29 January 2012

Urgent Action Sought to Curb Unsafe Disposal of Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste

(EDSA, Mandaluyong City)

(Osmena St., Makati City)

(F.B. Harrison St., Pasay City)

(Solana St., Intramuros, Manila)

(J.P. Rizal Ave., near corner Don Chino Roces Ave., Makati City)

The improper disposal of busted fluorescent lamps releases mercury, a potent neurotoxin, into the environment, endangering the health of waste workers and the public.

Environmental health groups aired this warning after conducting a “photo documentation” to find out how spent lamps are disposed of by “small quantity waste generators,” or entities that accumulate less than 100 busted lamps a year.

With the help of “Basura Patrollers” from the Diocese of Caloocan Ecology Ministry, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and Mother Earth Foundation, relevant photos were taken at random from January 24-27, 2012.

The photos were mostly taken via cellphone from garbage bins and heaps in pavements and sidewalks in the cities of Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Navotas, Parañaque, Pasay, San Juan and Quezon.

“Our investigation confirms the unsafe practice of simply leaving or throwing mercury-containing lamp waste in the streets as if these were just candy wrappers,” said Manny Calonzo, Basura Patroller, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Busted lamps were dumped with typical trash or left by the roadside, picked up by garbage collectors, sometimes crushed in compactor trucks and then hauled to landfills for final disposal,” he said.

“This is very disturbing since these spent bulbs are no ordinary discards. Reckless disposal can lead to lamp breakage and the discharge of its mercury content in vapor form,” he pointed out.

Citing information from a government-published “Primer on Mercury-Containing Lamp Waste Management,” the groups said that tubular fluorescent lamps can contain 3 to 50 mg. of mercury, while compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) can contain 1 to 25 mg. of mercury.

The health impacts of mercury release and contamination, according to the primer, can include brain damage, memory loss, learning disabilities, behavioral problems, loss of sensation and vision,tremors, heart disease, kidney failure, liver injury and reproductive system damage.

“Waste workers, particularly the paleros (garbage collectors) and the informal recyclers, are at risk of direct exposure to mercury vapors from broken lamps,” Calonzo pointed out.

Mercury vapor data obtained by the EcoWaste Coalition and its partner groups from the breaking of lamp waste for recycling in Pier 18 showed an average reading of over 117 micrograms per cubic meter (mcg/m3) with the highest reading at more than 502 mcg/m3.

The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration has set a “permissible exposure limit” for mercury vapor at 0.1 milligram per cubic meter (or 100 mcg/m3), warning that “a worker’s exposure to mercury vapor shall at no time exceed this ceiling level.”

To reduce and eliminate occupational and community mercury exposures, national and local authorities should enforce a system for the environmentally-sound management of busted lamps, including a practical system for safe collection, storage and recycling, the groups said.

They further asked the authorities to fast track the adoption of a product take back system that will make manufacturers responsible for the management of their end-of-life fluorescent lamps.

The groups also emphasized the need to educate the waste workers and the public about the hazards of mercury in the waste stream and the need for precaution to prevent toxic exposure through ingestion, inhalation and eye/skincontact.


22 January 2012

"Maging Mapagtanong, Maging Mapanuri at Maging Maingat" (EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Consumers to Take Precaution against Toxic-Laden Lucky Charms

“Lucky charms, which are supposed to enhance good health and fortune, should not carry hazardous substances that can cause illness and hardship.”

Chemical safety advocates from the EcoWaste Coalition stressed this point at a press briefing held today at their office in Quezon City to call attention to toxic chemicals creeping around popular Chinese New Year lucky charms and curios.

The group recently bought 30 assorted samples from various street vendors and shops in Binondo, Manila and screened them for toxic metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.

Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect reported that arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury were detected above levels of concern in 14 of the 30 samples (47%).

“We regret to announce that some lucky charms and decors are too contaminated with one or more heavy metals, some of which are carcinogenic, that can endanger human health,” she said.

"Maging mapagnatanong, maging mapanuri at maging maingat" (be questioning, be analytical and besafe)," she advised consumers.

