Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog group today sought the cooperation of Black Nazarene devotees in keeping tomorrow’s feast day free of litter, particularly cigarette filter.
With millions of devotees expected to join the almost 7-kilometer procession, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed serious concern about the peril of discarded cigarette butts to public health and the environment as the group stepped up its call for a garbage-free fiesta.
“If the smokers among the devotees will not be persuaded not to smoke, the event will surely generate millions of cigarette butts that are often carelessly tossed on the ground or flicked into plant boxes or pots,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
Last Monday at an environmental event in front of Quiapo Church, the EcoWaste Coalition introduced four garbage monsters, including “Buttman” (the cigarette butt thrower) to draw attention to the problem with unrestrained littering.
"Cigarette butt is undeniably the most obvious litter in our surroundings that we often take for granted because it is small and light and appears to be insignificant,” she stated.
“On the contrary, it is not a litter of little consequence,” she warned.
“Butt litter is ugly and, worst, it is toxic even to non-smoking creatures in the ocean,” she said.
Vergara said that most cigarette filters are made of cellulose acetate plastic fibers that are very slow to degrade, persisting in the environment for a long time and posing hazards to both humans and animals.
She pointed out that because of their small size and light weight, discarded butts are easily carried by wind and rain into the canals, rivers and seas.
Birds and fishes confused butts for food, causing not only digestive obstruction but also the ingestion of harmful chemicals in the filter such as arsenic, cadmium and lead, she pointed out.
EcoWaste Coalition’s advocacy partner Dr. Maricar Limpin, Executive Director of Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance, Philippines (FCAP), emphasized that the best way to curb the problem with butt litter is for people who smoke to quit the unhealthy habit.
“To get rid of the health and environmental hazards posed by butt litter, we appeal to tobacco consumers to switch to a healthy lifestyle and completely kick the addition by not using cigarettes, cigars and even e-cigarettes,” she said.
“Not smoking avoids exposing others to the dreaded effects of second-hand smoke on top of the hazards caused by cigarette butt litter,” she emphasized.
The EcoWaste Coalition cited the statistics from the latest Ocean Conservancy’s marine debris report showing that some 2,117,931 pounds of cigarettes or cigarette filters out of the total 10,149,988 pounds of debris items were collected in 97 countries during the international coastal cleanup activities in 2012.
According to the report, some 276,499 pounds of food wrappers were collected in the Philippines, followed by 162,532 pounds of cigarette filters and 148,878 pounds of plastic bags.
Globally, the top 10 debris items in 2012 were 1) cigarettes/cigarette filters, 2) food wrappers/containers, 3) beverage bottles, 4) plastic bags, 5) caps and lids, 6) cups, plates, forks, spoons and knives, 7) straws and stirrers, 8) glass beverage bottles, 9) beverage cans, and 10) paper bags, the report said.
http://www.oceanconservancy.org/our-work/international-coastal-cleanup/2012-ocean-trash-index.html (download “CSV” files for country data and “full report” for general dataand narrative)