28 May 2014

Green Groups Say Visit of Pope Francis Should be Waste-Free, Include Informal Recyclers

Photo: Pope Francis greets Sergio Sanchez, "cartonero" from Argentina
Although church authorities have yet to issue an official announcement about the reported plan of Pope Francis to visit the Philippines in January next year, environmental groups were excitedly quick to propose that organizers should plan early on how to prevent and reduce trash during the papal visit.

“If his visit pushes through in January 2015 as reported by the media, Pope Francis will be here as the entire nation observes the first ever ‘Zero Waste Month’ as proclaimed by President Aquino,” said Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite Green Coalition.  

“The splendid coincidence offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our people’s admiration and respect for Pope Francis, acknowledged as  a ‘green pope,’ by taking preventive steps to ensure a waste-free itinerary, most especially during outdoor public assemblies,” she stated.  

Through Proclamation No. 760 signed last May 5, the President declared
every January as “Zero Waste Month.”

The Proclamation states that “zero waste  is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”

“As a well-known champion of the informal recyclers in his home country Argentina, Pope Francis will surely be delighted to see the active participation of our waste pickers in any effort to make his visit waste-free,” added Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector Liaison, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Not only that, it will be good to use the next six months prior to his visit to scale up national and local efforts to uplift the living and working conditions of the waste pickers, including their integration in formal ecological waste management programs and services,” he suggested.

According to reports, Pope Francis has kept a warm relationship with the “cartoneros” (literally “cardboard people” as the informal recyclers of Argentina are called), saying that “their work is dignified and good for the environment.”

In a video recorded last December 2013 while meeting with his Argentinian compatriots from the “Excluded Workers’ Movement” Pope Francis said:  “We cannot afford the luxury of looking down on leftovers. We are living in a throw-away culture where we easily throw out not only things, but people too.”






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