30 December 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Cautions the Public against Burning Tires and Trash in Revelry

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog today warned against the burning of used tires and trash during the New Year revelry to prevent toxic pollutants from endangering the public health, climate and environment.

The EcoWaste Coalition appealed for public vigilance against open burning as the whole nation gears up to welcome 2010.

Burning up worn tires on New Year’s eve and setting firecracker wrappings, used boga (PVC cannons), plastics and other discards on fire after the festivities are unhealthy as well as unlawful,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Open burning is unhealthy because it releases toxic pollutants that can cause shortness of breath and headaches, infuriate the eyes, throat and skin, cause lung irritation and congestion, and trigger cancers and other life-threatening health issues,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

The most notorious among these pollutants are dioxins, a proven human carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer, that can cause cancers and other serious disorders in the reproductive, developmental, immune and nervous systems.

“We would like to remind the public that used tires become a toxic waste when they are set in flames,” Calonzo said.

Aside from dioxins, burning tires also releases a toxic soup of pollutants including lead, mercury and other heavy metals, carbon monoxide, solvents, numerous products of incomplete combustion and other chemicals of concerns.

“To minimize the risk from health and environmental contaminants as well as encourage recycling for resource conservation, our lawmakers deemed it necessary to make open burning unlawful,” he added.

Two major environmental laws, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and the Clean Air Act, prohibit open burning of trash, with the former penalizing violators with a fine of P300 to P1,000, or imprisonment of 1 to 15 days, or both.

The EcoWaste Coalition also warned that toxic byproducts from open burning can contaminate the food supply as toxins are transported via air and water and deposited onto leafy plants that are consumed by farm animals or ingested by fish and other aquatic organisms.

For a safer and climate-friendly New Year celebrations, the EcoWaste Coalition urges the public to shun firecrackers and fireworks and thwart pollution from the illegal burning of tires and holiday trash.

Metro Manila, which has a recycling rate of over 25% only, has a daily waste generation of about 8,000 metric tons. Daily trash generation per person in the metropolis rises from 0.7 kilo on regular days to 1.2 kilos during the holiday season.

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

29 December 2009

Groups speak out for animal welfare, appeal to public not to burst firecrackers


Manila. If animals are able to place infomercials on TV like politicians do, they would have cried to high heavens for a change in the way Filipinos welcome the New Year with a toxic and ear-splitting bang.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and toxic watchdog, stressed this point as it teamed up with the Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), an organization dedicated to preventing cruelty and ill treatment of animals since 1954, in appealing to the public in run up to New Year not to explode firecrackers.

To drive their message across, the animal rights advocates and the environmental rights advocates today staged a creative event outside the Manila Zoo to show the ill effects of firecrackers not just to the people and environment at large but to hapless animals as well.

Dressed as dogs, birds, and monkeys, youth members of the MASKARA-Green Stage-Filipinas acted out the discomfort, injury and pain that panic-stricken animals, both pet and stray, have to go through every time humans detonate pyrotechnic devices.

"Pets and other animals suffer from stress because of firecrackers. They suffer a lot because their sense of hearing is at least 10 times more sensitive than that of human. Animals also get poisoned when they somehow eat pieces of firecracker wrappings," said Anna Cabrera, Program Director of PAWS.

"Save them from stress and possible poisoning, while saving the environment and your money by not using firecrackers this holiday season," Cabrera emphasized.

According to veterinarians, firecrackers can result to severe ear injuries for animals who have far sharper sense of hearing than humans. Because of their acute hearing ability, the loud noise, which can sound like a bomb to them, can terribly hurt their ears.

“A single explosion of firecracker can put them into panic mode; imagine what a litany of explosions coming from all sides and lasting for hours could do to them,” observed Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Ultimately, this wasteful and unhealthy practice of lighting up firecrackers of any kind contradicts any noble intention we have in employing them in the first place. Firecrackers drive out animals, not mythological bad luck or bad spirits, and we all know that an ecosystem devoid of fauna stands on the cusp of doom,” Lucero pointed out.

PAWS and the various affiliates of the EcoWaste Coalition are united in urging the public to be sensitive to the health and safety needs of voiceless animals, especially in protecting animals from chemical pollution and excessive noise that cause them to panic and tremble with fear.

“It’s up to us humans to speak for the animals who could not defend themselves from the brutality they experience from firecracker explosions,” the groups declared.

Instead of heralding the New Year with poison fumes and deafening blast from pyrotechnic devices, the groups back the use of safe and environment-friendly substitutes.

The groups recommend the following tips to pet owners to help animals, especially pet dogs, cope with stress and harm associated with the warlike New Year revelry:

1. Appeal to family members and neighbors not to burst firecrackers and be considerate to animals who are unable to protect themselves from toxic harm.

2. Create a safe and comfortable place where your pet can hide from fumes and noises.

3. Observe where your pet goes when she is frightened and give her access to that place such as under the sofa or bed. Let your pet come and go freely to her “comfort zone.”

4. Encourage your pet to engage in an activity that diverts her attention away from startling noises and from behaving fearfully.

5. Refrain from soothing or giving treats to your pet when she is behaving frightfully as she may interpret this as a reward for her anxious behavior.

6. Don’t punish your pet for being terrified of firecrackers as this will only make her more scared.

7. Don’t try to force your dog to experience or be close to her source of fear as this can make her aggressive in her desire to escape from the situation.

8. Keep your gate closed and your perimeter secure to prevent your pet from wandering off due to panic.

In addition, the groups also recommend these additional tips to prevent pets’ exposure to toxins and other hazardous substances that can pose significant health and safety risks, including chemical poisoning, choking, suffocation and damage to vital organs.

1. Keep hazardous materials out of reach of your pet, including plastic bags and wrappings, tobacco products, cleaning solutions, and phosphorous-containing items such as pyrotechnic devices, incense, matches and mosquito coils.

2. Keep common holiday food treats such as chocolate, grapes, macadamia nuts, popcorn, fruit cake, raisin bread and alcoholic beverages, away from your pet as these may cause stomach, kidney and liver ailments as well as choking hazard.

27 December 2009

Green Groups Campaign for a Safe and Climate-Friendly Welcome to 2010


Manila. With 2010 just around the corner and the likelihood of bloody and filthy welcome rites happening again for the nth time, green groups today intensified their advocacy for ecological alternatives to firecrackers and fireworks.

Latest government tally shows that between December 21 to 26, some 54 Filipinos have suffered from various injuries due to blasting firecrackers, while firecracker-related fires killed three people in Mandaue City on December 24 and another three in General Santos City on December 25.

With the baroque façade of the church as backdrop, members of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Care for the Earth Ministry of the Our Lady of Remedies Parish in Malate, Manila held an “Iwas PapuToxic” drive to encourage the public not to blast firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices to hail the New Year.

An ensemble of 30 kids from the Children’s Ministry of the parish danced and created sounds with gusto using improvised noisemakers fashioned from recycled materials such as bottle caps, tin cans, product containers, pot lids and washing pans.

Other participants unfurled a banner and held placards with the message “say no to firecrackers for a safe and climate-friendly New Year.”

“The unfolding climate crisis should discourage us from wasting resources and causing pollution that is inflicting harm to health and the environment. Let us heed the clarion call for a safe and climate-friendly New Year revelry without exacerbating the pollution in our communities,” said Fr. John Leydon, Parish Priest, Our Lady of Remedies Parish.

