30 January 2016

National and Local Candidates Urged to Embrace Zero Waste in Their Campaigns and Platforms (2nd Zero Waste Fair Held in Luneta to Push for Increased Waste Prevention and Reduction Efforts)

Environmental and health advocates today pushed candidates for the upcoming general elections to put sustainable waste management solutions on top of their electoral platforms and to walk their talk by running a trash-less campaign.    

At the opening of the two-day 2nd Zero Waste Fair at Rizal Park, public interest groups expressed the need  for the country's politicos to step out of the usual "hakot-tambak-sunog" approach to managing garbage and to support Zero Waste solutions to tackle pollution and build local economies.

"We want those seeking elective posts to commit to solving  our mounting garbage problems through the adoption, promotion and financing of Zero Waste strategies  that will eliminate the pressure to build costly incinerators and landfills," said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

As the campaign period for the presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial and congressional posts, as well as for party list representatives, is about to start on February 9, the groups also called on all candidates to shun wasteful election-related activities. 

"We want all candidates and their supporters to run their campaigns in a manner that will not harm the environment with wastes and toxics.  Environmental and climate protection must take center stage in the 2016 polls," said Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, Mother Earth Foundation

Zero Waste strategies, including separating discards at source, reusing, recycling and composting, have been proven effective in reducing garbage volume and toxicity and in conserving energy and resources, while creating decent jobs and livelihoods for families and communities. 

The groups cited studies in US indicating that recycling and composting create 10 to 20 times as many jobs as incinerators and landfills, and conserve 3 to 5 times the energy that incinerators waste.  In terms of toxic emissions, the groups said that incinerators emit more carbon dioxide per megawatt-hour than coal-fired power plants, and that they emit up to 14 times more mercury.

The 2nd Zero Waste Fair is a focal point of this year's celebration of January as Zero Waste Month, by virtue of Presidential Proclamation (PP) No. 760, signed by President Benigno Aquino III on 5 May 2014.

According to PP No. 760, "Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use."

The Zero Waste Fair is organized by the  EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives,  Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm Asia and Mother Earth Foundation in partnership with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Metro Manila Development Authority, National Park Development Committee and the National Solid Waste Management Commission.

In line with the theme"Posible ang Zero Waste, Kaya Nating Gawin!" (Zero Waste is Possible, We Can Do It!), civil society and local government participants organized booths showcasing various waste prevention and reduction initiatives.

Among the governmental participants were Bacoor and Muntinlupa Cities, and the MMDA 2014 Barangay Power winners for the best solid waste management system from Mandaluyong, Marikina, Pasig, Quezon and Taguig Cities.

Civil society participants included the Bituen Arts, Culture, Events and Communications  Organization; Cycling Advocates; Environmental Resource Management Center; Junk Not; Médecins du Monde;  Tzu Chi Foundation and the Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines.





Morris, Jeffrey, Comparative LCAs for curbside recycling versus for curbside recycling versus either landfilling or incineration with energy recovery, International landfilling or incineration with energy recovery, International Journal of Journal of Life Cycle Assessment 10 4 (2005) 273 Life Cycle Assessment 10 4 (2005) 273 -284

29 January 2016

Green Group Seeks Cardinal Tagle’s Help to Tame the “Basura Monster”

Photo from http://www.interaksyon.com/article/112679/study-popes-encyclical-on-environment-tagle-urges-pinoys
The EcoWaste Coalition, watchdog group for chemical safety and zero waste, has asked for the help of Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle and the entire Catholic clergy in beating the throw-away culture that is defiling Mother Earth.

Cardinal Tagle yesterday told the participants of the ongoing 51st International Eucharistic  Congress in Cebu City to, among other moving messages, live simply, stressing that to “live by restraint, we can go against the throw-away culture.”

“Cardinal Tagle’s  call is most timely as the nation marks the Zero Waste Month this January, and as various sectors gather in Luneta over this weekend for a Zero Waste Fair to give a much-needed push for waste prevention and reduction efforts to beat the country’s persistent garbage woes,” said  Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Now more than ever, we need the Cardinal’s solidarity to tame the ‘basura monster’ that is projected to reach 40,087 tons daily this year up from 37,427 tons per day in 2012,” she emphasized.

