30 January 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Seeks Public Cooperation to Keep Manila Esteros Garbage-Free (Basura Patrol Finds Portions of Manila Esteros "Missing" due to Garbage Cover)

29 January 2015, Estero de Magdalena, Recto Avenue, Manila

29 January 2015, Old. Torres St., Barangay 154, Tondo, Manila
29 January 2015, Estero de la Reina, Recto Avenue, Manila

           29 January 2015, Legarda St., Sampaloc, Manila

28 January 2015, San Andres St. cor. Taal St., Malate, Manila

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, has appealed to city residents and transients to stop the indiscriminate disposal of trash that is choking Manila’s waterways.

The group made a strong pitch for the eco-friendly management of discards after finding sections of Manila’s vital esteros “missing” because of thick flotsam.

To wrap up its observance of the first-ever “Zero Waste Month” as directed by President Benigno Aquino III under Proclamation 760, the group’s Basura Patrol went around the nation’s capital on January 28 and 29 and spotted the clogged streams.

“We’re sad to see segments of some esteros somewhat ‘missing’ because of the tons of trash floating atop the narrow creeks.  All we could see was garbage,” observed Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“At Estero de la Magdalena along Recto Ave., we even chanced upon a team of MMDA personnel using a heavy equipment to lift the enormous trash that have built up,” she said.  

Aside from Estero de la Magdalena, the group’s Basura Patrol also saw nearly-solid tributaries at San Andres St. near Taal St. in Malate, and another one at Old. Torres St. in Tondo.

A fence of pink-painted GI sheets with a big but vandalized signage that says “Estero mo, alagaan mo. Iwas sakit at perwisyo” could not entirely hide from view the trash at the canal along Legarda St. near the Sampaloc Market.

“The esteros are vital for flood prevention and control.  For the health and safety of our communities, we need to keep the watercourse - from the canals to the rivers - clear of rubbish to allow water to freely flow and avert devastating floods, as well as pests and diseases,” she pointed out.

“We earnestly appeal to all citizens to break away from the unhealthy and unlawful practice of open burning and dumping, and embrace instead the green values of reducing, reusing and recycling discards,” she said.

“With the support of the general public, the painstaking efforts to breathe life into Manila’s dying esteros will surely bear more fruits,” she added.

Vergara noted the transformation of Estero de Paco, Estero de Sampaloc, Estero de San Miguel and Estero de Valencia following the concerted efforts of various stakeholders led by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission, Metro Manila Development Authority, Manila City Government, environmental groups and the local communities.

She also emphasized that keeping the esteros garbage-free is a crucial step towards the envisioned rehabilitation of Manila Bay where Metro Manila’s rivers and their tributaries drain.    

A waste audit in Manila Bay conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition and other green groups in July 2014 collected some 1,594 liters of garbage, of which 61.9 percent were plastic discards such as plastic bags, plastic composite packaging, plastic bottles, hard plastic and Styrofoam.

Other discards collected were used diapers and napkins, rubber footwear, clothes, rags, sponges, cigarette butts and biodegradable wastes.

“These are basically the same waste materials that get dumped into the esteros and eventually into Manila Bay,” Vergara noted. 


28 January 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes DOH to Ban Hazardous Chemical in Baby Feeding Bottles and Sippy Cups

A public interest group promoting chemical safety and public health today pressed the Department of Health (DOH) and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) to release a long-pending Administrative Order banning Bisphenol A (BPA) in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups.

BPA is a synthetic compound used in polycarbonate plastic.  A recognized endocrine disrupting chemical, BPA has been linked to various health problems such as asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism, infertility, erectile dysfunction, obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and breast and prostate cancers, even at low doses of exposure.

In a letter sent to the DOH, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to Acting Secretary Janette Garin “to hasten the issuance of the proposed DOH Administrative Order entitled the “Prohibition on the Manufacture, Importation, Advertisement and Sale of Polycarbonate Baby Bottles and Sippy Cups Containing Bisphenol A in the Philippines.”  The first policy draft was made publicly available in May 2013.

As early as July 2010, the EcoWaste Coalition has been urging the health authorities to impose a precautionary ban on BPA starting with children’s products such as baby feeding bottles due to the mounting concern about the adverse effects of exposure to BPA on human health.

“The EcoWaste Coalition is deeply concerned with the lamentable delay in issuing the said Administrative Order in light of increased global concern over human exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA) and the string of scientific studies validating such concern,” wrote Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Our country’s lack of technical capacity to analyze baby feeding bottles and sippy cups for BPA content should not stop the government from moving ahead with the precautionary ban, an essential measure to safeguard children’s health,” he said.