“Dapat tayong umiwas sa paggamit ng paputok dahil ito ay maaaring maging sanhi ng sunog at pagkasira ng ating kalusugan at kalikasan,” said John Albert Sicat of the Children’s Ministry, Our Lady of Remedies Parish. (“We need to avoid blasting firecrackers as this can cause fire and damage our health and the environment.”)

“Detonating firecrackers and fireworks is akin to setting hard-earned pesos on fire, while exposing ourselves and the children and animals around us to extreme noise, physical hazard and toxic residues,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Lucero outlined six reasons why Filipinos should turn away from firecrackers and fireworks, which the Department of Health has described as “very dangerous” altogether.

1. They can cause serious if not fatal injuries and incorrect handling can lead to the loss of limbs, lives and properties.

2. They produce smoke and dust loaded with harmful chemicals that can aggravate the poor air quality and cause ill health.

3. They leave behind unwanted discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers, and PVC pipes from “boga” that add to the mountains of holiday trash.

4. They produce deafening noise that can lead to anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and hearing disabilities, and trigger high blood pressure and heart attack.

5. They can result to severe ear injuries for animals who are more sensitive to sound, so the noise hurts their ears, terrifies them, and causes them to run wildly or lose their navigational skills.

6. They waste money that should be spent instead to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and other essential needs.

In lieu of firecrackers and fireworks, the Care for the Earth Ministry and the EcoWaste Coalition urge the use of the following safe and climate-friendly substitutes:

1. Blow traditional horns or "torotot;" pick the one made of recycled materials.

2. Be a whistleblower: create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.

3. Create and shake homemade maracas from used tin cans (e.g., cans used in preparing media noche staples).

4. Fill box or plastic containers with some pebbles, caps or coins and create your instant “shakers.”

5. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle caps.

6. Clank improvised cymbals using pot lids or pans.

7. Jangle the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick.

8. Bang empty coconut shells.

9. Play the guitar or any available musical instruments.

10. Play your favorite music.

11. Beep the bicycle or car horns.

12. Clap your hands and stump your feet.

13. Sing, dance and shout “Happy New Year!”

“We call upon all parents and children to prevent the annual scene of carnage, smog and garbage and say no to firecrackers and yes to health and life,” the groups said.

24 December 2009

Parents Urged to Take Out Toy Guns in Kids’ Gift List

Quezon City. Parents should refrain from giving replicas of handgun, automatic assault rifle, submachine gun and other weapons of war and violence as Christmas presents to children.

Toy guns are sold at popular prices and are favorite gift items, especially for young boys. They bear a close resemblance to real weapons and are marketed, as shown in some product labels, for their “realistic sound blaster” and for “simulating a true to the war form.”

Health, environmental and peace advocates pleaded with parents to give a crystal clear message to kids that guns, including imitation guns, are not fun and not suitable for children to play with and use.

“Giving toys that make violence seem like fun reinforces this negative learning even more. Would you even think of gifting the child Jesus with a toy gun?’ stated Marie Marciano of the EcoWaste Coalition, adding that “lest we forget, the gifts we give on Christmas are really our gifts to the Prince of Peace whose birthday we are celebrating.”

“In lieu of toy guns, we encourage parents to pick age-appropriate and non-hazardous gifts that promote a culture of creativity, harmony, and peace, and not that of prejudice, war and violence. We urge parents to take action to stop the merchandising of violence to susceptible children and proclaim that violence is not child’s play,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Joining the EcoWaste Coalition in reminding parents to shun toy guns were breastfeeding campaigner Ines Fernandez, educators Tessa Oliva and Eileen Sison, health rights advocate Dr. Leah Samaco-Paquiz, environmental lawyer Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, entrepreneur Baby Reyes, green beauty queen Cathy Untalan, and Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.

Parents send conflicting messages to their kids when they tell them to stay away from trouble and violence, but then give them toy guns to play with, the advocates emphasized.

“Kids are in formative stage,” pointed out Tessa Oliva of Miriam PEACE. “Exposing children to toy guns make gadgets of violence an ordinary part of life as if it were a normal thing to be used in life when in fact it can be hazard that can end life.”

“They will imbibe the violence mentality until it becomes a habit and a way of life. Then we produce a society of violent people,” added Dr. Leah Samaco-Paquiz of Ang Nars, Inc., an association of nursing professionals.

Parents should be reminded that the toys they give to children carry the message that they approve of those toys.

Atty. Golly Estenzo-Ramos of the University of Cebu, College of Law commented that “when we give kids a gun, what lesson do we give them? That it is okay to kill? A gun is a tool of violence, of control and of domination. It smacks of destruction and lack of respect for the sanctity of life.”

“Guns are made to kill. Their replicas symbolize the real thing. In the hands of children, gun toys condition their minds that it is alright to shoot and kill others,” said Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr.

For her part, Cathy Untalan of Miss Earth Foundation advised parents to “give gifts that reflect your dream future for your children and ones that will help your children realize this dream such as books and educational toys.”

23 December 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Rallies the Public to Recycle for Garbage-Free Christmas

Quezon City. “Don’t trash it… rejoice but recycle to protect the climate!”

The EcoWaste Coalition has stepped up its advocacy for eco-sensitive holidays with an appeal to each and every Filipino household to reuse and recycle more for a low-carbon Christmas celebration.

The waste and pollution watchdog urges all families to separate discards at source towards increased recovery of resources that can be put into productive service through creative reusing and recycling.

“By recycling as much as we could during the holidays, we prevent valuable resources from being thrown into bins and dumpsites bursting at their seams with excessive Christmas trash,” said recycling trainor Ofelia Panganiban of the EcoWaste Coalition.

Government data show trash produced per person in urban places rises from 0.7 kilo on ordinary days to 1.2 kilos during the extended holidays. Metro Manila, which has a recycling rate of over 25%, generates some 7,200 tons of trash on a daily basis.

“If all families can be more ecologically judicious in their purchases and willfully reuse and recycle, we surely can enjoy cleaner and healthier homes and neighborhoods, while helping cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from wasteful consumption and disposal,” Panganiban said.

A US study in 2008 shows that an American household that recycles all of its recyclable and compostable discards is cutting GHG emissions as much as it would by no longer driving a car.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, typical holiday discards from the customary family and friend reunions, salo-salo and gift-giving are best reused or recycled to trim down the waste size.

Instead of tossing them into the bin or dumpster, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with a list of creative reusing and recycling ideas for gift wrappers and boxes, bows and ribbons, greeting cards and other common holiday discards.

1. Rip not the gift wrappers, remove them carefully and set aside for the next occasion or use them to cover books.

2. Flatten gift bags and boxes and store them for future use.

3. Save bows and ribbons and reuse them to wrap or adorn future presents, or use them as accessories for art and craft projects.

4. Reuse holiday greeting cards as postcards, bookmarkers and gift tags, or turn them into collage or wreath decorations for next Christmas.

5. Wash, dry and sew drink pouches together to make purses, wallets, pencil holders and other useful items.

6. Turn bottles and jars of fruit jams, beverages and condiments into decorative or functional containers for home, kitchen, office and school articles.

7. Clean, dry and reuse tin cans as storage containers or organizers for pens and pencils, clips and pins, and screws and nails, or as flower vases and plant pots.