At last year’s celebration of the “Season of Creation,” Cardinal Tagle also urged the faithful to “avoid  (the) throw way attitude propelled by materialism,” as well as the “throw everywhere habit that produces mountains of garbage.”

“We fully support his denunciation of the throw-away culture and humbly request him to take his call further by initiating ecological reforms in our vibrant faith-inspired activities such as Christmas and the fiestas that tend to consume too much resources, while creating tons upon tons of trash, much of which get burned, buried or tossed into the rivers and seas,” Lucero said.

“All the country’s bishops and priests, we hope, will take their cue from the respected Cardinal and assist in building eco-friendly, non-toxic parishes and communities,” she added.

“We need the help from all faith groups in rousing our citizens to abide by Republic Act 9003 (the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), as well as in moving our mayors and other officials in enforcing it along with our other environmental laws,” she stated.  

Reacting to Cardinal Tagle’s call to stop the throw-away culture, Father Roberto P. Reyes OFM, a partner of the EcoWaste Coalition, said: “This why we need a new kind of Holiness, a Green Holiness characterized by voluntary simplicity, which celebrates the beauty of the best things in life that are priceless and precious.”

Also known as the “running priest,” Father Reyes proposed:  “Instead of having things, we can begin to celebrate the blessing of deep and lasting relationships between couples, parents and their children, neighbors, and fellow workers. Instead of having things, we can begin to celebrate what Pope Francis often refers to as the Caress, the Compassion of a merciful and loving God.”

“Instead of having things, we can now begin to appreciate the grateful caress of Mother Earth whom we no longer poison with our garbage and wound with our profit-obsessed activities from mining to agricultural land and forest conversions to malls, factories and expensive high-rise condos and subdivisions,” he added.

“Indeed, happy is the person who has nothing but the love of God, neighbor and Mother Earth. She truly is the happiest and richest person on earth,” he concluded.



27 January 2016

New Study Finds Lead Levels in a Majority of Paints Exceed Chinese Regulation and Should Not be on Store Shelves

Insight Explorer - IPEN Joint Press Release

27 January 2016, Beijing, China. A new study on lead in decorative paints sold in China released today by Insight Explorer and IPEN finds that more than half of the paints analyzed exceed Chinese lead regulations. Moreover, even when paint brands offer paint with lower levels of lead, consumers have no way of knowing it because very few of 141 paint cans analyzed in the study carried information about lead content on the label.

“The health impacts of lead exposure on young children’s brains are lifelong, irreversible and untreatable,” said Pan Qingan, Project Director of China Heavy Metal Pollution Map. “We are limiting our children and our nation’s future intellectual development even though safe and effective alternatives are already in use and widely available in China. We must reduce this critical source of lead exposure to young children.”

“Chinese children’s blood levels showed significant decrease after leaded gasoline was banned. Therefore, the continued use of lead paint will become the primary source of childhood lead exposure,” said Zhang Jingling, Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences. “First, children will absorb the extra lead through the gastrointestinal tract by chewing on objects such as toys, household furniture or other articles painted with lead paint. Second, exposure to dust or soil contaminated with lead-based paint is exacerbated by children’s normal hand-to-mouth behavior. We must enforce existing government regulations on the use of lead in paint in order to minimize childhood lead exposure and safeguard their health.”

Regulation limiting the amount of lead in paint for interior and decorative use was introduced in China in 2001, complementing the Toy Safety standard introduced in 1986 for lead in paint on children´s toys. Both regulations limit the lead content of paint to 90 ppm of soluble lead, i.e., the amount of lead that can be extracted by a standard acid treatment to simulate the amount of lead bioavailable for absorption when e.g., a toy painted with lead paint is put in the mouth. Laws or regulations to control the lead content of decorative paints—paints used on the interiors and exteriors of homes, schools, and other child-occupied facilities—are common in most highly industrialized countries.

In late 2014, Insight Explorer purchased a total of 141 cans of solvent-based, enamel decorative paints representing 47 brands from stores in eight cities in China (Beijing, Shenyang, Zhengzhou, Nanchang, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Shanghai and Kunming). Samples from these paints were analyzed by an accredited laboratory in Italy for total lead content.

