31 May 2015

Back-to-School Advice: Cross PVC Plastic Off Your Shopping List

High concentrations of a toxic chemical compound banned in toys were detected in some plastic school supplies prompting a health and environmental watchdog group to warn consumers anew.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for chemical safety and zero waste, likewise urged the Department of Health (DOH) to expand current restriction on phthalate use to cover all children’s products, including childcare articles and school supplies.

The group made the proposal after finding some back-to-school essentials laden with phthalate DEHP, which is added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics to make them soft and flexible.

The US Environmental Protection Agency has classified DEHP as a “probable human carcinogen.”

The group bought the product samples from Isetann Department Store, National Book Store, SM  Department Store and from one sidewalk vendor in Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila and have them analyzed for phthalates by SGS, a global testing company, as part of their back-to-school campaign for children’s health and safety.

Based on the laboratory test results, all the five samples of school supplies, which are made of PVC plastic or with PVC components, contain high levels of DEHP, which is prohibited in toys above 0.1% by weight.  These are:

1.“Superman” poncho child’s rainwear (P249.75, SM), with 22.90% DEHP

2. “Koko Cat” child’s lunch bag (P139, Isetann), with 15.60% DEHP
3. “Spiderman” child’s raincoat (P104, Isetann), with 4.04% DEHP
4. “Princess Mica” Bagpack (P499.75, NBS), with 0.985% DEHP
5.  Qbaby “Frozen” Bagpack (P230, sidewalk vendor), 0.597% DEHP
“While certain phthalates are banned by DOH in toys, such a safety measure does not exist yet for school supplies. We therefore urge the health authorities to look into broadening the coverage of its current policy on phthalates to include all childcare articles as well as school supplies,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Under the DOH Administrative Order 2009-0005-A as amended in December 2011, phthalates DEHP, DBP or BBP in concentrations exceeding 0.1% are banned in the manufacturing of toys, while phthalates DINP, DIDP or DNOP above 0.1% are prohibited in toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth.

“As phthalates are commonly used in the production of PVC plastics, we advise parents to keep PVC off their back-to-school must-buy list and to patronize safer alternatives instead,” Dizon said.

“By shopping for PVC-free consumer products, we also avoid serious health and environmental problems associated with their disposal later as PVC plastics, if incinerated, will lead to the formation of cancer-causing dioxins,” he added.

Animal studies have shown that the lowest levels of exposure to specific phthalates may have critical toxic effects on reproduction, on development, the liver and the thyroid. 

Phthalates have been linked to genital abnormalities in boys, early onset of puberty in girls, asthma, obesity and cancer. 

Phthalates are absorbed by the human body through ingestion, inhalation and skin absorption.

To minimize phthalate exposure through school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition urges parents to consider the following tips adopted from the “Back-to-School Guide to PVC-Free School Supplies”:

1.  Avoid school supplies made vinyl plastic or PVC plastic, or those marked “3,” “V” or”PVC.” 

2.  Avoid backpacks with shiny plastic designs as they often contain PVC and may contain lead.

3.  Avoid clays made of PVC.

4.  Avoid notebooks containing metal spirals with colored plastic coating that may contain PVC. 

5.  Avoid metal paper clips coated with PVC plastic.




29 May 2015

Schools urged to ban plastic bags and styro

Signage at the gate of De La Salle University - Dasmarinas, Cavite. Photo by Tin Vergara
Quezon City. A few days before the next school year, waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition urged education authorities to consider banning disposable plastic bags and polystyrene products in school premises to minimize waste and promote zero waste.

“The education department has a clear task under the law to ‘strengthen the integration of environmental concerns in school curricula at all levels, with particular emphasis on the theory and practice of waste management principles like waste minimization’, among others,” said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Program Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition, referring to Section 56 of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003.

“Disposable plastic bags and polystyrene are highly problematic in terms of their management, making them non-environmentally acceptable,” she continued.

“They usually end up as residual wastes with nowhere to go but the dumps, adding to the already voluminous polluting garbage there,” she stressed.

The coalition have observed that many local governments have seen the importance of waste minimization by banning or, at least, regulating the use of disposable plastic bags and polystyrene.