8. Keep containers and wrappings of holiday treats for future needs.

9. Share clean leftover foods with neighbors, recycle them into new dishes, feed to pets, give to pig slop collectors or turn them into compost along with other biodegradable discards.

10. Turn tin cans, plastic containers and product boxes into improvised maracas or shakers for a safe and climate-friendly welcome of the New Year sans firecrackers.

“Let us all strive to be eco-friendly in our consumption choices this yuletide season, and aim to halt wasteful habits for a greener 2010,” Panganiban stated.


22 December 2009

Citizens' Groups Score Leaders' Failure to Fix the Climate Mess

Quezon City. The failure of the recently-concluded United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen to strike a “just, ambitious and legally-binding treaty” continued to draw heavy
flak from citizens’ groups.

After the CSO Working Group on Climate Change and Development slammed the so-called Copenhagen Accord as “extremely disappointing and useless,” the EcoWaste Coalition today issued a statement conveying its frustration over the inability of the world’s leaders to fix the climate mess.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a network of over 85 citizens’ groups, is addressing the climate change challenge by campaigning for “Zero Waste for Zero Warming” and by promoting low-carbon lifestyle changes.

Here is the statement issued by the EcoWaste Coalition with inputs from the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Ban Toxics, Buklod Tao, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation-SVD Central Province, MASKARA-Green Stage Filipinas, Mga Anak ni Inang Daigdig, Mother Earth Foundation and the Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society.

“We express our outrage and deep disappointment over the failure of world’s leaders to forge a just, ambitious and legally-binding climate deal in Copenhagen despite the science and the public clamor for decisive action to save Mother Earth from the devastating impacts of global warming. It’s a sad time for humanity and a damning indictment of our leaders’ failure as stewards of this earth.”

“Notwithstanding two years of preparations and two weeks of torturous negotiations, the conference failed to agree on a new climate framework and could only meekly “take note” of a controversial non-binding Copenhagen Accord that was negotiated and supported only by few states led by the US and slammed by many other parties as undemocratic.”

“It is truly regrettable that our leaders failed to fulfill their historic and moral duty to craft an ambitious treaty to address the climate crisis with clear and specific greenhouse emission reduction targets and adequate financing mechanism to help developing countries grapple with the effects of climate change and enable their transition to a low carbon development pathway. They could have done better than condemn us and future generations to climate hell.”

“We urge politicians as well as citizens and institutions across the globe to insist on a just, ambitious and legally-binding deal in 2010 to avert the climate crisis from escalating further and causing massive hardship on poor and marginalized communities who will bear the brunt of Copenhagen’s dismal failure.”

“While we await for a new treaty processes to unfold, we call upon our leaders and people to take vital decisions and measures now that will resolutely conserve resources, save our remaining forests and cut greenhouse gas emissions from preventable sources.”

“As we continue to hope and work for a global consensus and action on climate change, we commit ourselves to pursuing sustainable lifestyle changes and Zero Waste solutions, and to advancing clean and renewable energy options for our nation.”

21 December 2009

Bishop and Actress Plea for Simple, Nature-Friendly Christmas

Quezon City. A Catholic bishop and a noted film actress have called on the faithful to mark the birth of the Redeemer with simplicity and a deeper appreciation of our common responsibility
to conserve and protect Mother Earth.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez and Chin-Chin Gutierrez, who is also an ardent Marian devotee, in a pre-Christmas statement released by the EcoWaste Coalition, called for a personal renewal of our duty to live in harmony with nature and to defend her against greed and wastefulness.

“As we celebrate Christmas, let us rejoice in simplicity and not allow ourselves to be drowned by crass consumerism that only overstates the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ in our society, and increases demand for non-essential goods that deplete our diminishing natural resources and warm the climate,” said Bishop Iñiguez.

“Amid the growing waste and climate crisis, let us be reminded that the first Christmas was beautifully celebrated with profound simplicity in a manger. The real essence of Christmas lies not in lavish consumption that eats up lots of resources and generates tons of waste, but on good deeds that we do for our fellow beings and the environment,” stated Bishop Iñiguez who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“As mentioned in Pope Benedict XVI’s ‘Encyclical Caritas in Veritate,’ we need to see the environment as God’s gift to all people and that we have a shared responsibility to care for all creation,” he added.

Chin-Chin Gutierrez of Alaga Lahat and the EcoWaste Coalition echoed what the Caloocan bishop said with her own call for lifestyle reforms, ecological responsibility and simplicity.

“We have contaminated our world, our climate and even the food we eat. We cannot continue believing our throw-away society has nothing to do with causing Ondoy. Neither should we think it will not happen again without a change in our wasteful attitude,” emphasized Gutierrez who has been cited by Time Magazine as one of Asia’s heroes.

“We need to make an honest assessment of our true needs and let go of what we excessively consume to eventually embrace a lifestyle that will allow everyone, including the future generations, to fulfill life on earth, our only home,” she added.

“Simplify! This Christmas let us realize that it is the simplicity of nature that brings true prosperity and abundance,” she further said.

Voluntary simplicity for Christmas, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, will be beneficial for Mother Earth, which has been crying for healing and rehabilitation from destructive practices and wastes that defile, damage and pollute her.

A more austere and faith-centered celebration of Christmas, the waste and pollution watchdog said, is most appropriate given that many families and communities have yet to fully recover from the onslaught of tragic disasters that have hit the country this year.

20 December 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Steps Up Warning against Toxic Toys

Quezon City – At the height of the Simbang Gabi and Christmas shopping frenzy, the EcoWaste Coalition, a chemicals and toxics safety watchdog, in cooperation with Santuario de San Pedro
Bautista Parish, staged at the church’s patio today, a mini-musical play as a gift to the faithful who also happen to be consumers.

The play, dubbed as “Toy Story – A Toxic Legacy”, highlighted the menace lurking in the paint of the toys we buy for children and reminded the audience of their responsibility to be critical of the things they purchase as gifts. The group reinforced their commitment to spread awareness against the perils of lead in paint with the success of their previous efforts which kicked off simultaneously with the onset of the yuletide season.

“There is no lack of best alternatives to lead loaded toys that threaten the health of our children,” said Paeng Lopez, EcoWaste Coalition’s Lead Paint Elimination Campaign Coordinator. “With the use of a little creativity, we just might rediscover the true spirit of gift-giving and find a meaning to what has now become a mechanical act,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition suggests making your own gifts, giving plants, or spending a meaningful time with the whole family at home or out of town among other substitutes to buying probably risky gifts.

“Let us all be prudent in giving gifts, like our ever-loving Father,” reminded Rev. Romy Floralde OFM, parish priest of San Pedro Bautista Church. “When the Lord our God sent us Jesus his son, he gave humanity a thoroughly beneficial gift devoid any detrimental flaw. Let us all be as lovingly cautious and avoid giving any gift that may prove to be more of a burden than a treasure,” he advised.

Lead is an invisible poison that poses serious threat to children’s health. Once exposed, it could cause an assortment of severe health problems such as decreased bone and muscle growth, speech and language difficulties, hearing loss, behavioral issues, and lower IQ. Lead in paint maybe inhaled or eaten, and, in some degree, absorbed into the skin. Because of their hand-to-mouth activities, children are most susceptible to lead poisoning.