Dizon emphasized that the burden of proving that baby feeding bottles and sippy cups are safe from BPA rests with their manufacturers, importers and distributors.

The EcoWaste Coalition noted that over 30 states have already banned BPA, particularly in baby feeding bottles, such as in Canada, China, Malaysia, Taiwan, South Africa, USA and the 28-country European Union, with France banning BPA in all food contact materials in 2015.  China, the country’s largest trading partner, banned BPA in baby feeding bottles way back in June 2011.

In their letter to Garin, the group informed the health official that the EcoWaste Coalition, along with over 50 non-government and civil society organizations, had twice sent a petition to the DOH and FDA in April 2013 and January 2014 for the banning of BPA in baby feeding containers.

The group noted that Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has proposed the “BPA In Baby Products Prohibition Act” (SBN 395), while Representatives Rufus Rodriguez and Angelina Tan have filed similar bills (HB 4234 and HB 2340, respectively) at the House of Representatives.

“As a medical doctor and as the highest health official of our country, the health and safety of Filipino children is certainly among your top priorities.  We therefore respectfully urge you to take
action now against BPA, starting with a prohibition on its use in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups,” the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

As we seek the ban on BPA in baby feeding bottles and sippy cups, we wish to restate our stance to “defend the right of every baby to mother’s milk, the first complete and Zero Waste food, from the direct assault of deceptive advertising and promotion of artificial breastfeeding and chemical pollution,” the group told Garin.


Environmental Experts Pitch for Non-Incineration Solutions to Garbage Woes

The grassroots campaign to avert a congressional move to lift the incineration ban under the Clean Air got a boost at a government-organized summit to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, another law that forbids the
burning of trash.

Speaking at the summit organized by the National Solid Waste Management Commission, Mariel Villela Casaus of Zero Waste Europe and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives was elated to say that “incinerators are on their way out in Europe,” stating that “in the past half-century, citizens have successfully defeated thousands of incinerator proposals and made it very difficult to build an incinerator in many parts of the world.”

The visiting climate and waste expert from Spain noted that even the European Parliament has taken the view that the 28-nation bloc’s “7th Environment Action Plan should set more ambitious prevention, re-use and recycling targets, including a net decrease in waste generation.”

“The reality of incineration overcapacity in many countries in Europe has provided eye-opening facts about up to what point incinerators prevent real waste reduction, reuse, recycling and resource efficiency. This is clear in Northern Europe, where incinerators are fed waste that is imported from all over the continent,” she said, “an awakening moment for cities and countries that have invested heavily in incineration infrastructure,”
Villela said.

“Today, many of these old incinerators are arriving at the end of their life, opening up a door for municipalities to consider the opportunities in an incineration-free system. This is, a system aiming at zero waste that would minimize reliance on waste disposal by means of reduction, reuse, recycling and better design of products,” she said.

"As Europe is walking the path towards Zero Waste strategies and overcoming a lock-in model based on waste incineration, we warn the Philippines model not to make the same mistakes and ensure that waste disposal stays out of their systems," she said.

Villela noted that “zero waste solutions that reduce, reuse and recycle municipal waste are effective and high-impact means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.”

“When discarded materials are recycled, they provide industry with an alternative source of raw materials from which to make new products. This results in less demand for virgin materials whose extraction, transport and processing are major sources of GHG emissions,“ she explained.

“Zero Waste solutions thus reduce emissions in virtually all extractive industries: mining, forestry, agriculture, and petroleum extraction,” she pointed out.

According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC), “Zero Waste solutions also directly reduce GHG emissions and toxic pollutant releases from waste disposal facilities, which are a significant source of both.”

The IPPC report explains that “burning waste emits carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O); and landfills and dumps are a primary source of methane (CH4), as well as CO2,” stressing that “in fact, incinerators produce more carbon dioxide (CO2) per unit of electricity than coal-fired power plants. “

The report further said that “burning waste also drives a climate changing cycle of new resources pulled out of the earth, processed in factories, shipped around the world, and then wasted in incinerators, landfills and combustion plants that use it as fuel, such as cement kilns.”

Also speaking at the summit, environmental scientist Dr. Jorge Emmanuel discussed the health and environmental problems associated with the incineration of medical waste, describing “medical waste incinerators as a major source of global dioxin emissions,” and that  viable non-burn treatment options are commercially available for treating the infectious waste stream.