“These LGUs are correct, since after you have undertaken composting and recycling, you usually find yourself wondering how you would ecologically deal with plastic bags and polystyrene,” said Vergara.

She added that “while pro-plastics say these products can be recycled, the truth is their recycling rates are very low."

“Also, plastic bags and polystyrene cannot truly be recycled back to their original form, rather they can only be downcycled into products that are of low quality,” she clarified.

Among schools, the De La Salle University (DLSU) – Dasmarinas, Cavite has been reaping the benefits of being plastic bag-free since 2011 and styrofoam-free since 2005: “We have tremendously reduced the amount of residual wastes in the campus, lessen our operational expenses related to waste management, and imbued good values that led to a change in behavior toward good stewardship among our students and school personnel,” said Marlon Pereja, Director of Environmental Resource Management Center of DLSU-Dasmarinas.

Pereja added that “the values and practice of ecological stewardship, which should start at home, should be strengthened in the school, if we are to produce citizens that truly care for the environment.”

To make schools free from the burden of dealing with disposable plastic bags and polystyrene, the EcoWaste Coalition advised school administrators to craft and adopt policies with at least the following minimum provisions:

a) Phase out of disposable plastic bags and polystyrene, such as polystyrene cups, styro plates, fork and spoon, inside school premises;

b) Use of reusable containers or packaging for students and school personnel’s “baon”;

c) Use of reusable table wares instead of disposable ones in school canteen;

d) Use of reusable plates, utensils, and containers during school meetings, gatherings, and parties.

The Coalition was quick to say that these policies should go hand-in-hand with the implementation of ecological solid waste management, namely segregation, composting, recycling, and reuse, in the school, to truly attain zero waste.

Some of the schools that have adopted policies banning disposable plastic bags and polystyrene aside from DLSU-Dasmarinas are Cong. RA Calalay Memorial Elementary School in San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City; St. Scholastica's College in San Fernando City, Pampanga; and all public and private schools in Batangas City, Batangas.

Waste audit conducted by EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Greenpeace, and Mother Earth Foundation in the Manila Bay last year found that among plastic wastes (which topped the list of the bay’s marine debris at 61.9%), plastic bags were pegged at 23.2% and polystyrene debris at 7.5%.

The same group’s waste audits of the bay in 2006 and 2010 also showed that among plastic debris, plastic bags and polystyrene together remained number 1.


28 May 2015

Green network backs EMB call for BOC to ship back new Canada trash cargo

Quezon City. As issue of the new Canada trash shipment gets hotter than the weather each day, a waste and pollution campaign network issued a call today supporting Environmental Management Bureau’s (EMB) statement to the customs bureau.

“Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner, Alberto Lina, should heed the call of EMB Director Jonas Leones to immediately ship back to Canada its newly discovered 48 container vans of additional garbage,” cried Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the zero waste advocacy network EcoWaste Coalition.

The call was issued by the group in view of Leones’ most recent statement declaring that the 2nd garbage shipment from Canada has “no importation clearance” and is therefore considered an “illegal” shipment.

Leones, in news reports outrightly said “[BOC] should immediately have [the 2nd batch of Canada garbage cargo] shipped back.”

The coalition maintained that since shipment is illegal, “the rightful and legal thing to do, according to new policy, is to ship it back to source,” referring to Leones’ clarification on new policy involving shipment that has not obtained importation clearance from the EMB.

The group also took note that the alleged importer of the new garbage shipment, Live Green Enterprise, is not a "registered importer" and "not in the record" of the EMB, as Leones said in one news interview. It was reported that the importer is based in Ontario, Canada and with local office in San Fernando City, Pampanga,

“This is a clear case of smuggling involving waste!" Lucero stressed.

She further said that "we should not allow our country to be the repository for such illegal consignments that may end up being disposed of in local disposal sites, adding to our garbage woes.”

The 48 new container vans of trash arrived in four batches from December 2013 to January 2014, several months after the first batch of 50 container vans of Canada trash. The 2nd batch have since remained unclaimed at the Manila port.


25 May 2015

New Canada Trash Elicits Suspicion, Prompts Protest vs Garbage Smuggling in the Guise of Recycling


 Manila. “Once is enough. Twice is too much. But we fear there could be more!”