“We must demand proper labeling of toys,” suggested Baby Reyes of Mother Earth Foundation. “Shoppers should not bear the trouble of determining the safety of their purchase. Instead, manufacturers must duly provide appropriate information on the packaging of their products in order to properly advise consumers about the risks involved in buying them.”

In addition, Lopez recommended that there must be a regular monitoring program from the government and private sector, similar to what other countries such as the US is doing, to ensure that manufacturers continue to keep their products trustworthy.

“It would do us well to have something like the US Consumer Products Safety Commission which dutifully and regularly recalls unsafe products in the market,” said Lopez. “Also, an independent body like HealthyStuff.org, a consumer safety promoter, which incidentally early this month published their Third Annual Consumer Guide to Toxic Chemicals in Toys for the 2009 Holiday Shopping Season, would be most beneficial to all,” he added.

In relation to this, EcoWaste Coalition also recommended the establishment of a partnership among the civil society organizations and other stakeholders to ensure that lead is eventually eliminated from paints worldwide.

- End -


ECOWASTE COALITION’S GUIDE ON GIVING GREEN:

Every Christmas a lot of us dig deep into our coffers to give our loved ones, especially the children, gifts to warm the heart or fill the belly. How do we avoid creating more holiday trash? How do we make sure we are not unwittingly poisoning the children? How do we tackle crass consumerism so that the real reason for the season is not drowned out by the festive celebration?

Here are 12 tips from the EcoWaste Coalition:

1. Collect unused gifts, old clothes, toys, books and other materials and donate them to charitable institutions.

2. Personalize gifts by making them yourself. Why not gift your family and friends with your specialty dish, plants from your own backyard, scrapbooks, or a CD music selection?

3. Volunteer your time and talents to projects and services for the community and the environment. Ask your barangay, church, school or organization how you can be of help.

4. Give old items that you already have a new look. This not only prevents waste generation, it also allows room for personal creativity. It also gives the receiver the feeling that you took the time and effort to create for her/him.

5. When buying gifts, choose eco-friendly products that do not come from old-growth forests, contain no GMOs, are not fossil fuel-based, non-toxic, and not made from child or abusive labor practices.

6. If you are buying toys, select those that are adequately and truthfully labeled, age-appropriate, locally-made, safe and void of harmful substances.

7. Patronize toys that promote a culture of creativity, harmony, and peace, and not that of prejudice, war and violence.

8. Give products and delicacies from your province. Go for fruits, vegetables, plants, sweets, condiments, decorative and functional crafts, etc.

9. Give environment-friendly gifts made of recycled materials or products or services that advocate sustainable living. Share items that will teach recycling such as handouts, primers and manuals on the different kinds of recycling.

10. Choose gifts that do not need to be wrapped such as potted plants, massage from blind masseurs, gift checks, concert tickets, raffle tickets etc.

11. If you need to wrap the gift, use old magazines or newspapers (especially the comics section), old bandannas, etc. You can also use craft paper and jazz it up with colored pencils.

12. Call or send e-card to family and friends with Internet access. Create your own greeting card to give it a more personal touch or buy cards from groups with a special mission or advocacy.


WATCH OUT: Ensure that gifts, especially toys, school supplies and instructional materials for children, do not contain hazardous ingredients such as bisphenol A, phthalates, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern. Carefully read the product labels. If the information is inadequate or is written in a language that you do not understand, better not buy it. You have the right to be informed and to be protected against dishonest or misleading product label or
advertisement.

Forget not the lessons of Ondoy: go reusable this Christmas

Quezon City. For the sake of Mother Earth, please bring your own reusable bag and keep in mind the lessons of Ondoy’s epic flood.

Film actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez and the EcoWaste Coalition together aired this plea as the entire nation goes on a holiday shopping frenzy in preparation for Christmas and the New Year.

“The poignant image of plastic bags hanging in fences, trees, street signs and lamp posts after the tragic flood should remain etched in our minds if only to remind us of the detrimental effects of
unrestrained use of single-use plastic bags,” said actress Chin-Chin Gutierrez, President of Alaga Lahat and a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee..

“Ondoy has taught us that throw-away culture that is fast becoming the norm in our consumerist society is out of place in a finite planet, which is now trying to cope with the climate crisis,” she stated.

“We invite Filipino consumers to cut down on excessive shopping and only to shop for holiday essentials with reusable carry bags in keeping with the lessons of Ondoy. Let this gift of sustainability be our gift to Mother Earth and to future generations,” Gutierrez said.

Shifting to eco-friendly reusable bags, according to Alaga Lahat and the EcoWaste Coalition, is “one simple act” that caring consumers can do to save the climate and the seas from plastic pollution.

“A switch to reusable bags is a simple act that can minimize the use of fossil fuels that is driving climate change, while cutting the volume of bags sent to dumpsites or dumped into the seas,” Manny Calonzo, President of the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out..

“We need not wait for plastic bags to be banned or for plastic levy to be imposed. We can, on our own initiative, do the switch to bayong and other reusable carry bags for a healthier future,” he said.

Citing local and international studies, the groups pointed at plastic bags as the top litter that has been clogging sewers and rivers, and damaging the marine ecosystems.

A plastic discards survey by the EcoWaste Coalition and Greenpeace in 2006 revealed that plastic bags comprised 51% of the rubbish floating in Manila Bay.

Another study by Ocean Conservancy released in 2009 showed that 679,957 out of the 1,235,163 marine debris of various categories that were collected in coastal areas of the country were plastic bags.

A government-commissioned study in 2003 showed an average 25% plastic discards in solid waste generated in Metro Manila., which produces some 5,000 to 6,000 tons of trash per day during the Christmas season.

To cut the consumption of plastic bags towards a greener Christmas, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with some practical suggestions:

1. Reduce purchases by avoiding impulsive buying and really thinking hard before procuring anything.

2. Get a bayong or sew your own reusable bag from fabric scraps, rice and flour sacks or from old clothes and jeans.

3. Keep a reusable bag in your backpack and in your bicycle or car to ensure you have one when needed.

4. Choose products that have the least amount of packaging and pick those using recycled materials.

5. Simply say no to plastic bags and .make this message known to vendors and retailers.

“Consumers can use their purchasing power to hammer the message that plastic bags are not okay. By breaking the plastic bag habit, we do a great service to Mother Earth and promote ecological consumerism one transaction at a time,” Calonzo said.

16 December 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Implores the Youth to “Say No to Firecrackers” at“Iwas PapuToxic” Campaign Launch

Quezon City. Let us think about the babies and children, sick neighbors, elders, pets and animals, and, not to be counted out, the beleaguered environment and climate, before buying and blasting firecrackers.

For a safe and climate-friendly celebration of the New Year, please “say no to firecrackers.”

This was the message told loud and clear by the EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, at the lively and boisterous launch of their “Iwas PapuToxic” campaign before 1,650 students of the Marcelo H. Del Pilar Elementary School in Quezon City.

“Iwas PapuToxic” is a yearly campaign of the EcoWaste Coalition, which complements the Department of Health’s “Iwas Paputok,” by promoting safe and eco-sensitive substitutes to deadly and costly firecrackers that do not yield poison fumes and discards.

Firecrackers are deemed dangerous because they contain the same materials used in making bombs and explosives, and are known to emit the same set of harmful chemicals as smoke-belching vehicles that can cause ill health and contribute to global warming.