For instance, excessive amounts of lead, a neurotoxin, were detected in six samples in the range of 108 ppm to 14,800, way above the 90 parts per million (ppm) limit under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.

Lucero explained that lead is highly toxic and harmful to human health even in very low doses and can cause brain damage, birth defects, cancer and other serious ailments.

Sonia Mendoza, a retired chemist and head of Mother Earth Foundation, expressed concern that the toxic materials found in some lucky charms and ornaments can be released under typical use and later when the items are discarded or disposed of.

“Product wastes containing heavy metals, in particular, are complicated to handle precisely because of their toxic ingredients that can put the health of waste workers, especially the informal recyclers, at risk,” she said.

Among the “dirtiest” samples with elevated levels of toxic metals were:

1. A dragon figurine containing 14,800 ppm of lead, 2,371 ppm of arsenic and 252 ppm of cadmium.

2. A bagua loaded with 13,200 ppm of lead, 8,962 ppm of chromium, 2,174 ppm of arsenic, 157 ppm of cadmium and 41 ppm of mercury.

3. A wu lo charm for good health with 4,988 ppm of lead, 4,074 ppm of chromium, 901 ppm of arsenic, 91 ppm of cadmium and 22 ppm of mercury.

4. A golden bank with 1,121 ppm of lead, 503 ppm of chromium, 177 ppm of arsenic and 83 ppm of cadmium.

5. A Maneki Neko lucky cat with 114 ppm of cadmium.

The group pointed out that arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are included in the World Health Organization’s “Ten Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern” and are likewise found, along with chromium, in the “Priority Chemicals List” of the Philippines.

During the press briefing, the EcoWaste Coalition presented key recommendations to the industry, the government and the consumers, such as:

1. For manufacturers to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals and to switch to safer alternatives and for them to disclose full chemical information on product labels.

2. For the government to ensure that only safe products are allowed to be manufactured, imported, distributed and sold in the market.

3. For consumers to assert their right to information and to product safety.


21 January 2012

Chinese New Year Lucky Charms and Curios Tested Positive with Toxic Metals

Lead and other toxic metals were detected in 14 lucky charms and ornaments that are currently enjoying brisk sale as Chinese New Year nears.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental group promoting public safety from chemicals and wastes, made the disclosure after subjecting 30 samples to chemical analysis using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

The samples were purchased on January 18-20, 2012 from shops and vendors in Binondo, Manila, the country’s oldest Chinatown and heart of the festive celebration to welcome the “Year of the Water Dragon.”

Among the samples tested were feng shui amulets, bagua, bracelets, piggy bank, door signage, dragons and other animal figurines, joss paper and sticks, kiat kiat money tree, red fish hanging decor, rice urn, and other enhancers and activators for good health and fortune.

Ironically,a dragon figurine outclassed other samples in terms of toxicity with lead content at 14,800 ppm. The same sample registered with the highest amounts of arsenic and cadmium among the items tested.

“Our scientific findings indicate the presence of lead and other hazardous substances in some popular Chinese New Year charms and curios,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

“The toxic chemicals have nothing to do with the auspicious stuff many Filipinos buy in Chinatown in the hope of stimulating good luck and fending off misfortune,”she pointed out.

“Manufacturers should substitute toxic with non-toxic ingredients, and importers, distributors, sellers and consumers should all demand nothing less than safe products,” she added.

"Toxic-free products will be beneficial to the workers who make them, to consumers who use them, and to waste handlers and recyclers who are exposed daily to a cocktail of chemicals in the conduct of their work," she also said.

Out of 30 samples, 14 products (47%) were found to contain toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium, chromium, lead and mercury above levels of concern.

Arsenic,cadmium, lead and mercury belong to the World Health Organization’s “Ten Chemicals of Major Public Health Concern” and are likewise included, along with chromium, in the “Priority Chemicals List” of the Philippines.

Of the 14 tainted products, six had lead ranging from 108 ppm to 14,800 ppm, exceeding the 90 parts per million threshold under the US Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act

Lead,which is highly toxic and harmful to human health even in very low doses, can damage the brain and cause cancer, birth defects and reproductive harm.