Aileen Lucero, Coordinator of the waste and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition exclaimed in indignation as citizens hit the streets anew to stage a protest amid a new controversy involving the discovery of 48 more container vans of garbage from Canada.

“The newly revealed garbage consignments from Canada, untaken for over a year now, elicits suspicion from the public that something fishy must have been going on, possibly for a long time already,” she said.

“With the earlier smuggling scandal involving 50 container vans of garbage still unresolved, it’s literally rubbing salt in a fresh wound,” she lamented, criticizing Canada’s refusal to take back the mixed wastes that President Benigno S. Aquino III himself described as “hazardous.”

“Now 98 container vans of garbage in total, who knows what could be inside those other vans that have yet to be inspected? More residual household wastes? More electronic junks? More soiled diapers? A thorough and credible investigation is imperative in line with the ‘tuwid na daan’ (straight path) to clear suspicions, to compel Canada to re-import their rubbish and to ensure that our country is not unjustly treated as a cheap dumpsite,” she said.

In their protest today in front of the Bureau of Customs (BOC), the EcoWaste Coalition and other environmental justice groups unfolded a huge yellow banner bearing “Pilipinas, Hindi Tambakan at Sunugan ng Basura” in the midst of placards declaring “Philippines: Not Canada’s Dumpsite.”

To reiterate their opposition against moves to locally dispose of the intercepted garbage consignments, the groups brought with them a mock trash-filled container marked “Return to Canada” with the iconic maple leaf.

“What is worst with these additional 48 container vans is not these are new importations, but these have been lurking for some time now,” stated Ang NARS Party List Rep. Leah Paquiz, who has been pressing the government to stop the dumping incidents “to regain the dignity of the Philippines.”

“These environmental predicaments are too much to take thus, questions can no longer be left unanswered: How many more are there not declared and not accounted for? Is this dumping incident a regular phenomenon? Will this administration just let, if not blatantly allow, Philippines to be the dumping site and waste disposal arena of other countries?,’ she asked.

The new 48 container vans of garbage, consigned to Live Green Enterprise, entered the port in four batches from December 2013 to January 2014, few months after the other 50 vans of misdeclared recyclable “plastic scraps,” consigned to Chronic Plastics, Inc., arrived in six batches from June to August 2013 and subsequently intercepted by the BOC.

Auction and Cargo Disposal Division Chief of the Manila International Container Port had already recommended the “issuance of decree of abandonment” for the unclaimed 48 vans of “plastic scraps.”

Since the BOC revealed the botched garbage consignments in 2014, concerned environmental, labor, church and grassroots leaders and legislators, as well as over 25,000 citizens from both Canada and the Philippines, have spoken against the prolonged dumping controversy.

Most recently, on May 14, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago through Resolution 1341 emphasized Canada’s responsibility to take back their garbage as party to the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.”

In Manila, Councilors DJ Bagatsing and Numero Lim and 29 others filed a resolution unanimously adopted by the City Council, also on May 14, urging the Canadian government to remove the reeking garbage that “pose dangerous health and ecological risks” to the city’s residents.

Ang Nars Party List, Ateneo School of Government, Ban Toxics, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Green Convergence, Greenpeace, Mother Earth Foundation and other groups have asserted that Canada’s garbage shipments violate the Basel Convention and national laws, including R.A. 6969, the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act, and R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.


22 May 2015

EcoWaste Coalition Denounces New Garbage Shipment from Canada, Urges the Authorities to Stop Waste Dumping Disguised as Recycling

Quezon City. The discovery of more garbage shipment from Canada by customs authorities has ignited fresh calls for the government to decisively act against the illegal traffic in waste that is turning the Philippines into a virtual dumpsite.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental watchdog for chemical safety and zero waste, urged the government to get to the bottom of the illegal waste trade after the Bureau of Customs (BOC) uncovered 48 more container vans of imported garbage left unclaimed at the Manila International Container Port.

After intercepting 50 container vans of mixed Canadian wastes last year, the BOC uncovered the 48 vans of supposed plastic scraps that arrived in four batches from December 2013 to January 2014 as reported by the agency.

The first 50 container vans were consigned to Chronic Plastics, Inc. located in Valenzuela City, while the other 48 container vans were consigned to Live Green Enterprise based in San Fernando City, Pampanga.

