30 December 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Holds "Iwas Paputoxic" Community Outreach for Zero Injury, Zero Fire and Zero Waste


As the number of firecracker-related injuries continues to rise, a waste and pollution watchdog organized a community action to encourage citizens to greet the New Year in a non-dangerous and non-toxic fashion.

The EcoWaste Coalition today conducted an “Iwas Paputoxic” outreach program and parade at Barangay Project 6 in Quezon City that saw the group collaborating with local  community officials and groups for a joyous and safe welcome to 2016.

“It will take an entire community to protect humans, animals and the ecosystems from the outdated practice of igniting firecrackers and its life-threatening consequences,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator,
EcoWaste Coalition, as she drew attention to the key role of the barangay in preventing injuries, fires, hazardous fumes and wastes during the festivities.

“We call on the over 42,000 barangays across the country to intensify their campaign for a zero injury, zero fire and zero waste New Year revelry,” she added.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento through Memorandum Circular 2015-143 instructed concerned local government, police and fire officials to perform their respective roles and
responsibilities to prevent injuries, deaths and damage to properties due to firecrackers and fireworks.

The Barangay Chairpersons, in particular, were assigned to “conduct massive advocacy and information dissemination” within their area of jurisdiction, among other tasks.

After the short program led by Barangay Project 6 Chairperson Vicente Honorio Llamas V, incumbent Councilor Dorothy Delarmente and former Councilor Beth Delarmente  of Quezon City District 1, the participants went on parade to discourage residents from igniting firecrackers and to encourage them to opt for kinder and safer instruments of merry-making.

Representatives of the Quezon City offices of the Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine National Police and the Philippine National Red Cross also took part in the event.

At the parade, participants held placards and streamers bearing timely messages such as  “Make the switch. Say no to firecrackers” and “Iwas Paputoxic: Buhay, Kalusugan, Klima Sagipin."  Some brandished ghastly props to show the unpleasant effects of firecrackers on human health and safety.

Among these fear-provoking props were big, “blood” splattered mock firecrackers marked with the warnings “dangerous” and “toxic,” and a “bloodied” imitation hand with severed fingers to underscore the threat from banned piccolo firecrackers that the EcoWaste Coalition has dubbed as “children’s enemy number one.”

On the other hand, some participants brought alternative noisemakers made from kitchen and laundry utensils such as pots, basins and pails, as well as torotot and improvised maracas, shakers  and tambourines from recycled materials.

To hammer home their message, the youth group “Batang Sais” performed a short play informing residents about the danger posed by  “paputok” to life, limb, property and the environment.

Aside from physical injuries, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed that firecrackers and fireworks yield toxic fumes, including carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is bad for human health and the climate.

The blasting of firecrackers and fireworks further generates hazardous wastes that cannot be reused nor recycled, adding to the mountains of post-New Year revelry trash that have to be disposed of, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented.




28 December 2015

Doctors, Environmentalists Appeal to Public to Nix Firecrackers and Fireworks

Medical doctors and environmental advocates jointly urged the general public to hail the New Year using alternative noisemakers in lieu of firecrackers and fireworks to minimize health-damaging toxic emissions, particularly in urban centers like Metro Manila.

In support of the Department of Health-led “Iwas Paputok” campaign, the Philippine Medical Association and the EcoWaste Coalition sought the cooperation of the public to cut the unparalleled environmental pollution caused by the blasting of firecrackers, as well as the burning of used tires and garbage during and after the festivities.

"Aside from the well-reported firecracker-related injuries, the pervasive use of firecrackers and fireworks contributes to air pollution that reaches levels deemed hazardous to human health," said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, Chair of PMA's Environment Health and Ecology Committee.

"The particulate matter (PM) and other air pollutants from the detonation of firecrackers and fireworks will worsen our air quality, posing health risks, especially among children, the elderly, and individuals with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and heart ailments," he said.

Citing data from the monitoring conducted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the groups said that air pollution soared to “dangerous levels” at the height of the New Year’s revelry last year.

As per DENR monitoring, the levels of PM 1O and PM 2.5 in some areas in Metro Manila rose to up to 2,000 micrograms per normal cubic meter, way above the National Ambient Guideline Value of 60 mcg/ncm for PM 10, and 35 mcg/ncm for PM 2.5.    Based on the US Environmental Protection Agency’s
guideline, air quality is “unhealthy” at over 100 mcg/ncm and is “hazardous” at 300 mcg/ncm.

“The extreme pollution from the unrestrained blasting of firecrackers and fireworks goes against the Clean Air Act, which recognizes the right of every citizen to breathe clean air,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The burning or dumping of hazardous waste from spent firecrackers and fireworks also violates the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which bans open dumping and open burning to protect the public health and the environment,” she pointed out.

Dorotheo and Lucero urged New Year revellers to be happy with torotot (trumpet) and home-made noisemakers that create no toxic fumes and wastes. 

“For a change, let us welcome 2016 in a safe and non-toxic way that will not inflict harm on humans, animals and the environment,” they said.