The tests indicated that:

1. All four dragon samples had toxic metals with one dragon figurine containing 14,800 ppm of lead, 2,371 ppm of arsenic and 252 ppm of cadmium.

2. Two of the three baguas were found to be tainted with one bagua having 13,200 ppm of lead, 8,962 ppm of chromium, 2,174ppm of arsenic, 157 ppm of cadmium and 41 ppm of mercury.

3. A colorful wu lo charm for good health had 4,988 ppm of lead, 4,074 ppm of chromium, 901 ppm of arsenic, 91 ppm of cadmium and 22 ppm of mercury.

4. A gold and red piggy bank had 1,121 ppm of lead, 503 ppm of chromium, 177 ppm of arsenic and 83 ppm of cadmium.

5. A Maneki Neko lucky cat had 114 ppm of cadmium.

The results were obtained through the use of a handheld XRF analyzer operated by a representative from QES (Manila), Inc.




Additional information about the health effects of lead exposure from the WHO:

"Lead is a toxic metal whose widespread use has caused extensive environmental contamination and health problems in many parts of the world. It is acumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage."


17 January 2012

"A litter-free Philippines will be more fun and gratifying to visit" - EcoWaste Coalition

Now that the debates over the newly-launched tourism slogan “it’s more fun in the Philippines” have subsided, an environmental network appealed to the authorities to attend to the need of keeping tourism spots and events clean and safe.

“After a frenzied scrutiny of the official tourism catchphrase has quieted down, we urge tourism officials to turn their attention to environmental quality that can attract or keep tourists at bay,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Poor air, water and land quality will surely not fascinate tourists who are in the hunt for places where they can safely enjoy and relax,” he said.

“Tourists would not come and spend their hard-earned money in places and activities where their health and safety can be at risk, he pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically drew attention to littered discards and pollutant emissions that can affect and offend the sensibilities of domestic and foreign visitors alike.

“Garbage-strewn streets, waterways, beaches, markets and parks, as well as toxic fumes from smoke-belching cars and burning garbage tend to drive back tourists,” Alvarez noted.

“No tourist would want to stroll along a littered beach, swim with flotsam and in waters with high coliform counts, relax in unhygienic surroundings, gulp tainted water or breathe in unhealthy air,” he emphasized.

Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Jr., according to Alvarez, has both the authority and obligation to integrate environmental care and protection in the strategy to augment tourist arrivals and revenues.

“We hope that under his watch Department of Tourism (DOT) Memorandum Circular 4, Series of 2005 will get revisited and strengthened, and ecological solid waste management (ESWM) in the tourism sector duly enforced,” Alvarez said.

Former Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano made the policy issuance in 2005 declaring “Zero Tourism Waste as a goal and direction for sustainable tourism and development.”

The policy was adopted following a seminar on “Zero Tourism Waste” at the DOT that was co-organized by the EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives and the Philippine Tourism Authority.

According to the said issuance, “tourism establishments and facilities generate significant volume of waste that can be considerably reduced to zero if a policy on waste prevention, reduction, separation at source, recycling and composting is put in place and genuinely carried out.”

The memorandum circular calls for the:

- promotion of education and training on ESWM in the tourism sector;

-inclusion of ESWM as a basic requirement for the accreditation of hotels and other tourism-related establishments; and the

- greening of tourism destinations and events.

“A green tourism summit led by the DOT and involving all the tourism stakeholders may be a shot in the arm the tourism sector needs to enhance its competitiveness and sustainability,” Alvarez suggested.

“A litter-free Philippines will be more fun and gratifying to visit,” he stressed


10 January 2012

Images: Littered Black Nazarene Feast

Black Nazarene Feast Aftermath: Massive Littering

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, has deplored the littering on a mass scale that again tarnished the feast of the Black Nazarene.

Despite repeated appeals aired by church, government and civil society leaders, litterbugs chose to mess up the time-honored faith-based event with reckless disposal of their discards.

“We are deeply saddened by the massive display of environmental apathy and disrespect during the feast day as if littering, which is clearly banned under Republic Act 9003, is permissible to do,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

R. A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, considers littering in public places as a prohibited act and violators, upon conviction, shall be fined P300 to P1,000 or required to render community service for one to 15 days, or both.