To assist Pinoy campaigners, Emmanuel provided the following guide questions that citizens should seriously find answers to as the country’s incineration ban is threatened by a controversial move to amend Section 20 of the Clean Air Act:

1. Who benefits from the technology?

- Does the technology enhance public health and the environment?

- Does the technology improve the physical, mental, social, and cultural well-being of the people?

2. Have stakeholders been consulted about or participated in finding a solution?

3. Has the potential solution been examined from a life-cycle perspective taking into consideration environmental health and socio-cultural impacts?

4. Has the precautionary principle been applied?

Groups in the forefront of the spirited campaign to save the incineration ban from being “slaughtered”  include the Aksyon Klima, Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Cavite Green Coalition, EcoWaste Coalition, GAIA, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Health Care Without Harm, Miriam PEACE, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Earth Justice Center, Philippine Movement for Climate Justice and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation.



IPCC, AR4, Working Group 3, Chapter 10.


25 January 2015

Environmentalists Call for Faithful Enforcement of R.A. 9003 to Protect Community Health, the Environment and the Climate

As the 14th anniversary of the signing of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, is observed tomorrow, environmental leaders urged local and national government agencies to implement the law faithfully.

R.A. 9003, enacted by the 11th Congress in December 2000 six months after the Payatas dumpsite tragedy and signed into a law by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on January 26,2001, stipulates the “adoption of best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management, excluding incineration.”

Environmentalist Von Hernandez and Sonia Mendoza, who both received “Zero Waste” awards at the culmination of the three-day “Zero Waste Fair” yesterday in Quezon City, urged concerned citizens and entities to take tough action against non-conforming local government units (LGUs) and national government agencies (NGAs) if only to rouse officials who are sleeping on the job and compel them into enforcing the law.

Hernandez, the outgoing President of the EcoWaste Coalition, cited three things to hasten the enforcement of the waste law, which seeks to conserve resources, curb pollution, including the emission of greenhouse gases, and protect the public health, climate and the environment.

To remedy the languid enforcement of R.A. 9003, responsible officials must implement the law faithfully, replicate and mainstream successful Zero Waste programs and initiatives, and hold recalcitrant LGUs and NGAs accountable for their failure to enforce the law,” said Hernandez.
“After more than a decade, responsible government units should stop making excuses, including pushing the use of incinerators, as if that will solve our perennial problems with trash. If local government units like the city of San Fernando have proven they can do it and benefit immensely from the faithful implementation of the law, there is really no excuse why others cannot, except  failure of leadership," he emphasized.
Mendoza, the incoming President of the EcoWaste Coalition, called for “intensive public information
, education and communication activities to popularize Zero Waste values and practices, for decentralized  waste management down to the barangay level and for legal action to put R.A. 9003 in force.”
“Sueing erring mayors and other officials has strong legal basis in the law,” said Mendoza, citing Section 52 of R.A. 9003, which provides for the filing of citizen suits in order to enforce the provisions of the law.

According to Section 52,
any citizen may file an appropriate civil, criminal or administrative action in the proper courts/bodies against any public officer who willfully or grossly neglects the performance of an act specifically enjoined as a duty by the law.
Section 52 also allows the filing of citizen suits against the Department of Environment and Natural Resources or other implementing agencies with respect to orders, rules and regulations issued inconsistent with R.A. 9003.
The EcoWaste Coalition noted the following as some of the most conspicuous violations of R.A. 9003:

1.  The illegal operation of over 1,000 open and controlled dumpsites across the country, which should have been shut down in February 2004 and February 2006, respectively.
2.  The sluggish establishment of materials recovery facilities or MRFs in every barangay or cluster of barangays to assist with the segregation, composting and recycling of discards, and minimize the volume of residual waste requiring final storage or disposal.

3.  The construction and operation of so-called “sanitary landfills” in watershed areas, in flood-prone places and near water bodies, which receive mixed waste instead of just residuals.

4.  The wanton disregard of specific acts prohibited by R.A. 9003 such as littering, open burning, open dumping, construction of dumps in environmentally critical areas, and the manufacture, distribution, use or importation of non-environmentally acceptable products and services.



22 January 2015

Repurposed Pope Francis' Welcome Tarpaulins

Friends of Buklod-Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition from Bulgaria, Canada and Indonesia show off repurposed functional items such as an apron, organizer and carry bags from tarpaulins welcoming Pope Francis that were put on display at the Zero Waste Fair held at Quezon Memorial Circle in observance of the Zero Waste Month this January .  Creatively repurposing used tarps into practical items will prevent these materials from going to waste and exacerbating the enormous trash generated from the papal events. 