“The customary blasting of firecrackers to welcome the New Year has long been recognized as a highly preventable source of accidental injury and mortality as well as noise, garbage and chemical pollution,” said film actor Roy Alvarez of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Steering Committee

“Given the urgent need to stem the tide of toxic pollutants that is endangering human, ecological and climate health, we ask all Filipino children and their parents alike to simply ‘say no to firecrackers’ and hail 2010 in a safe and non-toxic way,” appealed Alvarez.

“By turning away from firecrackers, we save lives and limbs and, at one fell swoop, help in improving overall community environment by reducing deafening noise, avoiding trash and preventing the release of harmful chemicals into the surroundings,” he added.

The call of the EcoWaste Coalition did not fall on deaf ears as the students recited in unison a pledge not to buy and blast firecrackers before their teachers, school principal Dr. Luisito Cleto, school superintendent Dr. Victoria Fuentes and police station 10 commander Supt. Jesus Balingasa, Jr.

“Kami ay nanunumpa na sasalubungin ang Bagong Taon na hindi bibili, hahawak o gagamit ng anumang paputok na maglalagay sa panganib sa aming kalusugan at kaligtasan, pati na sa iba pang mga tao at gayundin sa mga hayup,” the students said. (“We pledge to welcome the New Year without buying, touching or using firecrackers that can put our health and safety in danger, and also those of other people as well as animals.”)

“We can create emission-free and waste-free alternative noisemakers without spending a cent. Just simply look around your house and pick things that you can reuse or recycle to make sounds to herald the New Year,” said Aileen Lucero, Iwas PapuToxic campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

To demonstrate alternative ways of welcoming the New Year that do not discharge toxic fumes and discards, top percussionist Paul Zialcita led the students in creating lively music using improvised drums, torotot made of used materials, cymbals using pot lids, maracas from tin cans, tambourine from bottle caps and shakers from used plastic containers and paper boxes.

Also joining the Iwas PapuToxic launch were Miss Philippines-EcoTourism Adie Adelantar, Miss Philippines-Fire Patricia Marie Tumulak, Miss Philippines-Water Catherine Loyola, Miss Philippines-Earth runner-up Kirstie Joan Babor, Miss Earth-South Sudan Aheu Deng, and Miss Earth Foundation Executive Director Cathy Untalan.

For a “non-toxic” New Year celebration, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with 13 emission-free and waste-free alternatives to firecrackers. These are:

1. Blow traditional horns or "torotot;" pick the one made of recycled materials.

2. Be a whistleblower: create whistling sound or get a whistle and blow it.

3. Create and shake homemade maracas from used tin cans (e.g., cans used in preparing media noche staples).

4. Fill box or plastic containers with some pebbles, caps or coins and create your instant “shakers.”

5. Rattle the tambourine made from flattened bottle caps.

6. Clank improvised cymbals using pot lids or pans.

7. Jangle the batya or palanggana (washbasin) with a ladle or stick.

8. Bang empty coconut shells.

9. Play the guitar or any available musical instruments.

10. Play your favorite music.

11. Beep the bicycle or car horns.

12. Clap your hands and stump your feet.

13. Sing, dance and shout “Happy New Year!”

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has earlier reminded parents not to allow children to use firecrackers or fireworks whether of the legal or illegal kind, stressing that these devices are not toys and are very dangerous.

According to the DOH Fireworks Injury Surveillance Report, 733 injuries were reported from December 21, 2008 to January 5, 2009 involving victims age 8 months to 76 years old, with the National Capital Region registering most cases (451), followed by Western Visayas (86) and Ilocos Region (58).

714 of the cases were fireworks-related, 17 were due to stray-bullet injuries and 2 were due to the use and ingestion of watusi, a small, thin red firecracker that is known to be dangerous when swallowed due to the toxic poisons it contains, particularly potassium chlorate, potassium nitrate, yellow phosphorous and trinitrotoloune.

The DOH also reported that piccolo, kwitis, 5-star, luces and home-made or altered firecrackers as the top five firecrackers that caused most injuries in 2008.


*** Additional Information

SIX REASONS AS TO WHY FIRECRACKERS ARE BAD TO PUBLIC HEALTH, CLIMATE AND THE ENVIRONMENT:

1. Firecrackers can cause serious if not fatal injuries. Incorrect handling can lead to the loss of limbs, lives and properties.

2. Firecrackers produce smoke and dust loaded with harmful chemicals that can aggravate the poor air quality and cause throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for people with asthma and chemical sensitivities.

3. Firecrackers leave behind unwanted discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers, and PVC pipes from “boga” that add to the mountains of holiday trash.

4. Firecrackers produce deafening noise that can lead to anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, and hearing disabilities, and trigger high blood pressure and heart attack.

5. Firecrackers can result to severe ear injuries for animals who are more sensitive to sound, so the noise hurts their ears, terrifies them, and causes them to run wildly or lose their navigational skills.

6. Firecrackers waste money that should be spent instead to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and other essential needs.

12 December 2009

No Time to Waste!

NO TIME TO WASTE: Zero Waste advocates belonging to the EcoWaste Coalition join the Global Day of Action on Climate today, 12 December, to urge world leaders to waste no time in adopting a robust climate deal that will prevent catastrophic destabilization of the global climate. (Manny Calonzo)

11 December 2009

Cebu Groups Join Drive to Eliminate Lead in Paints for Children's Health

Cebu City – The University of Cebu and partners Visayas Climate Action Network, Environmental Design, Inc. Share a Child, and Global Legal Action on Climate Change echoed today the launch of the “Lead in New Paints – A Global Study” where the Philippines participated with nine other countries in having household paints available in their market tested for lead, a neurotoxicant. The study was launched last Monday in Manila by the EcoWaste Coalition.

The study revealed that of the 25 paint samples from the Philippines, 40% have lead concentrations way beyond the present United States threshold of 90 parts per million (ppm), and 36% exceeded the old 600ppm standard. One sample even reached a staggering lead level of 189,163.5 ppm.

Professor Scott Clark, a visiting scientist from the University of Cincinnati who spent almost 40 years of his career in research of heavy metals and their adverse effects in the environment and health, said that, “this removes any shadow of doubt that lead is still being used in paint manufacturing,” and that the presence of lead in paint is “a lamentable fact considering the availability of lead-free paints since the 1800s.”

Lead can cause permanent nervous system damage and may cause diminished intelligence even at very low exposures. The US Environmental Protection Agency has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen. Severe exposures can lead to mental retardation and death.

“There should be an administrative order outlawing the use of lead in paint,” declared UC College of Law professor and environmental activist Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos. “Lead paint is robbing us of a healthy future every time we welcome it in our homes, schools and workplaces,” she emphasized.

“Eliminating lead from paint is as possible as its removal from gasoline,” asserted Paeng Lopez, of EcoWaste Coalition. “We achieved that remarkable regulation once; we can do it again for our children’s sake,” he followed.

According to the report, enamel samples of Sphero, Popular, Mana, and Boysen had low lead concentrations, while enamel samples from Dutch Boy, Globe, Coat Saver, Davies, Master, Nation, Olympic, and Welcoat were found to have high lead concentrations.

The global report collected a total of 317 paint samples from Brazil, Mexico, Belarus, Senegal, South Africa, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines.