“DOH Administrative Order 2011-0301” re “Health Advisory on the Potential

Toxic Health Effects of Firecrackers and Pyrotechnics.”

27 December 2015

Environmental Watchdog Assails the Christmas Day Littering at Rizal Park

The waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition decried the Christmas Day litter that again defiled the country’s premier park.

“Litterbugs carelessly left behind assorted trash as if Rizal Park was their dumpsite,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Littering is disrespectful to all park visitors and to our national hero Jose Rizal who was an environmental health champion of his time,” she said.

As a nature lover, Rizal, particularly during his period of exile in Dapitan, carried out activities benefiting the people and the environment such as the aqueduct from a mountain stream to give town residents access to clean water, the draining of swamps to control the breeding of malaria mosquitoes, the street lighting system through coconut oil lamps, and the beautification of the central plaza.

“The garbage left by the visitors would have angered Rizal, the environmentalist, possibly driving him to write ‘Waste Not’ as a sequel to ‘Noli Me Tangere’ (touch me not),” she said.

Based on initial reports, the National Park Development Committee (NPDC), which manages Rizal Park, removed some 10 truckloads of rubbish from the sprawling park, which drew about 500,000 visitors on December 24 and 25.

“The huge turnout of visitors was no match to the limited number of garbage sweepers and haulers who have to work extra hours to sweep the area clean,” she pointed out.

“It’s not fair for litterbugs to leave the park in a mess.  Littering is unethical and unlawful, too,” she added.

Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits littering and violators can be  can be fined from P300 to P1,000, asked to render community service or be required to pay the fine as well as perform community service.

As the public concert at Rizal Park on December 31 is projected to lure a big number of New Year revelers, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to all visitors to mind their trash and help the NPDC in keeping the park clean and safe.

“Please throw your trash in the designated bins, or better still bring it home for proper recycling or disposal,” Lucero said.

“Let us not bury Rizal under a carpet of trash,” she stated.


26 December 2015

Shun Firecrackers; Groups Plea for Compassion to Animals as New Year’s Revelry Nears

The Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the EcoWaste Coalition jointly urged the public to have mercy on animals who suffer a lot from the deafening sounds of firecrackers and fireworks to welcome the New Year.

The animal and environmental rights groups deplored the “acoustical violence” inflicted upon pet and stray animals such as cats and dogs, especially during the last hour of the outgoing year.

“Our four-legged friends, particularly cats and dogs, suffer in silence as firecrackers and fireworks of varying intensity are ignited in the belief that such practice can shoo away bad luck and pull in good energy and fortune,” said Anna Cabrera, Executive Director, PAWS.

“Cats and dogs are specially gifted with acute sense of hearing. Pyrotechnic explosions can cause acoustic trauma to animals that  humans often take no notice of,” she added.

Such traumatic exposure to ear-splitting sounds and noxious fumes can stress animals and cause appetite loss, upset stomach and  confused sense of direction making animals to go astray or get injured, said PAWS.

“We appeal to all New Year revelers to be wary of the safety and wellbeing of our animal friends and to act compassionately by not lighting firecrackers and fireworks, which are damaging to  human, animal and ecosystem health,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

PAWS and EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to consider the following steps to make the New Year’s revelry a less painful experience for cats and dogs:

1. Persuade members of your household to make your home a “no firecracker” zone.

2. Politely tell your neighbors not to light or throw firecrackers near your home.

3. Exercise your pets during the days leading up to the New Year’s Eve and in the next morning when the festivities are over and the smoke has cleared.

4. Give your pets a physical outlet for their pent up energy due to arousal and stress.

5. Manage the environment so it is as relaxing as possible and as less stressful as you can make it.

6. Provide your pet with a safe place to take temporary refuge. If possible, allow your pet to stay in a quiet room such as a bedroom.

7. Close the windows, put the curtains down and play a relaxing music to neutralize the noise from the outside to help your pets feel secure.

8. Ensure your pet’s access to drinking water. Make her/him pee or poo.

9. Do not yell or laugh at your pet when she/he is cowering or shaking in fear. This is a natural response to a threat that they do not understand and cannot avoid.

To avoid pets from being exposed to materials that can cause choking, strangulation and poisoning hazards, the groups reminded the public to keep these out of pets' reach: shopping bags, cleaning solutions, tobacco products and holiday treats such as chocolate, fruit cake, nuts and alcoholic drinks.


24 December 2015

Watchdog Group Appeals to the Faithful to Reduce Christmas Garbage

Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong calls for an eco-friendly observance of Christmas that will not add to our garbage woes.

As the Christendom celebrates the birth of the Redeemer, a waste and pollution watchdog appealed to the faithful not to let garbage spoil the festive celebration.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged kids and adults alike to mark the joyous occasion by repurposing, reusing and recycling the usual Christmas discards instead of simply tossing them to the bins, sidewalks or street corners.

“Let us honor the child Jesus by spreading love not garbage on this special day.  We can do simple steps to stop useful materials from reaching the dumps and getting wasted,” said Sonia Mendoza, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Making Christmas less wasteful is not rocket science.  Everyone regardless of age, gender and socio-economic status can prevent and reduce the holiday trash with some creativity and common sense,” she said.