21 January 2015

EcoWaste Coalition: "Please Recycle Pope Francis' Tarpaulins"

With the departure of Pope Francis after five days of cherished encounters with the Filipino people, an environmental watchdog wasted no time proposing that the tarpaulins used to welcome the “green pope” should not go to the dumps and further swell the volume of garbage collected throughout the papal visit.

“Sooner or later, the Pope Francis’ tarps hanging on electric posts, street lamps, church buildings, schools and other establishments will be taken down,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We need to find new uses for these tarps to prevent them from going to waste and adding to the 1,271 tons of trash generated during the papal events,” she emphasized.

Based on published figures, the Manila City Government collected 1,133 tons of garbage, while the Metro Manila Development Authority hauled 138 tons during the Pope’s activities in Manila.  

“We can keep these tarps out of dumps, landfills, cement kilns and incinerators by giving them a new lease of life through appropriate recycling,” she emphasized.

“Avoiding the haphazard disposal of used tarps will cut the volume of waste being disposed of, as well as curb the environmental pollution from their dumping or burning, knowing that tarps are mainly vinyl-based containing toxic chemicals,” she explained.

Vergara recalled that the chemicals screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition right after the 2013 elections detected cadmium and lead in 200 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tarpaulins used by political wannabes.

Tarps can be recycled or repurposed for non-food and non-child uses depending on their colors, designs, materials, thickness, grommet strength and sizes, the group said.

Large tarps, often seen in building facades and fences, can be reused as protective cover sheets for a variety of things, including carriages for religious icons, vehicles, recycling "kariton" and anything else that need protection from dust, dirt, sun and rain.

Even the homeless people in our midst have been using tarps as cover, “blanket” or sleeping sheet, the group observed.

The more sturdy tarps can be used as roofing materials for makeshift shelters of disaster victims.

Smaller tarps such as those hanging on lamp posts can be sewn into carry bags, storage sacks, shoe rack, paint drop clothes, utility aprons, multi-purpose holders, etc.

Pedicab, jeepney and tricycle drivers will find such tarps useful as hood or shield for protection against intense heat and strong rains as tarps can be easily rolled up and down as needed.

To demonstrate some of these repurposing ideas, the EcoWaste Coalition has collaborated with Buklod Tao, a community group in San Mateo, Rizal, to create samples of tarps transformed into functional items.

The repurposed tarps will be displayed at the 3-day Zero Waste Fair starting tomorrow at Quezon Memorial Circle in observance of the first-ever “Zero Waste Month” by virtue of Proclamation 760 issued by President Benigno Aquino III.  

To address the chemical, health and environmental concerns associated with tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed that the government should regulate their production, use and disposal.

19 January 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Decries the Massive Trashing of Luneta at the Concluding Mass of Pope Francis' Visit

The “concern for the environment,” one of the key messages that resonated throughout the five-day apostolic and state visit of Pope Francis in the country, has yet to sink in the hearts and minds of Catholic Filipinos.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog, aired this view after finding Rizal Park, venue of the concluding Mass, awash with garbage that surpassed, by all accounts, the littering that tainted the celebration there of the feast of the Black Nazarene last January 9.

“We are sad to see such a low regard for the environment at a Holy Mass officiated by Pope Francis, the ‘green pope’ and participated in by millions of Filipinos led by President Aquino who, the irony of it all, had proclaimed the month of January as the first-ever ‘Zero Waste Month,’” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The park, Manila’s green lung and the country’s premier park, was wrapped in trash incompatible with a holy celebration that left eco-volunteers and government workers busy cleaning up the mess,” she

“Oddly, we even found some garbage piles with discarded tarpaulin reminders on top with a quote from Pope Francis that says ‘Let us be protectors of God’s creation and of one another,’” she noted.

Photos taken by the group’s Basura Patrollers, which can be viewed at
http://ecowastecoalition.blogspot.com, showed heaps of garbage-filled bags all over Rizal Park and its environs, food packaging left at plant boxes, PET bottles thrown on the streets, discarded plastic sheets and even liturgical booklets on the ground, tens of thousands of which were left undistributed.

“We hope that the undistributed Missalettes have not gone to the dump, but were duly retrieved by church personnel for sharing with others or by waste pickers for recycling,” Lucero said.

At his encounter with the youth at the University of Santo Tomas, the Pope, in his prepared but undelivered speech, called on young people “to make a contribution in showing concern for the environment.”

