, etc.,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“The national and local authorities and the citizens need to stay informed and alert against attempts to ‘greenwash’ modern incinerators,” he added.

Greenwashing refers to the practice of some companies to dishonestly spin their policies and goods as ecologically-sound and beneficial to the people and the environment.

The report “An Industry Blowing Smoke” debunks industry efforts to ‘greenwash’ gasification, pyrolysis and plasma incineration, pointing to more sensible directions that should be considered by decision makers, such as Zero Waste strategies.

The report concludes that new incineration technologies, like older-style burners, are expensive, inefficient and contribute to both climate change and serious public health impacts.

The report says that, compared to conventional mass burn incinerators, modern incinerators emit comparable levels of toxic emissions, stressing that emissions limits do not ensure safety and are not always adequately enforced.

The report further calls attention to the relatively few jobs created by capital intensive waste incineration projects when compared to recycling and composting programs.

Author Dave Ciplet of GAIA pointed out that recycling, re-use and composting create six to ten times the number of jobs than both waste incinerators and landfills.

"These new, expensive incinerators would keep much-needed funding and resources from being invested in real solutions," Ciplet said. "We could be creating millions of jobs worldwide by turning waste into work!"

“As we mark the 10th year of the incineration ban amid a global climate and financial crisis, we urge our decision makers to stick to ecological, cost-effective and job-creating solutions, such as waste prevention, reduction, source separation, reuse, recycling and composting,” the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA said.

“Also, we ask the government to shut down all existing incinerators that managed to circumvent the ban due to its lax enforcement, and disallow further combustion of waste in dumpsites, garbage burners and cement kilns,” they added.

“An Industry Blowing Smoke” is available for free download at:


Signed on 23 June 1999 by then President Joseph Estrada, the Clean Air Act, among other preventive and precautionary steps, prohibits open burning and the incineration of municipal, health care and hazardous waste which process emits toxic and poisonous fumes.


10 Reasons Why Gasification, Pyrolysis and Plasma Incineration Are Not “Green” Solutions” from “An Industry Blowing Smoke”:

Reason #1: When compared to conventional mass burn incinerators, incinerators emit comparable levels of toxic emissions.

Reason #2: Emissions limits for incinerators don’t ensure safety. Also, emissions from incinerators are not measured sufficiently and thus overall emissions levels reported can be misleading. In addition, emission limits are not always adequately enforced.

Reason #3: Gasification, pyrolysis and plasma incinerators have a dismal track-record plagued by malfunctions, explosions and shut-downs.

Reason #4: Incinerators are not compatible with recycling. They compete for the same financing and materials as recycling programs, and undermine efforts to minimize the production of toxic and unrecyclable materials.

Reason #5: Gasification, pyrolysis and plasma incinerators are often even more expensive and financially risky than mass burn incinerators.

Reason #6: Incinerators inefficiently capture a small amount of energy by destroying diminishing resources. Gasification, pyrolysis and plasma incinerators are even less efficient at generating electricity than mass burn incinerators.

Reason #7: Incinerating discarded materials depletes resources and in many cases permanently damages the natural environment.

Reason #8: Incineration technologies contribute to climate change, and investment in these technologies undermines truly climate-friendly solutions.

Reason #9: All types of incinerators require a large amount of capital investment, but they create relatively few jobs when compared to recycling and composting programs.

Reason #10: Wasting valuable natural resources in incinerators and landfills is avoidable and unnecessary.

19 June 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Urges DENR to Speed Up Policy on Sound Management of Mercury-Laced CFLs

Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition today pressed the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to rush the crafting of essential rules that will minimize pollution from improperly discarded mercury-laced lamps.

The waste and pollution watchdog reminded the DENR that time is of the essence as the country moves away from incandescent bulbs to energy-efficient, but mercury-laden compact fluorescent lamps or CFLs.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the appeal following the announcement last Wednesday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that five million CFLs will be given free to low income families beginning August 2009 in Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao and Metro Manila.

The President made the announcement at the recently-concluded high-level dialogue on climate change in Asia and the Pacific at the Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City.

“We urge the DENR to issue tough rules for the sound management and disposal of CFLs after their useful lives, including banning their disposal in bins, dumpsites and incinerators, to avert a toxic crisis,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“Our market survey shows that most CFLs in commerce are inadequately labeled. The government has to enforce strict labeling requirements to caution consumers about the dangers of mercury and the need to exercise precaution and care in handling the lamps,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition also pressed for a take back program for spent bulbs given the lack of capacity of local government units to safely handle hazardous waste.