“We hope that everyone will do their part to keep our communities glistening with safe Christmas lights and eco-friendly decorations, and not stinking due to abandoned mixed rubbish,” she added.

To reduce the volume of residual Christmas garbage,  the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with the following waste prevention and reduction tips.

1.   Get creative with edible food leftovers, which can be recycled into amazing meals.  To spread the Christmas cheer and avoid food wastage, consider sharing spare food with the poor, jobless and homeless, as well as with people servicing your neighborhood such as  the village guards, garbage collectors, waste recyclers, etc.

2.  Carefully unwrap Christmas gifts and save the bags, boxes,  bows and ribbons and wrappers for the next gift-sharing occasion.  Christmas wrappers can be repurposed as book and notebook covers, Origami crane, paper garland or as materials for school art and craft projects.   

3.   Save holiday greeting cards, gift labels,
ang pao envelopes or red packets, which can be used as bookmarkers,  or as Christmas tree, wreath and lantern decorations for the next celebration.  Christmas cards can be made into new cards or gift tags.

4.  Transform empty cans of pineapple juice and evaporated milk into improvised noisemakers to welcome the New Year.  Fill the can with some bottle crowns, coins, keys or seeds and attach a wooden handle to make an instant maracas.  Tin cans can also be used as garden pots or hanging planters, or as containers for school and office supplies.

5.  Reuse empty jars of cheese spread, fruit preserves and mayonnaise as containers for home-made
achara (pickled green papaya), halayang ube (purple yam jam) and other holiday delicacies.

6.  Save all other recyclable discards such as soda cans, plastic bottles, corrugated cardboard boxes, etc. to sell to junk shops or to give to itinerant waste pickers. 

The EcoWaste Coalition also encouraged families and businesses not to put their garbage outside their houses or establishments or in street corners and vacant lots, and wait instead for the waste collection service to come.

The group further requested citizens who will go to Rizal Park and other recreational spots on Christmas day not to drop any litter from candy and chip wrappers to food containers and leftovers to cigarette butts.


23 December 2015

Holiday Food Warning: Lead-Painted Brushes Not Suitable for Rubbing Basting Sauce on BBQ and Grilled Meat

 Paint brush used for rubbing basting sauce on barbecue meat.
Paint brushes with high lead content above 90 ppm.
Paint brushes with low lead content below 90 ppm.

As Filipinos get ready for the traditional “noche Buena” and “media noche” meals, a toxics watchdog group advised the public not to use paint brushes to apply basting sauce on all time favorite barbecue and grilled meat.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an active advocate for lead poisoning prevention, revealed that the handles of some paint brushes contain high levels of lead way above the threshold limit of 90 (parts per million) ppm for lead in paint.

A chemical screening of 20 paint brushes procured by the group on December 22 and 23 for P10 to P84 each from hardware and general merchandise stores in Makati, Mandaluyong, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities showed exceedingly high lead levels.
The group used a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device to identify and quantify toxic metals such as lead on the mostly yellow paint coatings of the brush handles. 

Out of 20 samples, 17 had lead content ranging from 329  to 18,300 ppm.  Significant amounts of arsenic, cadmium, chromium and mercury were also found in most of these 17 samples.

The top 10 paint brushes with the highest  lead content are Lotus with 18,300 ppm, Dragon Fly  with14,900 ppm, an unbranded brush with 10,100 ppm, Hippo with 10,000 ppm, Camel with 9,643 ppm, 2B with 9,241 ppm, Butterfly with 8,941 ppm, Croco with  8,152 ppm, Yuko with 6,296 and MMT with 5,991 ppm.

“With frequent use, it is very likely that the lead paint on the brush handle will deteriorate and contaminate the basting sauce rubbed on the meat that is eventually eaten by humans,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“While further study is needed to determine potential lead contamination, we advise food preparers to err on the side of caution and discontinue using paint brushes in food preparations,” he said. 

Instead of paint brushes, Dizon suggested food grade basting or pastry brushes, or, if these are not available, improvised mops made from banana, lemon grass or pandan leaves will serve the purpose.

Based on the group's ocular investigation, street vendors often use paint brushes to  mop sauce on barbecue or grilled meat, or to spread margarine on other holiday favorites such as “bibingka” (rice cake) and “puto bumbong” (steamed sticky rice).  

The World Health Organization (WHO) publication “Exposure to Lead: A Major Public Health Concern” states that  lead is “a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

“The potential for adverse effects of lead exposure is greater for children than for adults, because in children 1) the intake of lead per unit body weight is higher, 2) more dust may be ingested, 3) lead absorption in the gastrointestinal tract is higher, 4) the blood–brain barrier is not yet fully developed and 5) neurological effects occur at lower levels than in adults,” it said.

“Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight, as well as minor malformations,” it pointed out.

Lead enters the human body primarily via ingestion and inhalation.  It has no known purpose in the body.