“As stewards of  God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family,” the pontiff said. This message would again be heard in his homily at the concluding Mass where he said “He created the world as a beautiful garden and asked us to care for it.”

“Regrettably, Rizal Park was turned into an unsightly garden with trash strewn all over the area.  Even the national hero’s monument was not spared,” Lucero lamented.

She added that field reports noted the rampant littering that also tarnished the papal motorcade routes since his arrival on January 15.

The massive trashing of Luneta for the second time this year should encourage the bishops, the priests and the faithful to do a serious rethinking of how Pope Francis’ call for the “protection of the
environment” is translated in faith-oriented activities, the group suggested.

The EcoWaste Coalition thanked Pope Francis for persistently reminding everyone to “take good care of creation,” as the group expressed optimism that such a call will not be forgotten as Catholics ponder
over the meanings of  the papal visit in the coming days and weeks.

The group noted that Pope Francis has positioned himself against wasting by his expressed preference for recycling and his abhorrence of today’s “throw-away culture.”

In a 2013 video message, for example, Pope Francis praised “cartoneros” or waste pickers all over the world, whose work, according to the pope, is dignified and good for the environment.

Finally, the EcoWaste Coalition gave a big thumbs-up to waste and sanitation workers and volunteers  for their environmental service in yesterday’s mammoth Mass, specifically thanking the parish volunteers, the waste pickers, the government workers, the El Shaddai volunteers, Tzu Chi recyclers and other co-workers for the protection of Mother Earth.


Groups Recycle Discards to Honor Pope Francis, the "Green Pope"

A Buddhist charitable organization and a zero waste advocacy network have teamed up to assist the church and the government in making tomorrow’s mammoth assembly compassionate to the environment.

The Tzu Chi Foundation and the EcoWaste Coalition will mobilize over 250 volunteers to gather recyclables at the outskirts of Rizal Park, venue of the Concluding Mass of Pope Francis’ apostolic and state visit to the Philippines.

“We plan to retrieve as much recyclables as possible in adjoining streets where the huge crowd is expected to spill over, complementing the waste prevention effort inside the park,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Tzu Chi volunteers are passionate recyclers.  With their help, we expect more recyclable discards such as aluminum cans, glass and plastic bottles, papers and cartons to be reclaimed instead of being dumped elsewhere, squandering resources and polluting communities” she said.

The Tzu Chi Foundation, Lucero noted, has been successfully recovering recyclables in major cemeteries in Metro Manila during Undas for the last three years.

“This is our small way of expressing our common admiration and support for Pope Francis, the green pope, who has constantly reminded us to live simply, end waste and protect all creation,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“This is also a good way of observing the first-ever ‘Zero Waste Month’ in the country as declared by P-Noy himself,” she added.

As per Proclamation No. 760 issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III on May 5, 2014, every month of January starting this year shall be observed as “Zero Waste Month.”

On Sunday, Tzu Chi volunteers in blue and white uniforms will roam around the surrounding areas of Rizal Park and gather recyclable discards for sorting at two recycling stations on site.  Afterwards, the sorted materials will be sent to Tzu Chi’s recycling center in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

EcoWaste volunteers, some of them wearing sandwich placards quoting Pope Francis’ reminder “Take Good Care of Creation,” will promote environmental awareness and responsibility through waste prevention and reduction.

The Tzu Chi Foundation is a volunteer-based spiritual and welfare organization founded in 1966 in Taiwan by Dharma Master Cheng Yeng, while the EcoWaste Coalition is an environmental network established in 2000 to uphold the ecological management of discards, excluding incineration.

 In a related matter, the EcoWaste Coalition urged business-minded Filipinos not to use the Concluding Mass to distribute leaflets, which may only end up as litter.

At the same time, the group asked the faithful to keep and treasure the Missalette that will be used during the Mass.

“It’s always tempting to distribute commercial leaflets in such a large event to promote and sell a product.  It may be good for business, but leafleteering could spell trouble for the environment,” Lucero said.

“Sadly, these leaflets, more often than not, are not really read and kept, but used for something else and simply left behind with no regard for the environment,” she noted.

“If it rains on Sunday, waste and sanitation workers and volunteers would find it more difficult to remove littered paper on wet and muddy ground,” she said.

“We can keep the paper waste low by simply not distributing leaflets other than those related to the Eucharistic feast such as the Missalette,” Lucero pointed out.

 "Please keep the Missalette in your bag or pocket after the Mass and don't throw it away.  It's like a piece of gem that the faithful should keep as a reminder of our prized encounter with the people's pope," she emphasized.