EcoWaste Coalition vowed to continue their awareness campaign for as long as “this terrible substance insidiously invades the soundness of the health of our loved ones, especially of our children’s.”

EcoWaste Coalition Promotes Composting and Eco-Gardens to Prevent Stinking Garbage this Christmas


Quezon City – With the anticipated rise in the volume of household waste due to increased consumption during the festive season, the pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition called for intensive composting to prevent offensive smell from rotting trash as well as to avoid the emission of chemical pollutants that is aggravating the climate crisis.

Government data show that Metro Manila’s garbage generation usually increases in December from 3,000 to 4,000 tons per day on regular days to 5,000 to 6,000 tons daily during the Christmas holidays.

At a seminar held yesterday to promote organic waste reuse for urbanagriculture, Zero Waste advocates highlighted the need for every household, school, barangay and the various commercial and industrial establishments to set up their composting systems that will suit their waste size and their physical and space conditions.

“Biodegradable waste, the largest fraction of municipal solid waste, can be easily dealt with through composting. By separating our discards at source and turning organics into compost, we already solve half of our garbage problem and avoid a stinking mess that can ruin the Christmas spirit,” said Rei Panaligan, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Panaligan also pointed out that composting will help cut the formation and emission of methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 25 times climatic impact than carbon dioxide, from mixed waste dumps and landfills.

“We can stop methane releases from dumpsites by ensuring that our biodegradable discards are duly composted. We can similarly reduce the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides by producing safe organic inputs for our gardens and farms from composting,” said Panaligan.

Composting is the controlled decomposition of organic materials such as fruit and vegetable peelings, leftover foods, yard waste and other biodegradable discards into a humus-like product by micro-organisms, mainly bacteria and fungi.

Compost can serve as effective bio-fertilizer, soil enhancer or as soil supplement in vegetable garden, flower beds and for other agricultural purposes.

Dr. Raffy Barrozo, board member of the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines and director of the Organic Center at the University of the Philippines-Los Banos, shared his expertise on the many innovative ways of composting using clay pot, bin or bag, tower tire, twin pit, and bottomless composters.

Dr. Barrozo also pointed out that setting up eco-gardens can provide extra livelihood for community members from vegetables, fruits and herbs that can be grown and harvested for food and even for health and medicinal purposes.

To have a better appreciation of the benefits of composting and eco-gardening, the participants visited two different models of urban eco-gardens at Barangay Holy Spirit in Quezon City and Barangay 187 in Caloocan City.

Among those who took part in the seminar and study tour were Zero Waste advocates from Buklod Tao, Cavite Green Coalition, Ecology Ministry of the Diocese of Caloocan, Krusada sa Kalikasan, November 17 Movement, Sanib Lakas ng Inang Kalikasan and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines.

07 December 2009

EcoWaste Coalition Seeks the Elimination of Lead in Paints to Protect Pinoy Kids

Quezon City. As Filipino children long for the most joyous occasion of gift-giving on Christmas Day, health and environmental advocates bid for possibly the best gift that will safeguard kids’ health: the elimination of lead in paints.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and toxic watchdog, made the offer at a press conference that saw the launch of a pioneering global study that confirmed disturbing levels of lead in household paints in developing countries despite being outlawed in Europe since the 1920s.

“The Lead in New Decorative Household Paints: A Global Study,” conducted by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), found lead in 80% of the paint samples that were purchased by participating groups from 10 countries, including the Philippines and tested in a government-accredited laboratory in India.

Professor Scott Clark, a visiting scientist from the University of Cincinnati who has done extensive research on lead in paints, said that the test results provided fresh evidence on the widespread production and sale of paints with added lead.

Lead is one of the oldest known poisons and some lead free paints were available at least since the late 1800s. Prof. Clark and many others have devoted decades dealing with the legacy of the use of more than six million tons of lead in paint in USA which has poisoned millions of children and is costing billions of dollars to reduce health risks in houses.

"The new data on lead in household paints should elicit global and national campaigns and partnerships for the removal of lead in paints. As paint use increases as economies expand, it would be horrible and utterly unnecessary to see a legacy created of the poisoning of millions of children and others. Alternatives to lead use in paints have been available and widely used for more than 60 years,” Prof. Clark stated.

“You have succeeded in phasing out the use of lead in automotive fuels and I'm sure you can do it again with paints and do away with this very avoidable toxic threat, especially to children's health," he added.

Out of the 25 paint samples from the Philippines, 15 of which were enamel and 10 plastic paints, 40 percent registered lead concentrations higher than 90 ppm and 36 percent higher than 600 ppm.

One sample showed extremely elevated levels of lead at 189,163.5 ppm that is far beyond the recommended limit of 90 ppm.

Enamel samples of Boysen, Hudson, Mana, Popular and Sphero brands that were tested had low lead concentrations, while enamel samples of Coat Saver, Davies Gloss, Dutch Boy, Globe, Master, Nation, Olympic and Welcoat were found to have high lead concentrations.

“Lead is a poison and it should not be present in paint or other products to which children are exposed,” said Paeng Lopez of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Unlike adults who have the capability to protect themselves from harmful substances, children can not ordinarily tell safe objects from hazardous ones. In their imaginary world, colorful dust or chipped paint is as harmless as a Tinkerbelle’s pixie dust or Gretel’s bread crumbs. It is therefore morally incumbent upon us to protect the children from any potential harm.”

For her part, pediatrician and environmental health expert Dr. Irma Makalinao stated that lead can adversely impede a child’s brain and body development and health, stressing that “child lead poisoning should be taken seriously, and parents should be aware of possible pathways of exposure including lead paint in one’s home.”

Lead causes irreversible nervous system damage and decreased intelligence at extremely low doses. Lead exposure in childhood has been associated with lower vocabulary and grammatical-reasoning scores, increased absenteeism, poorer eye-to-hand coordination, and lower class standing in high school. The US EPA has determined that lead is a probable human carcinogen.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Healthy Environments for Children Alliance, “there is no known safe blood lead level but it is known that, as lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.” One of the largest causes of lead exposure is lead-contaminated dust from decaying paint. Lead ingestion and poisoning typically occurs through hand-to-mouth activity.

To address this lead threat, the EcoWaste Coalition, together with the International POPs Elimination Network and Toxics Link, have launched the “Children’s Health First: Eliminate Lead Paint” global campaign.

“This campaign seeks to champion children’s health and safety by eliminating lead paint and promoting safe alternatives through the ‘Global Partnership to Eliminate Lead from Paint’ under SAICM,” said Manny Calonzo, IPEN Co-Hub for Southeast Asia.

SAICM or the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management is a global policy and strategy adopted by governments and stakeholders in 2006 to change how chemicals are produced and used in order to minimize harmful effects on public health and the environment.

IPEN is a global public interest NGO network with more than 700 participating oganizations in over 100 countries and in all regions.

IPEN works with NGOs around the world, including the EcoWaste Coalition, toward a future where toxic chemicals no longer cause harm to human health or to the environment.


Additional information for the media:

1. Please see the Executive Summary of the report at:
http://www.ipen.org/ipenweb/documents/work%20documents/paint_executivesummary.pdf

For more information, about the campaign, please log on to:
http://www.ipen.org/ipenweb/work/lead/lead_paint.html

2. The countries where the 317 paint samples were collected are: Sri Lanka, Philippines, Thailand, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Senegal, Belarus, Mexico, and Brazil.