22 December 2015

Government, Industry and Civil Society Affirm Unity to Ensure Phase-Out of Lead in Architectural, Decorative and Household Paints by December 2016

Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong joins EcoWaste Coalition's leaders Ochie Tolentino (left) and Sonia Mendoza (right) in drawing attention and compliance to the December 2016 phase-out deadline for lead-containing architectural, decorative and household paints in line with DENR A.O. 2013-24.

In an exceptional manifestation of unity, the government, the industry and the civil society reiterated their agreement to promote full compliance to the phase-out of paints for architectural, decorative and household (ADH) uses by December 2016.

The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) and the EcoWaste Coalition restated their commitment through a press statement issued to mark the second anniversary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, also known as the Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

DENR A.O. 2013-24 signed by DENR Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje on December 23, 2013  provides for the regulatory framework that limits total lead content in paint at 90 parts per million and establishes a  phase-out period from 2013-2016 for leaded ADH paints, and from 2013-2019 for leaded industrial paints. 

“The phase-out of lead-based paints in the Philippine market is on-going and we are targeting to drastically reduce the risk from lead paint chips and dust, which are recognized as major sources of children’s exposure to lead.  As there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe for any child, let us be vigilant and support efforts to make the Philippines meet the global goal of eliminating lead paint,” said DENR Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna and concurrent EMB Director.  

“Paint manufacturers in the country are in various stages of removing lead compounds as pigments for enamel or oil-based paints.  We are pleased to confirm that a growing number of paint companies, including small and medium-sized paint makers, are reformulating their products to meet the regulatory limit for lead for all types of paints with high priority given to paints most likely to contribute to childhood lead exposure such as those used on houses, schools and products such as toys,” said Vergel Dyoco, Chairperson of the Technical Committee, PAPM, which includes 23 paint manufacturing companies.  

“The next 12 months will be crunch time for paint companies that have yet to complete the reformulation of lead-containing ADH paints.  We are confident that the transition to non-lead paint production will gather further speed as the government, industry and civil society rally behind the enforcement of DENR A.O. 2013-24.   There is no turning back on protecting Filipino children from being harmed by lead in paint and dust,” said Sonia Mendoza, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Lead exposure in children, according to the World Health Organization, impairs the developing brain and causes neurological deficits.  It is associated with decreased intelligence as measured by IQ tests, reduced school performance, increased violent behavior and incarceration rates, increased cased of mild mental retardation, and decreased labor productivity as measured by lifelong earning potential.

According to IPEN (a global civil society network promoting safe chemicals policies and practices), paints contain lead when the manufacturer intentionally adds one or more leaded compounds to the paint as pigment, drier or for some other purposes. A paint product may also contain some amount of lead when paint ingredients contaminated with lead are used, or when there is cross-contamination from other product lines in the same factory. Water-based paints are rarely contaminated with lead, but solvent-based enamel paints have been found to have high lead content in many countries. 

Along with the flourishing economies of Indonesia and Vietnam, the Philippines is regarded as one of the major drivers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) paint market in the future, with the regional bloc’s collective GDP predicted to grow by 250 percent in the next 20 years, as reported by the Asian Paint Industry Council. 

According to industry sources, the local paint manufacturing sector grows by 5 to 10 percent yearly with estimated total paint volume in 2013 reaching 270 million liters, of which 70 percent is decorative paints, which is further split to 40 percent solvent-based decorative paints and 60 percent water-based decorative paints.




20 December 2015

Public Exhorted to Play Santa Claus to Mother Earth

With Christmas just around the corner, a zero waste advocate urged the general public to reduce, reuse and recycle holiday discards as a token of our appreciation for Mother Earth.
“Let us play Santa Claus to Mother Earth by keeping our holiday consumption within bounds and by cutting back on what we dispose of and recycling even more,” said environmentalist Sonia Mendoza who heads the EcoWaste Coalition and the Mother Earth Foundation.

“Excessive consumption puts tremendous pressure on nature where resources are obtained to create products for our needs and wants, which often leads to degraded and polluted ecosystems,” she lamented.

“The festive holiday season is when the throw-away mindset is at its worst as can be seen from the overflowing household bins and dump trucks and the countless garbage heaps dotting the streets,” she noted. 

“If you rummage through the bins, you will easily find the most discarded items during this time of the year such as packaging for toys, gift boxes and wrappers, shopping bags, disposable food containers and, yes, lots of food waste,” she added.  

During the extended yuletide celebration, the per capita daily waste production of 0.7 kilo in Metro Manila rises to 1.2 kilo due to the shopping and party craze and the boisterous New Year’s revelry marked by the blasting of firecrackers and fireworks.

To cut back on the generation of what the EcoWaste Coalition refers to  “holitrash” (short for holiday trash), Mendoza encouraged the public to put the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) at the heart of the festivity.

For example, holiday shoppers are advised to bring a stash of reusable bags and containers when going to the mall or market and shun both paper and plastic bags to reduce bag waste.  Consumers are also reminded to bring along a shopping list to avoid impulsive buying and unnecessary spending.