“It is totally unacceptable to ‘suspend’ the enforcement of the anti-littering law in the name of devotion. In fact, littering does not in any way exalt the Black Nazarene whom many Filipinos implore to grant fervent prayers for good health and other blessings,” Vergara said.

EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrollers who monitored the garbage situation throughout the 22-hour procession of the Black Nazarene from Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to Quiapo Church were appalled by the widespread littering by devotees and non-devotees alike.

The Rizal Park, the streets along the more than six kilometer processional route, the gutters, storm drains and even the MacArthur and Quezon bridges were littered with assorted trash that eco-volunteers and government street sweepers have to clean, the Basura Patrollers reported.

Plastic bags, plastic bottles and cups, plastic drinking straws, polystyrene food and beverage containers, food wrappers, cigarette butts and bamboo skewers were strewn everywhere, they complained.

While completely disappointed with the widespread littering, the EcoWaste Coalition remains hopeful that the situation will improve in future festivities.

“We look forward to the next feast as an occasion for demonstrating our shared environmental responsibility, especially in terms of preventing and reducing our discards,” Vergara added.

"Faith without environmental action is dead," she said, paraphrasing a popular biblical verse.


09 January 2012

Green Group Cites Efforts to Clean Up Luneta Immediately After the Black Nazarene Vigil

An environmental watchdog commended the perseverance of church, government and civic groups in clearing portions of Rizal Park of trash following the vigil in honor of Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (Our Father Jesus Nazarene).

The EcoWaste Coalition cited several groups who immediately picked up the trash left by the devotees right after the Holy Mass this morning that was presided over by Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, the newly-installed leader of the Archdiocese of Manila.

“We laud the various groups led by the Church for their noble environmental service,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

"We look forward to a more ecological celebration of our faith as more and more Filipinos heed the call for ecological awareness, conversion and action," he added.

Among those who took part in the cleanup were the church workers and volunteers from the Archdiocese of Manila Ecology Ministry, San Jose de Trozo Parish, St. John the Baptist Parish (also known as the Quiapo Church) and devotees from Malolos, Bulacan.

Also present to extend a helping hand were the student volunteers from the Nazarene Catholic School, Santa Isabel College and Universidad de Manila.

Government workers who joined the cleanup were from the Manila’s Department of Public Services, Metro Manila Development Authority and the National Parks Development Committee.

The EcoWaste Coalition also cited unorganized waste pickers who painstakingly retrieved recyclable discards such as PET bottles to be sold to junk shops.

The most common discards left by the devotees include plastic bags, food wrappers, polystyrene containers for hot drinks and for meals, improvised sleeping mats, and rubber slippers, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

In Plaza Miranda, members of the EcoWaste Coalition patiently held a big banner along Quezon Blvd, next to the Quiapo Church, with a friendly reminder that says “malinis at ligtas na Pista handog natin sa Mahal na Poong Nazareno.”

The group led by Tin Vergara, the group’s Zero Waste campaigner, also gave used sacks to some vendors for them to use as garbage receptacles.

The group is set to join the post-procession cleanup in Plaza Miranda later tonight.


08 January 2012

Vendors Urged to Bring Garbage Sacks to Reduce Litter during the Black Nazarene Feast

An environmental watchdog has requested vendors who will ply their trade during the feast of the Black Nazarene tomorrow to bring used sacks for their discards.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group promoting waste prevention and reduction, made the request in anticipation of the brisk sale of food and beverage with the expected turnout of some eight million devotees in the grand procession commencing from Rizal Park all the way to Quiapo Church.

“To discourage littering, a chronic problem in all public events, we advise all food and beverage vendors to take full responsibility for their discards and not to pass on the garbage burden to eco-aides and volunteers,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Bringing enough number of used rice, sugar, onion or garlic sacks and putting them next to their stalls will encourage customers not to throw their trash somewhere else,” he added.

“Those selling porridge and other quick meals should have a pail for leftovers that can be fed to animals,” he suggested.

