"Why Adorn the Sky with Toxic Banderitas?" (EcoWaste Coalition Finds Buntings for Santo Niño Feast in Tondo Laced with Lead)

Colorful banderitas (buntings) adorning the streets of Tondo in celebration of the upcoming feast of Santo Niño were found to contain lead, a highly toxic chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, made the discovery after screening samples of plastic buntings that are now hanging in the  streets of Albuquerque, Asuncion, Juan Luna, Lakandula, Moriones, Padre Herrera, Padre Rada and Raxa Matanda.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, six of the 10 samples of blue, green, orange, red and yellow polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic buntings were found to contain lead in the range of 120  to 6,982 parts per million (ppm).

Aside from having the highest lead levels, the three samples of yellow buntings also registered with highest concentrations of arsenic and chromium. 

“It’s high time for the church and the government to critically look at the unregulated practice of hanging fiesta buntings as these accessories do not only add to the volume but also to the toxicity of garbage generated from our community festivities,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Why adorn the sky with toxic banderitas that will ultimately be disposed of in dumpsites where these are burned or buried, dispersing their lead and other chemical components and causing environmental harm?” she asked.

“In addition, the PVC buntings when burned will create toxic byproducts called dioxins that pose a cancer hazard and a long list of severe reproductive and developmental problems,” she said.

The buntings are often made out of disposable plastic bags, cups and strips, packaging scraps and product advertisements that go straight to the dumps after the celebrations, the group observed.

“Barangay leaders and residents should take their cue from the Santo Niño de Tondo Parish, which opted for reusable cloth drapes instead of disposable buntings to decorate the church façade for the feast,” Vergara said.

“By avoiding the notorious wastefulness of our community festivities, the volume of trash will surely shrink and cut the city expense for costly garbage disposal,” she said.

As per report of the Commission on Audit, the city of Manila spent over P512 million for garbage collection in 2012.

During their visit to Tondo yesterday, the EcoWaste Coalition found trash heaps in the corner of Padre Hererra and Ylaya Sts. and in the center island of Moriones St.

The group’s Basura Patroller also found a estero in Recto Ave. near Juan Luna St. clogged with Styrofoam garbage.

“Instead of spending for disposable banderitas and adding to Manila’s garbage woes, resources are better used to support the public information drive for waste prevention and reductin.  Both the Holy Child and Mother Earth will surely find this pleasing,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.