Instead of new gift wrappers, givers can opt not to wrap Christmas presents at all or, if wrapping is desired, reuse old bandannas, handkerchiefs, fabric remnants, jars, shoe boxes, newspapers and magazines instead.  Bags, boxes and wrappers of gifts received should be neatly kept for reuse next gift-giving and not simply thrown to the dumps.

As waste is created by mixing discarded materials, the EcoWaste Coalition urged all waste generators from households to restaurants to keep discards separated in line with Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.  

Non-biodegradable discards such as aluminum and tin cans, glass and plastic bottles, cartons and others can be repurposed, reused or recycled, while the biodegradable discards such as food waste can be fed to animals or composted to produce soil amendments for the garden or farm.

The group also stressed the importance of not burning discards, which can lead to the creation and discharge of health-damaging pollutants as well as greenhouse gases that cause global warming and climate change.
Open burning and open dumping, the group reminded, are among the prohibited acts under R.A. 9003.

“By playing Santa Claus to Mother Earth, we can significantly lessen the volume and toxicity of ‘holitrash’ and protect the public health and the environment,” Mendoza said.

As per projection by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, Metro Manila’s waste generation of  9,060 tons per day in 2015 will rise to more than 9,213 tons per day in 2016. At the national level, the daily waste generation of 39,422 in 2015 will increase to 40,087 tons per day in 2016.


18 December 2015

Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong Leads EcoWaste Coalition's 9th “Iwas-Paputoxic” Drive vs Dangerous and Toxic Firecrackers

The back-to-back typhoons Nona and Onyok failed to dampen the spirit of newly-crowned Miss Earth 2015 Angelia Ong, the EcoWaste Coalition and over 1,000 students in promoting a safe and non-toxic way of heralding the New Year sans dangerous and polluting firecrackers.

In partnership with the school administration led by principal Gloria Huera, the EcoWaste Coalition today conducted its  “Iwas-Paputoxic” drive at the Qurino Elementary School (QES) in Quezon City with about 1,500 students and teachers in attendance.

“All firecrackers are totally unfit for kids like you because they are extremely dangerous,” Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition told the students gathered at the school’s covered court.     

“Firecrackers are not your regular toys that you can safely play with.  In fact, firecracker accidents are common resulting to physical injuries and even deaths.  From 2000 to 2014, the DOH had recorded over 10,000 cases of firecracker-related injuries from damaged eyesight to severed fingers, as well as some fatalities,” she said.

The annual event, now on its 9th year, complements the “Iwas-Paputok” program of the Department of Health (DOH), and is undertaken to raise public awareness on the risks and hazards posed by firecrackers to life, limb and property, as well as to the ecosystems.

During the event, beauty queen Angelia Ong joined EcoWaste Coalition’s leaders and DOH officials led by Dr. Enrique Tayag, Director, Bureau of Local Health Systems Development and Dr. Mario Baquilod, Director, Bureau of Disease Prevention and Control, as well as representatives of the Philippine National Police and the Bureau of Fire Protection in urging the students to shun firecrackers for their safety and well-being.

In response, QES students together recited a “Panata” (pledge) “to celebrate Christmas and welcome the New Year in a clean and safe manner that will not cause injury to ourselves, our fellow beings and to Mother Earth.” 

To demonstrate a safe and non-toxic way of ushering in 2016, QES students held a countdown to the New Year that was capped with a lively noise barrage.  Using alternative noisemakers fashioned out of household items and recyclable junks, the students created a mixture of sounds to everyone’s delight.

Among the substitute noisemakers that the children played with gusto were the used can maracas mounted on a wooden handle; tambourine consisting of bottle caps; shakers made out of plastic bottles; pots and pot lids; and torotot (trumpet) crafted from recycled materials.   

They also performed a dance number to the tune of “Fantastic Baby” by the K-Pop band “Big Bang” as a way of ushering in the New Year without creating toxic pollution.    

“Firecrackers and fireworks are also toxic.  They are made by combining different chemicals such as potassium nitrate, sulphur, carbon, barium, copper and lead, to name a few, to produce heat and color.  The firecracker blast yields toxic fumes, including carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that is bad for human health and the climate,” she said.

“Aside from the toxic smoke and smog, firecracker explosion generates lots of hazardous wastes that cannot be reused nor recycled, adding to the mountains of post-New Year revelry trash that have to be disposed of,” she added.

Instead of spending for dangerous, toxic and dirty firecrackers, the EcoWaste Coalition insisted that hard-earned money should be wisely spent to buy food for the Noche Buena and other necessities, as well as for helping poor and needy people in our midst.    

The EcoWaste Coalition’s “Iwas-Paputoxic” event held every December before the Christmas break was first conducted at Krus na Ligas Elementary School in Quezon City in 2006 and every year thereafter.

The schools that had participated in past “Iwas-Paputoxic” events include the Esteban Abada Elementary School (2007), Claret School (2008), Marcelo H. del Pilar Elementary School (2009), Kamuning Elementary School (2010), Pinyahan Elementary School (2011), Cubao Elementary School (2012), Commonwealth Elementary School (2013) – all in Quezon City- and Fernando Ma. Guerrero School in Manila (2014).