3. Key findings: The average new paint lead concentration in the ten counties studied ranged from 4091 pm to 38,970, many times higher than the recommended limit of 90 ppm. For seven of the countries, the average was greater than 10,000 ppm. With a few exceptions, all water-based plastic paint samples had low lead concentrations; often below 90 ppm.

4. Key recommendations: mandatory national regulations for limiting lead oncentrations in paints must be enacted in developing countries.

Other recommendations:

- A proper monitoring plan to ensure that industries comply with standards should be in place.
- It is also important to determine the extent of lead contamination of dust in existing houses in order to develop sound programs to reduce exposure to lead.
- A mass campaign should be launched to make people aware of hazards associated with lead.
- A partnership among the civil society organizations and other stakeholders in the developing region of the world is sina qua non to ensure that lead is eventually eliminated from paints worldwide.

06 December 2009

Environmentalists and Cyclists Bike for Toxic-Free Christmas

Quezon City. As Christmas approaches, more than 100 bikers from various cycling and environmental groups pedaled for 27 kilometers around Metro Manila to entice the public to observe a toxic-free yuletide season.

Dubbed as “Bike Ride for Toxic-Free Christmas,” the cycling event kicked off from Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, traversed the streets of Manila City where a short program was held at Liwasang Bonifacio, and ended at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and Cycling Advocates (CYCAD), bike enthusiasts wearing jerseys that say “right to ask, right to know” toured major thoroughfares to raise awareness on the right and responsibility of consumers to seek and use information wisely in order to avoid unwanted chemical risks and exposures.

Through the unique emission-free public outreach, the groups urged consumers to be mindful of the “hazards” posed by popular yuletide activities such as shopping and gift-giving that could potentially expose consumers to various chemicals of concern such as toxic metals like lead in toys.

“We as consumers need to be extra vigilant during this festive season to safeguard ourselves and the people we love from harmful chemicals and toxins that may lurk in gifts that we will give and receive,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).

“By exercising our consumer right to truthful information, we equip ourselves with knowledge essential for making safe choices,” he said.

“By doing so, we also encourage business and industry to duly recognize and respect our right to information and our right to chemical safety,” Dizon added.

The event saw cycling aficionados and advocates from Ban Toxics, Concerned Residents of Marikina Valley, Daang Tubo Bikers Earth UST, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, , Las Piñas Bike Club, Libis Bikers’ Club, Montalban Bikers’ Club and Sining Yapak espousing the consumer right to information.

Also present were representatives of the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and SALIKA.

"We as bikers advocating for a pollution-free environment have to take part in spreading awareness among the citizens about the inevitable danger brought by harmful chemicals, especially in Christmas toys," said Jun Salaveria, President of CYCAD.

To assist consumers in making sound gift choices this Christmas, the EcoWaste Coalition has released a “Guide on Giving Green” with practical tips on how to prevent toxic buys as well as holiday trash.

“Ensure that gifts, especially toys, school supplies and instructional materials for children, do not contain hazardous ingredients such as bisphenol A, phthalates, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“Carefully read the product labels. If the information is inadequate or is written in a language that you do not understand, better not buy it. You have the right to be informed and to be protected against dishonest or misleading product label or advertisement,” the group pointed out.


ECOWASTE COALITION’S GUIDE ON GIVING GREEN:

Every Christmas a lot of us dig deep into our coffers to give our loved ones, especially the children, gifts to warm the heart or fill the belly. How do we avoid creating more holiday trash? How do we make sure we are not unwittingly poisoning the children? How do we tackle crass consumerism so that the real reason for the season is not drowned out by the festive celebration?


Here are 12 tips from the EcoWaste Coalition:

1. Collect unused gifts, old clothes, toys, books and other materials and donate them to charitable institutions.

2. Personalize gifts by making them yourself. Why not gift your family and friends with your specialty dish, plants from your own backyard, scrapbooks, or a CD music selection?

3. Volunteer your time and talents to projects and services for the community and the environment. Ask your barangay, church, school or organization how you can be of help.

4. Give old items that you already have a new look. This not only prevents waste generation, it also allows room for personal creativity. It also gives the receiver the feeling that you took the time and effort to create for her/him.

5. When buying gifts, choose eco-friendly products that do not come from old-growth forests, contain no GMOs, are not fossil fuel-based, non-toxic, and not made from child or abusive labor practices.

6. If you are buying toys, select those that are adequately and truthfully labeled, age-appropriate, locally-made, safe and void of harmful substances.

7. Patronize toys that promote a culture of creativity, harmony, and peace, and not that of prejudice, war and violence.

8. Give products and delicacies from your province. Go for fruits, vegetables, plants, sweets, condiments, decorative and functional crafts, etc.

9. Give environment-friendly gifts made of recycled materials or products or services that advocate sustainable living. Share items that will teach recycling such as handouts, primers and manuals on the different kinds of recycling.

10. Choose gifts that do not need to be wrapped such as potted plants, massage from blind masseurs, gift checks, concert tickets, raffle tickets etc.

11. If you need to wrap the gift, use old magazines or newspapers (especially the comics section), old bandannas, etc. You can also use craft paper and jazz it up with colored pencils.

12. Call or send e-card to family and friends with Internet access. Create your own greeting card to give it a more personal touch or buy cards from groups with a special mission or advocacy.

WATCH OUT: Ensure that gifts, especially toys, school supplies and instructional materials for children, do not contain hazardous ingredients such as bisphenol A, phthalates, lead, mercury and other chemicals of concern. Carefully read the product labels. If the information is inadequate or is written in a language that you do not understand, better not buy it. You have the right to be informed and to be protected against dishonest or misleading product label or advertisement.

03 December 2009

Bad Shoes Stink: RP Shoes Tested Positive with Environmental Toxicants

Quezon City. Ordinary leather shoe samples from the Philippines and five other countries contain various environmental toxicants that can spread into the users and the ecosystems.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting consumer safety from toxic chemicals, made this revelation as it released today the new report “Bad Shoes Stink” published by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC).

SSNC, Sweden’s biggest and oldest environmental organization at 100 years old, had 21 pairs of shoes tested for certain hazardous chemicals, of which 11 pairs were purchased in Sweden, and two pairs each from South Africa, Uganda, Belarus, India and the Philippines.

The EcoWaste Coalition bought two pairs of branded leather shoes (Bandolino and Rusty Lopez) from SM Centerpoint in Sta. Mesa, Manila and sent them to SSNC via DHL for analyses that were performed at Swedish laboratories Swerea IVF and Eurofins.

The international product survey was conducted to increase awareness among producers, retailers, and consumers on what chemicals can be found in leather shoes - which are linked to the wide range of chemicals used in the tanning, preservation and dyeing of the leather - so that they can demand products free of problematic chemicals.

Among the chemicals that were analyzed include metals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, lead, mercury, nickel and zinc), carcinogenic aromatic amines from azo dyes, chlorinated phenols, ortho-phenylphenol, 2,4,6-tribromophenol, dimethylfumarate, formaldehyde and chlorinated paraffins.

Seven of these chemicals (arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, pentachlorophenol, and formaldehyde) are included in the priority chemicals list of the Philippines. These are chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resouces has ascertained as potentially posing unwarranted risks to public health, workplace and the environment.