“With our country still reeling from the unsettled 50-van garbage shipment that Canada refuses to re-import, we find this latest episode of waste dumping just as outrageous and unacceptable,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We expect nothing less than an open and transparent investigation on this matter, the prosecution of the offenders and the immediate return of the botched garbage consignments to Canada,” she added.

“The authorities must leave no stone unturned to obtain environmental justice for our nation and bring the illegal waste dumping, camouflaged as recycling, to a halt,” she stated.

“Our government should use all means to get the garbage deliveries, now totaling 98 container vans, shipped back to Canada at once and dismiss outright any proposal to have them landfilled or incinerated in the Philippines,” she pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier commented that “it’s not enough for the garbage-filled container vans to be taken from one site to another (for disposal) and burden the unfortunate local government unit with a problem not of its making.”

Manila City Council last May 14 adopted a resolution urging the immediate removal of Canada’s garbage from the port area with Councilors DJ Bagatsing and Numero Lim stressing that “Manila is nobody's dumping ground nor junkyard and the City shall never condone any entity, whether it be Canada or another, to dump their rejects here in whatever shape or form.”

Also, on May 14, veteran Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the government should use the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal” in negotiating with the Canadian government over the illicit garbage dumping issue.

The Basel Convention, which Canada ratified in 1992 and the Philippines in 1993, “aims to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects resulting from the generation, transboundary movements and management of hazardous waste and other wastes.”

As she stated in Senate Resolution 1341, Santiago said that “the arduousness of complaint or arbitration mechanisms before an international tribunal should not hinder the government from asserting that the export of wastes from Canada violates the Basel Convention.”

Echoing the sentiments of environmental, labor and church leaders, Santiago warned that “the decision to process the waste in the Philippines upon the request of the Canadian government sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to dump their waste in Philippine soil with impunity.”


20 May 2015

Manila's Stance vs Unwanted Canadian Garbage Draws Support from Environmental Justice Groups

Following Manila City Council’s call for the immediate removal of hazardous garbage from Canada sitting in Manila’s port, environmental justice groups urged the Government of Canada to act in good faith and re-import the controversial garbage shipment at once.

Last May 14, the City Council, led by Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, adopted the resolution principally authored by Councilor DJ Bagatsing and co-authored by Councilor Numero Lim and 29 other councilors, urging the Canadian government as well as the interagency task force dealing with the issue to remove the reeking garbage sitting in Manila’s port that “pose dangerous health and ecological risks” to the nation’s capital.

Through a follow-up statement after the resolution was adopted, Bagatsing and Lim asserted that: “The decent response ought to be for Canada to take back its illegally shipped hazardous waste, akin to the honorable action taken by Japan back in 1999, and it is only right that this precedent be followed and pursued, in keeping with the essence of strong bilateral ties and friendly relations.”

“It is truly saddening to see a powerful first world elite country have its own way unfairly over a vulnerable developing nation who, in this case, will be the one left holding the trashbag,” the two councilors added.

Manila’s objection to the continued stay of Canada’s garbage in the city drew support from the EcoWaste Coalition and other allied groups from the environmental and labor movements,  stressing that “the Philippines is not a dumpsite.”

“We sympathize with the government and people of Manila who have to bear the brunt of this despicable garbage dumping from overseas,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The removal of the reeking garbage from Philippine soil is of utmost importance for the national interest and Canada must stop ignoring its responsibility to take back their unwanted rubbish,” she said.

“It’s not enough for the garbage-filled container vans to be taken from one site to another and burden the unfortunate local government unit (LGU) with a problem not of its making,” she emphasized.

“LGUs hosting potential facilities where the Canadian garbage will be sent for burial or incineration should categorically state their refusal to accept the imported trash,” Lucero said.

“We cannot allow Canada to treat our communities as cheap disposal sites for their discards,” she emphasize.

Echoing the statement made by Bishop Broderick Pabillo on the Canadian garbage issue, Lucero reminded the Canadian and Filipino authorities that “it will be unjust for a community in Manila, Bulacan, Tarlac or elsewhere to become a toxic sacrificial site for Canada’s hazardous garbage.”

The outspoken bishop, who chairs the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, had earlier said that “no community deserves to be a dumping ground for wastes and toxics.