13 December 2015

Watchdog Tags Piccolo as “Children’s Enemy No. 1,” Urges Concerted Action to Protect Kids from Harm (“Santa” Offers Guide for Safe, Non-Toxic New Year’s Revelry)

An environment and health watchdog group appealed for collaborative action to protect young children from banned piccolo firecracker, the leading cause of firecracker-related injuries in the country.

“Piccolo, without doubt, is children’s enemy number one during this festive season of merry making.  Despite being banned since 2007, piccolo has inflicted gruesome bodily harm to hundreds of children for the past many years.  It’s time to beat this monster that has wounded, maimed, blinded and poisoned child victims,“ said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

To stop piccolo from victimizing more children, the EcoWaste Coalition urged all mayors , police chiefs and barangay officials to conduct frequent law enforcement operations and prosecute violators to the full extent of Republic Act 7183 (“An Act Regulating the Sale, Manufacture, Distribution and Use of Firecrackers and Other Pyrotechnics”).

The group also appealed to vendors to stop selling piccolo and other firecrackers to minors.  “Have a conscience please; don’t rake in profits at the expense of children’s health and safety.  The next victim could be your own child,” stated Lucero.|

Department of Health (DOH)  Secretary Janette Garin had earlier called on local government and police authorities to implement the ban on piccolo saying that “if we take away the piccolo (from the market), the decrease in the number of firecracker-related injuries will be significant.” 

Data from the DOH showed that 32 percent of the 840 firecracker-related injuries in 2014, 36 percent of the 997 firecracker-related injuries in 2013 and 26 percent of the 931 firecracker-related injuries in 2012 were due to piccolo.

On Monday, December 14, the EcoWaste Coalition will join the DOH-led kick-off program for the Iwas Paputok  campaign in the National Capital Region to be held in Tondo, Manila.  

To draw the attention of community residents, a member of the group will dress as Santa Claus to promote the so-called “Santa’s Guide for Safe and Non-Toxic New Year’s Festivity,”

“Santa’s Guide” include seven “don’ts” to prevent physical injuries, fires, wastes and toxins during the festive season such as:

1.  Don’t ignite firecrackers. 
2.  Don’t fire guns. 
3.  Don’t use PVC "boga" (cannon). 
4.  Don’t burn used tires.
5.  Don’t burn garbage.
6.  Don’t release sky lanterns.
7.  Don’t use substandard Christmas lights.
In lieu of firecrackers and fireworks, the EcoWaste Coalition urged  the public to go for alternative noisemakers using common household materials and recyclable junks, including pots and pans as improvised cymbals, tambourine made out of tansan (flattened bottle crowns) and shakers using product containers filled with coins, keys, pebbles or seeds.

The group emphasized that it is possible to usher in 2016 in a safe and ecological way that will not cause injuries and fires and discharge loads of health-damaging pollutants into the climate and the environment


10 December 2015

2016 Election Candidates Urged to Champion People's Right to Chemical Safety

Photo by Gigie Cruz

As the nation commemorates the International Human Rights Day, a watchdog group on wastes and toxics called upon the candidates for the 2016 polls to uphold the people’s right to chemical safety.

Through a statement issued to mark the 67th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EcoWaste Coalition urged political aspirants to add in “The People’s Right to Chemical Safety: A Fifteen-Point Human Rights Agenda” into their electoral platforms.

The said document was adopted by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on November 14, 2014 “to serve as guide in the matter of the people’s right to chemical safety… with toxics-free society as our ultimate goal.”

“Chemical safety at home, school, community and the entire ecosystem is everyone’s business.  To protect the public health and the environment, we ask politicians, especially those eyeing the top elective posts to tell the electorate what they intend to do to cut the harmful effects of hazardous chemicals on humans and ecosystem health,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

She pointed out that strong chemicals regulatory systems and standards are needed, nationally and globally, to reduce, if not eliminate, toxic chemical exposure considering the rapid growth of chemicals production and their widespread use in agriculture and the various industries.

“We hope to hear from our presidential, congressional and senatorial bets about their priority policy and program proposals to reduce chemical pollution and improve the health conditions of the vulnerable populations,” she stated.

The “most affected vulnerable sectors,” according to the CHR,  “are women of child-bearing age, children, elderly, indigenous, peoples, farmers, workers, persons with disabilities, and persons with chemical sensitivities.”

“For example, we want the candidates to help the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in pushing for the early ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury and reduce the adverse health impacts due to exposure to this highly toxic metal,” Lucero said.

The Minamata Convention  provides for controls and reductions across a range of products, processes and industries where mercury is used, released or emitted.  The Philippines signed the mercury treaty in 2013, but has yet to ratify it.

“We want them to proclaim that our country is no dumping ground for wastes and toxics, and that they will see to it that the Basel Ban Amendment will be ratified by the next administration,” she said.