To further reduce the creation of garbage, the group further urged vendors to as much as possible lessen the use of Styrofoam and other single-use plastic containers for foods and drinks.

“It will be a smart and eco-friendly move to invest on reusable and non-toxic mugs, glasses, bowls, plates, spoons and forks, which can be reused over and over again,” Alvarez said.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested the faithful followers of the Black Nazarene to observe environmental responsibility as they accomplish their personal “panata” (vows).

“May the feast day of the Black Nazarene be marked as well as a day of ecological awareness, responsibility and conversion,” Alvarez said.

In fact, “galangin ang kalikasan” (do respect the environment) is listed in the church-issued “do’s and don’ts” during the feast of the Black Nazarene, along with “huwag magkakalat” (don’t litter) and “huwag gumamit ng firecrackers” (don’t set off firecrackers), the EcoWaste Coalition noted.

To minimize the environmental effects of the huge feast, the EcoWaste Coalition urged everyone to reject all forms of littering.

“If devotees can walk barefoot for kilometers as an act of humility and penance, we’re sure they can without doubt not litter,” Alvarez said.

“All of us, in fact, have to stop this filthy habit of littering which is making our environment, especially Quiapo, an eyesore,’ he emphasized.

“A litter-free fiesta will be pleasing to Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno and also to Mother Earth,” he concluded.

Here are some tips from the EcoWaste Coalition for a cleaner fiesta:

1. Do not throw garbage anywhere; dispose of your trash into the right bins.
2. Return food and beverage discards to vendors, especially bamboo skewers that can cause foot injuries.
3. Refrain from smoking; if you do, don’t toss butts on the ground.
4. Say no to plastic bags; bring a foldable reusable bag for your “pasalubong.”
5. Refrain from spitting and urinating in public places.


07 January 2012

Hail to the Black Nazarene Eco-Volunteers

We honor and thank the eco-volunteers from the Parish of St. John the Baptist's Ministry of Care for the Environment, Ministry of Youth and the Basic Ecclesial Community, as well as staff of Manila's Department of Public Services and other concerned groups and individuals, including waste pickers, for picking up the trash and for keeping Plaza Miranda clean during the rain-drenched procession of replicas of the Black Nazarene on Saturday, January 7. (Photos by Manny Calonzo)

Environmental Group Airs Appeal for Litter-Free Fiesta in Honor of the Black Nazarene

(Photo Courtesy of Danny Pata, GMA News TV)
The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, reiterated its appeal for a garbage-free feast of the Black Nazarene that is expected to draw millions of devotees from near and far.

The group renewed its plea as replicas of the Black Nazarene are paraded this afternoon around Quiapo by faithful followers in the lead up to the massive procession on Monday, January 9.

Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition, urged devotees to heed the call for environmental responsibility as they carry out their spiritual vows.

“The profession of our faith and devotion should ease, not worsen, the waste and sanitation conditions in Quiapo district. As the ancient saying goes, cleanliness is next to godliness,” he said.

“As home of the most revered image of the Black Nazarene, it will be most fitting to keep Quiapo clean, especially on January 9, His feast day,” he emphasized.

“We hope the great feast day of Black Nazarene will be marked as well as a day of ecological awareness, responsibility and conversion, which is only apt given the woes afflicting the environment,” he added.

To minimize the environmental impacts of the spectacular feast, the EcoWaste Coalition called for a united stance against littering.

“If devotees can walk barefoot for kilometers as an act of humility and penance,we’re sure they can without doubt not litter,” Alvarez said.

The EcoWaste Coalition encouraged devotees and the general public to observe the following:

1. Do not throw garbage anywhere; dispose of your trash into the right bins.
2. Return food and beverage discards to vendors, especially bamboo skewers that can cause foot injuries.
3. Refrain from smoking; if you do, don’t toss butts on the ground.
4. Say no to plastic bags; bring a foldable reusable bag for your “pasalubong.”
5. Refrain from spitting and urinating in public places.

“We hope our appeal for an ecological fiesta will not fall on deaf ears. A litter-free fiesta will be pleasing to Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno and also to Mother Earth,” Alvarez said.

