EcoWaste Coalition to Cemetery Goers: Keep Undas Garbage-Free

Manila City. In anticipation of the recurring garbage problems plaguing the cemeteries during the nationwide observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, environmental advocates called on the public to opt for a garbage-free and toxics-free Undas.

To press their plea, members of the EcoWaste Coalition presented a tableau showing a “dead” person rising from a faux coffin holding a placard saying “respect the dead” as the “Basura Monster” and his minions overwhelmed her with trash. 

They later paraded through the Manila North Cemetery with their black veils embellished with garbage commonly left abandoned by visitors such as plastic bags, cups and bottles,  snack wrappers and Styrofoam, as well as biodegradable discards.

The waste and pollution watchdog spearheaded this informative activity with support from the Manila North Cemetery Administration led by Raffy Mendez, and the city government of Manila led by Fernando Lugo, officer-in-charge of the Department of Public Services-District III and Clemente San Gabriel, officer-in-charge of the Division of Sanitation.

Joining the “Basura Monster” parade were civic groups Cavite Green Coalition, Cycling Advocates, Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura (MALAYA), Miss Earth Foundation and November 17 Movement.

The pre-Undas event was held amid repeated reminders from national and city authorities to observe waste prevention and reduction as Filipinos prepare to pay their respects to their departed ones on November 1 and 2.

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition said that the faithful should express homage and appreciation for departed relatives and friends in an eco-friendly and respectful way. “As we visit and commemorate our deceased loved ones, we need to keep in mind that cemeteries are sacred place and not graveyards for our unwanted trash.”

“We must celebrate this occasion with simplicity, spirituality and utter respect for both the dead and the living by keeping the cemeteries waste-free, toxics-free and trouble-free,” she added.

Meanwhile, Manila North Cemetery OIC Raffy Mendez used the occasion to make a public appeal for a waste-free Undas.

“We look forward to reduced garbage generation this year. The cemetery management and staff can only do so much and we surely need the people to help and be involved. With the full cooperation of the visitors, vendors and other considerate citizens, we can certainly make our cemeteries cleaner places to visit for safer family and friendly gatherings,” said Mendez.

In 2012, the MMDA hauled in a total of 76 truckloads of garbage from 10 major cemeteries in just two days, including 20 truckloads from Manila North Cemetery, the worst among cemeteries in Metro Manila.

According to the National Solid Waste Commission, Metro Manila produces 8,400 to 8,600 tons of garbage daily, or about one fourth of the national daily waste generation of some 35,000 tons. The average daily waste generation in the metropolis is 0.7 kilo per person.

For her part, Miss Philippines Eco-Tourism Bernadette Aguirre emphasized that “our year-round campaigns highlight the importance of espousing a zero waste lifestyle in everything that we do at all times.”

“The observance of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day should be no different. In recent years, we experienced severe flooding brought about by strong typhoons and heavy rains, and hopefully it instilled in us the significance and urgency of taking care of our environment. If not, nature will continually find ways to haunt us until we change our ways,” she stated.

As practical guides to those who will go to the cemeteries on Undas, the EcoWaste Coalition offers the following eco-friendly “cemetery etiquette” or “cemetiquette” tips:

1. Choose clean-burning, lead-free candles that do not yield black fumes or soot. Set alight a limited number of candles to reduce heat and pollution. Do not let candles’ plastic receptacles or holders to burn.

2. Offer local fresh flowers, not plastic ones, or consider bringing potted plants and flowers instead. Simple, inexpensive flowers will do. Avoid wrapping floral or plant offerings in plastic, which will sooner or later end up as trash.

3. Bring your own water jug to avoid purchasing bottled water. Discarded plastic bottles add up to the country’s garbage problem. Plastic bottles, which are petrochemical products, also require lots of oil and chemicals to manufacture. Please watch The Story of Bottled Water to find out why:

4. Go for waste-free meals. Say yes to reusable carriers, containers, and utensils such as lunchboxes and thermos, cloth napkins and silverwares. Say no to throw-away bags, wraps, foil or Styrofoam, paper napkins, and forks and spoons. Also, refrain from patronizing junk food and go for simple yet nutritious home-prepared baon.

5. Buy less or only as much as you can consume in terms of food and beverage to avoid spoilage or wastage. Bring bayong or other reusable bags to carry your stuff and purchases, and refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

6. Cut your waste size by not creating trash in the first place such as by purchasing products with the least amount of packaging and avoiding single-use plastics.

7. Don’t litter, dump or burn trash in the cemetery. Do not throw cigarette butts, candy wrappers, discarded packaging, fruit peels, etc. on the ground. Remember to leave the resting place of your loved ones litter-free.

8. Put your discards into the recycling bins if available. Better still, place them in your reusable bags and bring them home for sorting, reusing, recycling or composting.

9. Relieve yourself only in the proper place where one should. Keep the urinal or toilet bowl clean as a courtesy to the next user. Do not defecate or urinate in public places.

10. Refrain from smoking in the cemetery. Be considerate to the children, the elderly, pregnant women and others around you who may be saddled with respiratory and heart ailments.