”The scientific investigation by SSNC found a cocktail of chemicals in the shoe samples bought in six countries that can put workers, consumers and the environment at risk during the entire life cycle of the shoes,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

”For public safety and environmental health, we urge the authorities to enact and enforce policies that will prohibit dangerous chemicals in consumer products, especially those that can cause carcinogenic, hormone damaging and allergenic hazards, and promote safe substitutes,” he added.

One shoe sample from the Philippines (a Rusty Lopez dark brown leather shoe for men) ranked first in benzidine (a carcinogenic aromatic amine), cadmium and nickel, second in chromium, and third in arsenic and lead in the 21 pairs tested. The other shoe sample from the Philippines (a Bandolino black boots for women) ranked first in cobalt, third in chromium and fourth in arsenic and mercury.

The most serious finding of the study is that tons of trivalent chromium derived from the tanning of leather is spread into environment every year when the shoes are eventually disposed of as waste. Chromium tanning accounts for some 80-85% of all tanning globally.

Upon incineration, open burning or landfilling of leather waste containing chromium, the most common and least toxic trivalent form of chromium may oxidize into the highly toxic and carcinogenic hexavalent form.

“The hexavalent chromium that has not been cleaned from the flue gases is spread into the environment. It can be breathed in, absorbed via the skin, pollute watercourses and cause harm to humans and other organisms,” said Andreas Prevodnik, SSNC project manager for the leather shoe study.

Apart from trivalent chromium, the study also found azo dyes in two of the 21 pairs - from the Philippines and Sweden - that can degrade into carcinogenic aromatic amines or produce allergenic effects. The Philippine sample contained 68 mg/kg of benzidine, which is more than twice the acceptable limit of 30 mg/kg stipulated under the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemical Substances (REACH) of the European Union.

The azo dyes, which are leached out from the leather by perspiration, can be converted into carcinogenic aromatic amines and can be absorbed into the skin when the shoes are being worn. Azo dyes in waste that is disposed of in dumpsites or landfills can also give rise to aromatic amines, which are spread into the environment with the effluent from the tips.

The DENR has confirmed with the EcoWaste Coalition that the country has no regulation yet on azo dyes, and while chromium compounds are regulated, they are not banned.

To protect the public and the environment from hazardous chemicals, the EcoWaste Coalition and the SSNC put forward several recommendations addressed to the government, the industry and the consumers.

For the Government:
- implement legislation prohibiting hazardous chemicals in consumer products
- promote globally binding agreements for the phase out of hazardous chemicals from the materials flow in human society
- classify chromium containing waste as potentially hazardous
- improve the management of hazardous waste.

For the Industry:
- demand full information from the supplier/upstream manufacturer on the materials and contents of hazardous chemicals in the shoes you intend to purchase or place an order on
- phase out substances that are harmful to health and the environment
- increase the use of chromium-free leather in the shoe production, and support development of alternatives to chromium tanning
- produce and sell shoes of high quality and long durability
- eco-label shoe products

For the Consumers:
- ask for chromium-free leather
- buy only shoes you need
- use shoes as long as possible, and take them to the shoemaker if they need to be mended
- do not dump or burn discarded shoes

“In line with the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management, we request the DENR and other agencies to strengthen policy and regulatory frameworks on priority chemicals of concern and ensure their full enforcement for public health and safety,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

Notes:

1. Please see the attached report “Bad Shoes Stink” for details.

2. To download free publicity images of the tested shoes, please see:
http://www.naturskyddsforeningen.se/press/pressbilder/läderskor

3. For more information, please contact:

Andreas Prevodnik, SSNC project manager for the tests +46 (0)70-970 41 29
andreas.prevodnik@naturskyddsforeningen.se

Manny Calonzo, EcoWaste Coalition president, 0922-8286343
mcalonzo@no-burn.org

01 December 2009

RP Urged to Espouse Recycling Solutions at Climate Change Conference

Quezon City. With just few days left before the much heralded make or break negotiations in Denmark, groups championing Zero Waste urged governments, including the Philippines, to support recycling and waste avoidance solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change.

At the same time, the groups sought the approval of a Global Climate Fund that will invest in resource recovery programs, ensuring decent livelihoods for all workers and traders in the recycling economy.

The EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), in a joint letter sent via e-mail and fax to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, exhorted the government of the Philippines to recognize and champion “the mitigation potential of recycling and waste reduction” at the UN Climate Change Conference that will take place in Copenhagen on December 7 to 18.

“The outcome of the negotiations could make or break global efforts to ease the accelerating climate crisis, and we are asking negotiators to focus on winning solutions such as recycling that will not only cut emissions, but also ensure livelihood for the poor,” said Manny Calonzo, Co-Coordinator of GAIA.

“Negotiators should be wary about ‘waste-to-energy’ and landfill gas schemes that will directly undermine resource recovery efforts by the informal waste sector as well as by recycling households and communities, while burning or dumping valuable materials that should have been returned to commerce or nature,” he added.

“The proposed Global Climate Fund should be directly accessible to wastepickers and other members of the informal waste sector and should stop subsidies to polluting waste disposal technologies that redirect discards from recycling into incineration and landfilling which can lead to increased emissions and unemployment ,” commented Rei Panaligan, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The waste pickers or reclaimers at dumpsites or landfills, garbage crew, garbage truck jumpers, itinerant waste buyers and junk shops constitute the informal waste sector in the Philippines.

In their letter to PGMA, the groups ask climate negotiators to “recognize the critical and productive role that the informal recycling sector contributes to climate change mitigation and to a healthy economy.”

Citing scientific assessment of materials management options, the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA stated that cutting emissions by recycling costs 30% less than applying energy efficiency and 90% cheaper than through wind power.

To further get their message across, the groups cited figures from the “National Framework Plan for the Informal Waste Sector in Solid Waste Management” that was released by the National Solid Waste Management Commission in May 2009.

According to the Framework Plan, the informal waste sector in Quezon City as calculated by the Solid Waste Management Association of the Philippines reduces greenhouse gas emissions from extraction, energy use and final disposal by as much as 194,280 metric tons CO2-eq (carbon dioxide equivalent), saving the City over 125 million pesos in avoided expenses yearly.

In terms of economic benefits, the EcoWaste Coalition and GAIA stated that recycling provides employment to at least 15 million people in developing countries, stressing that even in developed countries, recycling provides 10 times the jobs per ton of waste as incinerators and landfills.

“Wastepickers working in the informal economy are at the heart of existing recycling systems in the developing world, and must play an integral role in any expansion of recycling,” the groups said.

“Evidence from a range of developing countries shows that when municipalities try to bypass wastepickers by granting contracts to private waste management companies, these programs often fail outright and lead to job loss, wasted public resources, lower recycling rates, and increased greenhouse gas emissions,” they emphasized.

At the Copenhagen climate conference, wastepickers’ groups working in collaboration with Zero Waste groups from the Philippines and 12 countries will promote and push for recycling as “one of the cheapest, quickest and easiest ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in developed and developing nations alike.”


References:

GAIA paper on wastepickers and climate change:
http://www.no-burn.org/article.php?id=729

GAIA paper on zero waste for zero warming:
http://www.no-burn.org/article.php?id=572