“We further urge the government to require manufacturers, importers and retailers to take full responsibility for their CFL products by instituting a take-back program for spent or broken bulbs,” Calonzo added.

Extended producer responsibility, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, will also encourage manufacturers to reduce or totally remove mercury in their products to avoid costly disposal options and lessen health and environmental threats from CFL use and disposal.

The EcoWaste Coalition cited the report “Mercury Rising” co-released in February 2009 by the Zero Mercury Working Group, Ban Toxics and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives to back its call for the sound management of CFLs.

The report shows that the combustion of mercury-added products in incinerators, landfill fires and open burning of household wastes significantly contributes to mercury pollution of both local and global ecosystems.

As part of its work on chemical safety, the EcoWaste Coalition has published a fact sheet on mercury to inform the public about the health and environmental effects of mercury pollution.

The fact sheet also contains some tips on how to prevent or reduce exposure to mercury, such as never burn, dump with ordinary waste or pour down the drain any mercury and mercury-containing products.

Exposure to mercury can affect the brain, spinal cord, kidneys and liver, causing symptoms such as trembling hands, memory loss, and difficulty moving. It can also cause birth defects.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846


16 June 2009

100 Groups Urge DENR and NSWMC to Ban Single Use Plastic Bags

Quezon City. Over 100 groups and individuals, including three “non-trapo” presidential hopefuls, today petitioned the government to introduce a ban on single-use plastic bags to halt what they call the “plastic invasion of the environment.”

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, submitted the broadly-endorsed “Petition to Ban Plastic Bags” to Sec. Lito Atienza of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Asst. Sec. Gerardo Calderon of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

Among those who signed the petition are Caloocan Bishop Deogracias IƱiguez, Jr., several priests and faith-based ecology ministries, “balik-bayong” celebrities Roy Alvarez and Chin-Chin Gutierrez, environmentalists Dr. Angelina Galang, Von Hernandez, Dr. Helen Mendoza, Sonia Mendoza, Joey Papa and Eileen Sison, organic farmers Bernie Aragoza, Isagani Serrano, Vic Tagupa and Roberto Verzola, labor leader Josua Mata, and many other students, professionals and activists.

Also backing the ban on single use plastic bags are reform presidential candidates Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, John Carlos de los Reyes (Ang Kapatiran Party) and Nicanor Perlas (recipient of “Right Livelihood Award” also known as the “Altenative Nobel Prize”), senatorial aspirant Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party), Danton Remoto (Ang Ladlad Party), Manila Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim (author of a proposed city ordinance on plastic bags) and Atty. Alex Lacson (author of bestseller “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country”).

“We join the EcoWaste Coalition in asking the DENR and the NSWMC to take decisive action now to stop the plastic invasion of the environment that is acutely endangering the marine ecosystems and the communities that depend on marine resources,” the petitioners stated.

“We specifically call on Sec. Atienza and Asst. Sec. Calderon to declare a unilateral phase out of single use plastic bags as an urgent step to stop the flow of plastic litter into the oceans from dumpsites, beaches and other sources,” they said.

Aside from banning the ubiquitous plastic bags, the petitioners urged Sec. Atienza and Asst. Sec. Calderon to fully enforce Republic Act 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act) and pull the plug on both land-based and sea-based sources of marine litter.

The petitioners likewise expressed support for a Zero Waste-focused National Solid Waste Management Strategy that will duly integrate marine litter prevention and reduction.

“This action reflects the shared concern of ocean and climate defenders, sustainable development advocates and enlightened consumers to address the ill effects of unbridled use and disposal of plastic bags,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The EcoWaste Coalition initiated the petition after the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) weighed into the debate on plastic bags last week, proposing an outright ban on “film thin single-use” plastic carry bags at the launch of the report “Marine Litter: A Global Challenge.”

“We urge the government to take its cue from the World Oceans Day’s plea of Dr. Achim Steiner to phase out or ban single use plastic carry bags,” the petitioners said.

UN Under-Secretary General Steiner, who is also UNEP Executive Director, said that "single-use plastic bags which choke marine life should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere. There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them any more, anywhere."

The petitioners believe that banning single use plastic bags will have direct and meaningful environmental, climate, economic and cultural benefits.