The Basel Ban Amendment is a revision to the Basel Convention, a global environmental treaty, that seeks to prohibit exports of hazardous wastes from developed to developing countries for final disposal, reuse, recycling and recovery.  The Philippines ratified the Basel Convention in 1993, but has not ratified the Basel Ban Amendment.

“Furthermore, we want the candidates to declare their strong support for the ongoing phase-out of lead-containing paints to prevent childhood lead exposure, which can damage the brain and cause irreversible mental impairment,” she said.

“We want them to work for the phase-out of highly hazardous pesticides and the adoption of agro-ecology to promote the health of farmers, farming communities and the ecosystems,” she said.

“We want them to state their stance in favor of holding manufacturers of electronics and other goods responsible for the entire life cycle of their products, including their safe recycling and disposal,” she

“We want them to say that the ban on waste incineration will be enforced and even strengthened to conserve resources and prevent the generation of nasty pollutants that can harm human bodies and pollute the climate,” she said.

Through the chemical safety advisory, the CHR called on national and local authorities "to actively promote zero waste resource management and reject polluting technologies such as incinerators and its variants that burn resources, undermine recycling and recycling jobs, and contaminate communities with health-damaging pollutants.”

According to the CHR, the “15-point human rights agenda on chemical safety, by and large, reflect the paramount importance of applying the principles of precaution, pollution prevention, public participation, polluter pays, sustainable development, environmental justice and other key elements of chemical safety such as green design, toxic use reduction and substitution, ‘no data, no market,’ and freedom of information.”



08 December 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Says "Recyclepamore" This Christmas Season

Amid the pre-Christmas rush, a watchdog group on wastes and toxics appealed to the public to celebrate the joyful season with the well-being of our Mother Earth in mind.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that the “holitrash” (short for holiday trash) that soars during the weeks of shopping and partying could be reduced through the willful application of the 3Rs mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle.

“It is not waste until it is wasted.  We therefore urge everyone to be mindful of what they consume and dispose of during the festive season. Please ‘recyclepamore’ to trim down on what you toss into the bins,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The tons of ‘holitrash’ generated in this most cheerful time of year would surely end up in street corners or in distant places where garbage gets buried or burned, or, worst, in the oceans,” she reminded.

Typically discarded ‘holitrash’ include kitchen and food waste, plastic and paper packaging materials, party supplies and leftovers as well as firecracker and firework residuals.

“We surely can do something to avoid our neighborhoods and other communities from turning into, to borrow a phrase from Laudato Si (Pope Francis’ encyclical on the environment), ‘an immense pile of filth’.  We can and we must reduce, reuse, recycle and waste no more,” she pointed out.

On Tuesday, the group organized an event featuring “Green Christmas Ideas” from making eye-catching decorations out of discards to holding eco-friendly parties and giving alternative gifts.

The group showed how pretty Christmas decorations can be created out of plastic bottles and lids, cardboard and boxes, toilet paper rolls, textile rolls, aluminum and tin cans,  chip wrappers, old shirts and fabric scraps, compact discs and even party disposables.

Among the attention-grabbing recycled crafts shown at the event were a Christmas garland fashioned out of used clothes, Christmas tree balls embellished with buttons, glass fragments and snack wrappers, Christmas wreaths consisting of paper cups, a lantern made of junk food wrapper twine, a chandelier and Little Drummers created from pineapple juice cans, Snowman using baking soda and bleaching powder containers, and various forms of angels, Santa Claus and the Three Kings made from an
assortment of recyclable junks.

To minimize post-party garbage, the group urged the public to shun lavish parties, practice a “no left-over” policy to prevent food wastage, practice ecological party waste management and to opt for reusable party essentials instead of disposable plates, cups cutlery and napkin.

As for gift-giving, the group made a pitch for eco-friendly “made in the Philippines” products, as well non-material items that promote good values and sustainable living.

The group suggested giving gifts that require no paper or plastic wrapping.  If wrapping is deemed necessary, the group suggested using old bandannas, socks, magazines, newspapers, boxes and jars, as well as recycled pouch bags or the versatile "bayong" instead of the usual Christmas wrappers.


06 December 2015

Group Lauds Government’s Action to Phase Out of Lead-Containing Paints for Children’s Health

A public interest group promoting safe chemicals policies and practices commended two national government agencies for their stance to protect Filipino children from toxic lead.

The EcoWaste Coalition lauded the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Health (DOH) as stakeholders gather tomorrow, December 7, “to discuss the implementation of the phase-out of lead in architectural paints in 2016” in line with the DENR Chemical Control Order (CCO) for Lead and Lead Compounds.

“We laud the DENR and the DOH for reiterating their commitment to protect our children from being exposed to lead, a health-damaging chemical linked to intellectual deficiencies and mental retardation, and for taking action to cut avoidable sources of exposure such as lead-added paints,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Through messages issued to mark the recently-held International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, Health Secretary Janette Garin and Environment Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna jointly stressed the importance of removing avoidable sources of lead exposure among children.

Both officials expressed optimism that the scheduled phase-out of lead paints under the said CCO will contribute to reduce childhood exposure through the ingestion or inhalation of lead in paint and dust.

