The upcoming visit of Pope Francis in January 2015 is a beautiful occasion to roll out a well-timed campaign for a “Zero Waste Pilipinas.”
The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, believes that the visit of the acclaimed “green pope” provides a good opportunity to rally the entire nation “to counter the culture of waste and disposable” to prevent and reduce trash and keep the surroundings litter-free.
Last year, during the celebration of the World Environment Day on June 5, Pope Francis urged everyone “to make a serious commitment to respect and protect creation, to be attentive to every person, to counter the culture of waste and disposable, to promote a culture of solidarity and of encounter.”
“The pope’s visit is an opportune time to roll out a campaign that will show our people’s unity and determination to switch to a ‘Zero Waste Pilipinas’ where waste prevention and reduction is the norm of life,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“As January is ‘Zero Waste Month,’ it’s only fitting that the pope’s itinerary be waste-free,” she said.
“It will be very sad and ironic if the activities of Pope Francis, particularly the huge outdoor assemblies, will leave tons of garbage behind as the country observes the ‘Zero Waste Month’. We should avoid a repeat of the enormous garbage at the closing Mass of the 1995 World Youth Day in Manila, presided over by then Pope John Paul II and which drew over five million attendees,” she pointed out.
Proclamation 760 issued by President Benigno Aquino III calls for the observance of “Zero Waste Month” every January. “Zero Waste,” according to the proclamation, “ 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.”
“Pope Francis is known for his simplicity, his preference for public transportation, and his affection and respect for those who recycle such as the waste pickers,” Lucero noted.
“Instead of rolling out the red carpet, we should perhaps welcome him with something austere, green and waste-free in keeping with his lifestyle and philosophy,” she suggested.
Lucero recalled that the plea for “Zero Waste” by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin in 2003 on the occasion of the 4th World Meeting of Families should inform and guide the Catholic Church in preparing for the papal visit.
The late church leader exhorted the faithful to make the said meeting a “zero waste celebration of life” and outlined four simple steps to make that happen, to wit: “1) minimize the creation of waste by using as few resources as possible at the various events, 2) avoid using plastic and disposable items, 3) separate discards into biodegradable and non-biodegradable, and 4) put them into their proper containers to facilitate recycling and make simpler the work of cleaners and collectors.”
A waste reduction project carried out by the Archdiocese of Manila, the EcoWaste Coalition and informal recyclers from Smokey Mountain at the concluding Mass of the 4th World Meeting of Families in Rizal Park achieved a 90% waste diversion rate, retrieving 1,573 kilos of recyclable materials that were sold to recyclers and 600 kilos of food waste that were turned into compost.
"We truly hope that the visit of Pope Francis to our land will be a zero waste celebration of faith and life,” Lucero said.