These benefits include the 1) protection of the coral reefs and all marine animals from plastic litter; 2) reduction in the release of greenhouse gases, persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and other harmful chemicals, and the 3) reversal of the “plasticization” of our lifestyle with the increased promotion and adoption of eco-friendly and non-toxic choices.

10 June 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Backs UNEP's Call to Ban Plastic Bags

Quezon City. A local waste and pollution watchdog has joined a top United Nations official in calling for a ban or phase out of single-use plastic due to the dangers they pose to the marine environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed unity with the plea made by Achim Steiner, head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), in conjunction with the World Oceans Day, who said that "single-use plastic bags which choke marine life should be banned or phased out rapidly everywhere," stressing that "there is simply zero justification for manufacturing them any more, anywhere."

“We are one with UNEP and the ocean conservation groups in pressing for bold global and local action to save our marine ecosystems from further destruction due to plastic bags, cigarette butts and other garbage,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

“Knowing that prevention is more effective and less costly than remedial action, we urge the government to impose an immediate phase out on single-use plastic bags to protect the oceans and spur lifestyle change,” he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition last Monday proposed to the National Solid Waste Management Commission to phase out and ban single-use plastic products and packaging that have low or non-existing recycling levels. The call for banning the ubiquitous plastic bags comes amid a new report that names plastic as the number one marine litter, which poses hazards "because it persists so long, degrading into tinier and tinier bits that can be consumed by the smallest marine life at the base of the food web." UNEP and the Ocean Conservancy released on June 8 the report “Marine Litter: A Global Challenge,” which drew attention to the “environmental, economic, health and aesthetic problem” caused by marine litter.

Marine litter as defined in the report is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment.

The report's findings indicate that despite several international, regional and national efforts to reverse marine pollution, alarming quantities of rubbish thrown out to sea continue to endanger people's safety and health, entrap wildlife, damage nautical equipment and deface coastal areas around the world.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has been actively campaigning for “bayong” and other reusable alternatives to replace disposable bags, will mobilize concerned groups and individuals to urge the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to act on UNEP’s plea.

“We will launch a signature drive that will petition the government to unilaterally ban plastic bags, promote ecological substitutes and practices, and incorporate marine litter prevention and reduction in the national solid waste management strategy,” Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said.

The major land-based sources of marine litter, according to the UNEP report, include wastes from dumpsites located on the coast or banks of rivers; rivers and floodwaters; industrial outfalls; discharge from storm water drains; untreated municipal sewerage; littering of beaches and coastal picnic and recreation areas; tourism and recreational use of the coasts; fishing industry activities; ship-breaking yards; and natural storm related events.

The major sea-based sources of marine litter include shipping (merchant, public transport, pleasure, naval and research vessels) and fishing (vessels, angling and fish farming) activities; offshore mining and extraction (vessels, and oil and gas platforms); legal and illegal dumping at sea; abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear; and natural disasters.

“We now know how the pervasive plastic pollution is killing or maiming the wildlife, ruining the beaches and threatening the livelihood of our fishers and coastal communities. The time for decisive and vigorous action is now,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

08 June 2009

Green Groups Urge Shift from ‘Waste Disposal’ to ‘Zero Waste’ to Combat Climate Change

Quezon City. Implementing a comprehensive national program on waste prevention, reduction, reuse, recycling and composting could lead to dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

This is the shared message of waste and climate groups as nations, including the Philippines, gather in Bonn, Germany until June 12 for the latest round of negotiations for a new climate accord.

“We urge the government to champion Zero Waste as an essential and most practical strategy to ease the accelerating climate change. We need to move away from waste disposal to resource conservation through expanded recycling and composting,” said actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez, President of Alaga LAHAT, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Studies have shown that waste disposal directly contributes to climate change with the discharge of GHGs such as methane from dumps and landfills and carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from incinerators. Waste disposal also indirectly drives climate change by depriving the economy of reused, recycled and composted materials.

“By adopting Zero Waste, we cut greenhouse gas emissions from waste disposal sites as well as from the energy-intensive extraction, processing and transportation of virgin materials to replace the buried or burned discards,” Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), another member of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“At the Bonn meeting, we hope that climate negotiators will pay attention to the need to divert mitigation funds, offset credits and subsidies for Zero Waste programs and not for spurious landfill, incinerator and ‘waste-to-energy’ projects, which only fuel toxic pollution, shrink green jobs and burden the public with steep costs,” he added.

