22 May 2014

Environmentalists and Teachers Push for Eco-Friendly Brigada Eskwela

22 May 2014, Quezon City.  Environmentalists and teachers made a pitch for an eco-friendly Brigada Eskwela as the week-long  clean up, repair and renovation of the country’s  public schools gets underway.

 In a common press statement, the Philippine Public School Teachers  Association (PPSTA) and the EcoWaste Coalition expressed support for  the National Schools Maintenance Week, an annual program led by the Department of Education, as both groups reminded organizers and volunteers to avoid practices that may endanger their health and cause environmental pollution in the school and the adjacent communities.

“We call upon our fellow teachers and every Brigada Eskwela participant to be mindful of unsafe and unhealthy practices that we often take for granted.  These practices pose real risks to human health and the environment and should be avoided,” said Dr. Kahar H. Macasayon, President, PPSTA.

Some of these unsafe and unhealthy practices include the burning of biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards, the inappropriate handling and storage of busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and the improper removal of paints and coatings that may contain lead, a potent neurotoxin.  

Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition explained that “open burning, aside from being an unlawful act, generates loads of environmental toxins such as dioxins and particulate matter.” 

“The reckless handling of fluorescent lamps may cause the glass tube to break and release the health –damaging mercury vapor inside, while dry sanding or scraping of lead paint will scatter toxic chips and dust that kids may inhale or ingest through their normal hand-to-mouth behavior,” she added.
The EcoWaste Coalition and the PPSTA both recommend the following eco-friendly guide to be observed during the Brigada Eskwela and beyond:

1.  Keep the residual trash to the minimum.

2.  Separate biodegradable waste from non-biodegradable waste.  
 
3.  Do not set discards on fire.

4.  Turn bio-waste such as grasses, leaves and twigs into compost, and reuse and recycle the rest.

5.  Spruce up the school’s  ecology center or materials recovery facility (MRF).

6. Choose lead safe paints and observe lead safe procedures to prevent the dispersal of lead dust in the surroundings.

7. Opt for safer cleaning agents and avoid hazardous ones such as muriatic acid and dichlorobenzene for cleaning toilets.

8. Properly handle and manage busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps and other “special waste.”

9. Observe “no smoking policy” as contained in DepEd Order 73-2010, R.A. 9211, the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 and other related policies.

10. Use reusable or recyclable containers for volunteers’ beverages and foods.

The PPSTA is the largest professional association of public school teachers in the country, while the EcoWaste Coalition is a public interest environmental network active on  waste, climate change and chemical issues.

The EcoWaste Coalition has launched a "waste-free, toxic-free back-to-school" campaign to promote zero waste and chemical safety in the nation' schools.

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