According to Manila's Department of Public Services, haulers collected 82.5 cubic meters of trash last January 1, 2012 from the Plaza Miranda-Quiapo area after the festivities, up from the usual 58 cubic meters during ordinary days.

05 January 2012

Green Activists Rally in Quiapo to Promote Clean and Safe Fiesta

Few days before the longest procession of barefoot and maroon-clad devotees of the Black Nazarene begins, environmental advocates assembled in front of Quiapo Church to make a pitch for a garbage-free fiesta.

EcoWaste Coalition members led by Buklod Tao held an image of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno (NPJN) as well as placards urging devotees to work together for an ecological celebration of our shared devotion and faith.

After singing the NPJN hymn and reciting an environment-focused "Panalangin ng Bayan" (prayers of the faithful), the green activists paraded through Carriedo, P. Gomez, R. Hidalgo, Villalobos and C. Palanca Streets inviting the public, particularly the devotees and the enterprising vendors, to cut the volume of fiesta waste.

To further drive their point, a "Basura Monster" wearing a mask and wardrobe of plastic trash took part in the event holding a placard that says "huwag mo akong gayahin" (don't do like I did).

“We join the Church in appealing to all people of faith and goodwill to give their all-out support toward a garbage-free and injury-free fiesta,” said Noli Abinales, President of Buklod Tao, an affiliate of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Preventing the creation of litter and waste will improve sanitation and hygiene during the mammoth affair, save precious resources and avoid garbage disposal costs,” he added.

Based on data obtained by the EcoWaste Coalition from Mr. Juan de la Cruz, head of the Operations Division of Manila’s Department of Public Services, the Plaza Miranda-Quiapo area generates 58 cubic meters of garbage on normal days.

On December 26, 2011 and January 1, 2012, the waste hauled from the area rose to 82.5 cubic meters per day, with 37.5 cubic meters collected from C. Palanca St., 30 cubic meters from R. Hidalgo and 15 cubic meters from Carriedo St.

“We hope that the planned vigil in Rizal Park prior to the procession will be free of litter as well,” Abinales also said.

According to Ms. Tita Laraya of the National Parks Development Committee, some 72 cubic meters of garbage were hauled last January 1, 2012 from Luneta where hundreds of thousands of visitors spent the New Year’s Eve.

To promote environmental awareness and responsibility, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with practical tips to prevent and reduce garbage during the famed Black Nazarene feast:

I. For the Parish: 1) plug waste prevention and reduction reminders before and after every Mass; and 2) involve all the parish-based ministries and organizations for a broad campaign to green the Black Nazarene feast.

II. For the devotees: 1) refrain from smoking to avoid butt litter; 2) if you smoke, please don’t toss butts on the ground; 3) if you chew gum, do put it in a bin after you’re done with it; 4) do not spit on walls and other spots; 5) do not urinate on the streets, 6) return used food and beverage containers, including bamboo skewers, to the vendors; 7) put your discards into the designated bins; and 9) bring a reusable bag if you are planning to buy some “pasalubong” from Quiapo.

III. For vendors: 1) refrain from using single-use disposable containers; 2) bring your own “sako” for your discards; and 3) make a final sweep of your vending area before you leave.

IV. For food and beverage givers: 1) pack meals in biodegradable packaging such as banana leaves and paper or serve meals, as well as drinks, in reusable containers; and 2) collect all food leftovers for “kaning baboy.”

V. For the barangay and city authorities: 1) provide and maintain more portable toilets for the convenience of the devotees; 2) place trash sacks in littering hotspots; and 3) enforce national and city regulations against littering.


03 January 2012

Statement: EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Total Ban on Firecrackers and Fireworks for Public Health and the Environment

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog dedicated to promoting environmental health, climate protection and chemical safety, seeks a comprehensive ban on the production, importation, distribution, sale and use of firecrackers and fireworks for the greater interest of protecting the public health and safety and the environment. We support a total ban as enunciated by top health and environment officials and supported by some lawmakers.