In a letter delivered today to DENR Asst. Sec. Gerardo V. Calderon, Executive Director of the National Solid Waste Management Commission, the EcoWaste Coalition listed priority recommendations to cut GHG emissions in the waste sector.

Some of the proposals made by the EcoWaste Coalition to the Commission are:

1. Adopt and fund a National Solid Waste Management Strategy anchored on waste prevention, volume and toxicity reduction, segregation at source, reusing, recycling and composting, and not on costly and polluting landfills and incinerators.

2. Implement incentives, penalties or bans to stop biodegradable waste such as food leftovers, garden trimmings and farm discards from being sent to the 1,223 dumpsites and 25 “sanitary” landfills where methane is produced from decomposing organic materials sans oxygen.

3. Discontinue and rehabilitate all dumpsites and require post-closure leachate and gas management for these toxic hotspots.

4. Shut down existing incinerators and avidly uphold the spirit and intent of the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

5. Cease and desist from allowing the combustion of municipal, healthcare and industrial discards as alternative fuels in cement kilns, which contravenes the incineration ban.

6. Activate community-based recycling through the establishment of ecology centers and/or Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in every barangay or cluster of barangays.

“Along with clean production, sustainable consumption and extended producer responsibility, Zero Waste will help create a closed-loop and non-toxic economy where all discards are reused, repaired, recycled or composted,” the groups said.

A GAIA brochure on “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” has identified the following as key advantages of Zero Waste:

- It can be implemented within months and at any level – institutional, municipal, city or national.
- It produces more jobs than other waste management option.
- It avoids the toxic pollution that inevitably accompanies incinerators and landfills.
- It reduces the pressure on the natural resource base such as forests, mines and wells.
- It helps improve plant growth and agricultural production by returning organics to farms.

05 June 2009

Green Groups Demand Cleanup of Contaminated Dumpsites as RP Marks World Environment Day

Quezon City. In a lively meeting held yesterday on the eve of the World Environment Day, 16 citizens’ groups vowed to intensify efforts to have the country’s polluting dumpsites closed and decontaminated.

Led by the EcoWaste Coalition, the groups pledged to campaign for government, corporate and citizen action to minimize pollution of the air, soil and water from gaseous and liquid contaminants coming from all abandoned and still operating dumpsites.

“The threat of far-reaching pollution is real. We need to discontinue dumping and put in place all the essential measures and safeguards to reduce, if not thwart, the threats of chemical pollution,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“It is not enough just to fence the dumps and cover the stinking trash with soil. These are contaminated spots requiring stringent rehabilitation and monitoring even after their closure,” he emphasized.

The National Solid Waste Management Commission, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, should treat the country’s over 1,000 dumpsites as contaminated sites and marshal the required technical expertise and resources to ensure post-closure pollution prevention and surveillance.

The Coalition cited US federal regulation requiring 30-year monitoring and maintenance after closure of “state-of-the-art” landfills because of threats to groundwater quality and other health and environmental issues.

“We are particularly concerned on how the toxic leachate from mixed waste dumpsites, especially those located in watersheds or near water bodies, can adversely affect our long-term access to clean water as well as safe food,” said Beau Baconguis, Toxics Campaigner of Greenpeace.

Leachate, as defined under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, is a contaminated liquid produced when waste undergoes decomposition, and when water percolates through waste undergoing decomposition.

Old and new dumps located near or within watersheds and critical water sources such as the Laguna Lake basin and the Ipo and Marikina watersheds can leach dangerous contaminants, from pathogens to persistent toxic chemicals, which can seriously threaten water safety and food security, the groups said.

“The closure, cleanup and rehabilitation of all dumpsites should also be undertaken with earnest attention and speed to ease their impacts on the changing climate,” Noli Abinales of Buklod Tao said.

Dumpsites are major producers of methane, a climate-warming gas, formed from the decomposition of organic materials without oxygen. Methane is 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame.

“Knowing that many people subsist by reclaiming recyclables in dumpsites, we find it necessary for closure plans to include concrete opportunities for humane and sustainable livelihood for waste pickers,” stated Amy Derano of the Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry.

Present at the meeting were the representatives of the Advocates for Environment and Social Justice, Akbayan-Bulacan, Buklod Tao, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, Health Care Without
Harm, Krusada sa Kalikasan, Mother Earth Foundation, November 17 Movement, Sanib Lakas ng Inang Kalikasan, Save Sierra Madre Environmental Society, Sining Yapak, Upholding Life and Nature, Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, Inc.