20 November 2014

Forget not “trash terror” threats to papal visit - EcoWaste Coalition



As the country prepares a  warm welcome for the much awaited papal visit in mid-January 2015, during the Zero Waste Month, waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition sounds a call to keep the event secured from an often forgotten threat -  that of trash.

“While we don’t diminish the importance of securing the visiting Pope Francis from any security breaches, church and government authorities and the public should be equally mindful of the enormous piles of garbage likely to be generated as millions crowd in on the pontiff, who is also known for his pro-environment stance,” Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, said in a press statement issued today.

“We specifically urge the Papal Visit 2015-National Organizing Committee (PV-NOC) to ensure a waste-free itinerary for the ‘green’ pope,” she said.

Lucero pointed out that the visit of Pope Francis should be “an opportune time to also genuinely celebrate the Zero Waste Month, through the inculcation of zero waste principles and practices in the celebration of the papal visit.”

President Benigno Aquino III declares the month of January each year as “Zero Waste Month” through Proclamation 760. “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.”

It is estimated that the pontifical visit’s culminating event on 18 January 2015 in Luneta alone could gather 4 to 6 million devotees, which could translate to tons of trash if not mitigated.

The Catholic faithful, as well as curious onlookers and enterprising vendors, will surely pour into the streets to get a glimpse of the pope, creating additional waste, the group noted.

The Coalition urged the PV-NOC. Including civic, environmental and waste picker groups,   to pull together and plan ahead to ensure that waste is effectively minimized, if not eliminated, during the occasion.

“Waste pickers and informal waste collectors, in agreement with Pope Francis’ exceptional regard for them and considering their expertise on the matter, can take major roles in the management of discards to be generated during the occasion of the papal visit,” Lucero emphasized.

As a matter of guidance, the Coalition admonished the organizers to make conscious efforts to celebrate the event with simplicity and with consideration for the environment in keeping with the pope’s lifestyle and philosophy.

Some practicable measures that the group recommended to deal with “trash terror” threats during the pontifical visit include:

- Plan, in such a way that use of single-use disposable materials, such as plastic bags and wrappings and disposable plastic buntings are avoided; and that discards are segregated, at least, into biodegradable, non-biodegradable, and recyclables.

- In coordination with concerned LGUs and the MMDA, organizers should assign areas for purposes of storing large volumes of segregated discards until they are sold or brought to recyclers.

- Engage the services of waste pickers or informal recyclers to take charge of waste recovery related roles and tasks.

- Deputize environmental police to accost and penalize trash violators.

“In line with the theme of the occasion, ‘Mercy and Compassion’, devotees and even mere spectators should reflect deeper into it toward realizing that such theme is all encompassing and embraces the environment as well,” Lucero said.

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