The massive detonation of both legal and illegal pyrotechnics goes against the basic state policies of safeguarding human health and the ecosystems as guaranteed by the Constitution and upheld in major environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

Specifically, we seek a tough health-based policy against firecrackers and fireworks because of these reasons:

1. Firecrackers and fireworks cause serious if not fatal injuries to users as well as non-users. From 2000 to 2011, the DOH recorded 10,107 firecracker-related injuries. Add to this the latest figures from the recent revelry as of January 2, 2012: 739 injuries and 1 death. These gory data do not include the 17 onlookers who were injured by wayward fireworks last December 16 during the UP Lantern Parade.

2. Firecrackers and fireworks contain dangerous chemicals and produce toxic dusts and fumes, including climate warming pollutants, that can aggravate the poor air quality and cause throat and chest congestion and other health problems, particularly for young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with asthma and chemical sensitivities. In fact, levels of total suspended particulates (TSPs) in Metro Manila rose to as high as 1,000 micrograms per normal cubic meter during the last revelry, way above the World Health Organization’s standard of clean air at 90 mcg/ncm.

3. Firecrackers and fireworks create thick smog resulting to poor visibility, causing public safety hazards and forcing the necessary diversion or cancellation of flights such as the two international and eight domestic flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last January 1, 2012.

4. Firecrackers and fireworks generate tons of toxic-laced non-reusable and non-recyclable discards such as paper scraps, cellophane and plastic wrappers that add to the mountains of holitrash (holiday trash), which are buried in dumpsites and landfills or disposed of in streets and waterways.

5. Firecrackers and fireworks produce deafening noise that can trigger anxiety, stress, sleep disorders, hearing disabilities, and even high blood pressure and heart attack. The ear-splitting explosions terrify and cause “acoustical torture” for animals, especially cats and dogs, who are more sensitive to sound than humans.

6. Firecrackers and fireworks squander hard-earned money that is better spent to buy food for the table, clothes and books for the children and shelter for the homeless. For instance, a box of piccolo worth P10 can buy 5 pieces of pan de sal for breakfast, while the millions spent for lavish fireworks can build public school classrooms and low-cost homes for the poor. In addition, the public funds spent to pay for the cost of treating firecracker-related injuries can be used to support primary health programs. Based on preliminary estimates, the national and local governments spent some P15 million for the medical treatment of firecracker victims.


02 January 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Bats for Garbage-Free Fiesta as Church Pledges to Remind Devotees Not to Litter

(Photo by Benjie Castro)

A waste and pollution watchdog has made a ‘humble plea for environmental responsibility and care” as millions of devotees of the Black Nazarene gear up for the mammoth procession next Monday, January 9.

In an e-mail sent to Msgr. Jose Clemente F. Ignacio of Quiapo Church on December 31, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to the Parish Priest for help in making the upcoming “Traslacion” garbage-free.

The annual “Traslacion” commemorates the transfer in 1767 of the highly adored image of the “Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno” (Our Father Jesus Nazarene) from Intramuros to Quiapo.

Past celebrations of the “Traslacion,” observed the group, were tarnished by rampant littering from Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

In his response dated January 1, Msgr. Ignacio assured the group “that Quiapo Church is responding to the need to love the environment” and that devotees shall be reminded not to litter.

“Through you, we earnestly request devotees of the Black Nazarene to exercise utmost environmental responsibility in the performance of their sacred vows and commitments, particularly in the manner discards are managed and disposed of,” wrote Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We believe that our nation's deeply-rooted devotion to Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno should reflect a collective respect for our fragile environment,” Alvarez said.

“We do not glorify the Black Nazarene by leaving garbage along the processional route,” he added.

According to the group, littering is an environmental offense that is often ignored.

“Littering does not only clog storm drains and cause flashfloods, but also defaces the image of Christ that is present in all things that make up the ecosystems,” he emphasized.

In the wake of the many disasters that befell our country in 2011, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged devotees and other stakeholders to be more sensitive and proactive in reducing the environmental impacts of the "Traslacion" and other faith events.

"Please be assured that Quiapo Church is responding to the need to love the environment," said Msgr. Ignacio in his reply to the EcoWaste Coalition.