The CCO, signed by Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje in December 2013, sets a threshold limit of 90 parts per million (ppm) for lead in paint, as well as provides for the phase-out by 2016 of leaded decorative paints and by 2019 for leaded industrial paints.

“These efforts will undeniably help in reducing preventable sources of lead exposure in our children’s environment and contribute to better and improved health conditions for them,” said Garin.  

“We in the health sector, together with the DENR, the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers and the EcoWaste Coalition are united in promoting the phase-out of lead-containing paints in accordance with the government’s CCO,” she declared.

Garin noted that phasing out lead paint “is an important step and contribution in the attainment of the government’s ‘Kalusugang Pangkahalatan’ (Universal Health Care) program and the United Nations’ newly-adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly goal #3, which seeks to ‘ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages’.”  

“Hand in hand, all sectors should extend their full support in the phase-out of lead-containing paints and together create a toxics-free environment where our children can safely live, play, learn and develop to their full potential,” she said.

Cuna, who is concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, stated that “as there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe for any child, let us be vigilant and support efforts to make the Philippines meet the global goal of eliminating lead paint.”

Cuna led the Philippine delegation at the fourth International Conference on Chemicals Management organized by the United Nations Environment Programme, which affirmed the global phase-out of lead paint by 2020.

“The phase-out of lead-based paints in the Philippine market is on-going and we are targeting to drastically reduce the risk from lead paint chips and dust, which are recognized as major sources of children’s exposure to lead,” he said.

“Since lead is a toxic substance, the DENR regulation covers not only the production process, but starts at the importation of the chemical to transport, recycling and even up to disposal of lead-containing wastes,” he explained.

“It also covers not only the manufacturers or industrial users but also the importers, distributors, recyclers, as well as the waste service providers like the transporters, waste treaters and disposers,” he added.

To ensure proper implementation of the new policy, the DENR is conducting capability building and continuous consultations and discussions with its partner agencies under the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry, and Finance; as well as the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers, the Ecological Waste Coalition, and International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN) Philippines.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and can suffer significant permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system. Lead also causes long-term harm in adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.”  


04 December 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Reveals Toys with Toxic Flame Retardant Chemicals ("Why are hazardous chemicals found in e-waste present in children's toys")

IPEN poster illustrating toxic recycling of POPs-containing waste materials into new products.
Samples of imitation "Rubik's Cube" sent to a laboratory in the Czech Republic for toxic flame retardant analysis.

Amid the Christmas shopping rush, a watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste has expressed serious concern over the recycling of plastics containing toxic substances into children’s toys that are sold in the local market.

As part of its ongoing campaign for kid-safe toys, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that two of the four samples of China-made imitation “Rubik’s Cube” that it sent to the Czech Republic for laboratory analysis contained significant levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) called OctaBDE and/or DecaBDE.

PBDEs refer to a group of brominated flame retardants (BFRs), which are highly toxic chemicals, commonly used in consumer electronics, including computers and TV sets, as well as in recycled foam padding in carpet and furniture.

OctaBDE is listed in the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) for global elimination, while DecaBDE is under evaluation by the treaty’s POPs Review Committee that has concluded “global action is warranted.” The Philippines is a state party to the Stockholm Convention.

Both OctaBDE and DecaBDE are ubiquitous in the environment globally and can disrupt human hormone systems, creating potential adverse effects on the development of the nervous system and children’s IQ.

“The recycling of plastics  containing toxic substances such as flame retardants into toys raises health and safety concerns as this could expose kids to toxic substances known to interfere with brain and central nervous system development,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

"Why are hazardous chemicals found in e-waste present in children's toys?," asked Dizon.

“Toxic chemicals should not be recycled into consumer products, especially toys for children,” said Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisor of IPEN, a global civil society network for safe chemicals policies and practices that includes the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Toxic recycling poisons products, our children, wastes, and the wider environment,” emphasized DiGangi.

According to the report “Toxic toy or toxic waste: Recycling POPs into new products,” published by IPEN and Arnika (a Czech environmental health NGO), “substances listed in the Stockholm Convention such as PentaBDE and OctaBDE should not be present in children’s products, consumer products, food contact materials, and other products. These articles should also not contain DecaBDE due to its toxic properties.”

The group purchased 10 samples of imitation “Rubik’s Cube” from formal and informal retail outlets in Manila and had them screened for bromine using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.  The four samples that had bromine content higher than 1,000 parts per million (ppm) were sent to Czech Republic for laboratory analysis.

As per laboratory analysis by the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague, the four samples contained OctaBDE at concentrations ranging from 2 to 108 ppm.  All four were also found to contain DecaBDE, a common toxic chemical in e-waste, from 5 to 293 ppm.

The levels of OctaBDE and DecaBDE found in two of the four samples were above the 50 ppm limit that qualify polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) as hazardous waste under the Stockholm Convention. This is a concern because OctaBDE and DecaBDE are very similar to PCBs in both structure and toxicity.

The laboratory analysis for PBDEs was made possible through the group’s collaboration with Arnika and IPEN.