"Our Ministry for Environmental Concerns has been active not just during fiestas but the whole year round. We admit we have not been a 100% near the ideal considering the volume of devotees who come to our fiestas. But we have improved through the years. Thanks to your constant reminders and letters," he said.

"We shall remind the devotees not to throw their garbage anywhere," he said.

According to Msgr. Ignacio, the youth and student volunteers shall be cleaning the trash in a segregated way after the Masses.

The Metro Manila Development Authority and Manila's Department of Public Sanitation will also be helping and following the procession route, the priest said.

He likewise invited the EcoWaste Coalition to promote their environmental advocacy by volunteering members of the group in the Ministry's responses during the fiesta.

"We need more volunteers to remind, clean and work for love of the environment," he said.

The EcoWaste Coalition has provided Msgr. Ignacio with concrete suggestions on how to trim down, if not eliminate, waste generation and disposal during the ‘Traslacion.”

According to the group, the cooperation of the Black Nazarene devotees, the Church and other stakeholders such as the barangay officials, media organizations, civic groups, restaurant and shop owners, and the multitude of vendors is key to achieving an eco-friendly fiesta, which is for the common good.


01 January 2012

EcoWaste Coalition Laments Garbage-Strewn Streets after Revelry, Urges "Green" New Year's Resolutions

A waste and pollution watchdog bewailed the massive trash left abandoned in Metro Manila's streets and sidewalks following the New Year’s festivities.

Ocular inspections conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition’s Basura Patrol, particularly in the city of Manila, uncovered huge quantities of garbage dumped by revelers for street sweepers to clean up.

For example, Pedro Gil and Paz Sts. in Paco, Singalong and Zobel Roxas Sts. in Malate, and Carlos Palanca, Carriedo, Evangelista, R. Hidalgo and Villalobos Sts. in Quiapo were all strewn with garbage and the iconic Plaza Miranda was literally carpeted with trash.

The most visible post-revelry discards, according to volunteers, were firecracker residues, cigarette butts, plastic bags, plastic bottles, paper and plastic food wrappers, polystyrene containers, food leftovers, soiled boxes and newspapers.

“We are saddened to see how litterbugs reared their ugly heads again at the boisterous festivities to welcome the New Year,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

"As if filling the skies with toxic dusts and fumes from firecrackers and fireworks was not enough, they left piles of rubbish on streets that could easily pack dozens of hauling trucks,” he noted.

“The unrestrained disposal we observed is obviously not a splendid way to usher 2012. It could be an ominous sign of another year of messy garbage problems,” he emphasized.

To set the ugly habit of wasting right, Filipinos from all walks of life should take on and commit to fulfilling some basic “green” New Year’s resolutions, the EcoWaste Coalition suggested.

The Irisan dumpsite avalanche last year that buried five people in garbage should serve as a stern reminder of what can happen with unchecked consumption and indiscriminate disposal, the group said.

"Many Filipinos make resolutions to serve as goals during the year and we hope they adopt some, if not all, of these 'green' resolutions," Alvarez said.

1. “I will be a responsible consumer, live simply and not blindly submit to crass materialism.”
2. “I will trim down my ‘waste size’ by actively reusing and recycling my discards to the fullest.”
3. “I will say no to plastic bags and Styrofoam containers.”
4. "I will proudly use 'bayong' and reusable carry bags."
5. “I will refuse to patronize overpackaged products and favor least packaged, locally-produced, eco-friendly products.”
6. “I will avoid products with toxic chemicals and refrain from throwing hazardous waste into regular bins.”
7. “I will diligently sort my discards to make reusing, recycling and composting clean and fun.”
8. "I will not burn my discards and dirty the air with health-damaging pollutants."
9. "I will never litter, and treat my surroundings as an extension of my own home."
10."I will inspire and persuade at least three people to switch to greener and healthier lifestyle."

According to government data, Metro Manila generates up to 8,600 tons of waste per day, which is equivalent to about 25% of the national waste production of some 35,000 tons daily.

Some 30 to 50 percent of discards generated all over the country get collected and disposed of in 643 open dumpsites, 384 controlled dumpsites and 38 landfills nationwide.