Key findings from the report, Lead in Enamel Decorative Paints in China, include:

•    Approximately half of the paints analyzed for this study exceed Chinese lead regulations and should not be on store shelves. Of the 141 paints analyzed, 70 of the paints (50% of paints) contained a total lead content above 600 ppm. A 600 ppm total lead content approximately corresponds to 90 ppm soluble lead, the lead limit for lead in paint in China.
•     More than one-third (48 paints; 34% of paints) of the paints contained dangerously high lead levels above 10,000 ppm total lead and would not be allowed for sale in any country restricting the use of lead in decorative paint.
•       One or more paints from 42 of the 47 brands (89% of brands) had a total lead content below 600 ppm (approximately 90 ppm soluble lead), showing that the technology exists in China to produce paint within the regulatory limit.
•      Approximately one-third of the paints had lead levels below 90 ppm – the regulatory standard for total lead content in many countries, indicating that these companies can produce products that are safer for Chinese consumers and meet quality standards for export.
•     Yellow paints had the highest lead levels and red paints had the second highest lead levels.
•     Consumers rarely know whether or not paint meets Chinese regulation because very few of paint cans analyzed carried information about lead content on the label.

The World Health Organization (WHO) calls lead paint “a major flashpoint” for children’s potential lead poisoning and says that “since the phase-out of leaded petrol, lead paint is one of the largest sources of exposure to lead in children.” Children are exposed to lead when painted surfaces deteriorate over time and contaminate household dust and soils. Children ages 0-6, engaging in normal hand-to-mouth behaviors, are most at risk of damage to their intelligence and mental development from exposure to lead dust and soil.

China is the world’s second largest producer and consumer of coatings and there may be as many as 8,000 paint producers inside China, according to the coatings industry magazine, Coatings World. In addition, the Chinese paint market saw a rapid increase in sales and demand during the past decade. Though the demand for paint for newly constructed buildings has recently started to decrease with the slowing of the real estate market, demand for paint to repaint existing buildings and homes is increasing.

Two previous paint studies were conducted in China in 2009 with a total of 122 paints analyzed. Although the earlier studies included fewer brands, the percentage of samples with total lead concentrations greater than 600 ppm and 10,000 ppm are similar among the three studies. Most of these samples were from brands not included in the current study.

Key recommendations made in the report include:

•     Government: Establish effective procedures for monitoring and enforcing full compliance with existing regulatory controls on the lead content of paints manufactured and sold in China; move toward a total lead regulatory standard to ease burdens on companies and facilitate regulation.
•   Industry: Discontinue using lead-based pigments and lead-based drying catalysts as paint ingredients and provide information on product labels indicating the lead content of paint.
•    Consumers: Ask about the lead content of paints and only purchase paints meeting national regulations.

The paint study was undertaken as part of the Asian Lead Paint Elimination Project (2012 - 2015), funded by the European Union with 1.4 million euros. It was implemented by IPEN, a network of 700 NGOs in more than 100 countries working for a toxics-free future.

Insight Explorer (IE) is an environmental NGO established in 2012 in Beijing. It seeks to increase public awareness and citizens' capacity to take action in the areas of pollution control, ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, and sound environmental governance. In September 2013, it launched a project called China Heavy Metal Pollution Map, which focuses on both pollution hotspots and problematic consumer products caused by heavy metals.

IPEN is an international NGO network comprised of 700 organizations in 116 countries that work to reduce and eliminate hazardous, toxic substances internationally and within their own countries. (www.ipen.org)


For More information

Mr. Pan Qingan
Insight Explorer
Address: Rm 1501, Building 3, No. 3, Fengguan Road, Fengtai District, Beijing, China
Phone: +86 185 1386 7782
Email: panqingan@qq.com
Website: http://zhongjinshu.epmap.org/ngo

Mr. Manny Calonzo
Phone: +639178364691
Email: manny@ipen.org

Website: www.ipen.org

“Go zero waste!” - green groups to public

27 January 2016. Quezon City. A few days before the culmination of the 2nd commemoration of January as Zero Waste Month, green groups prepare to close the month with a big call to every Filipino to go for zero waste.

The EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Health Care Without Harm, and Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) spearhead the culminating event with the 2nd Zero Waste Fair in the Philippines to be held at the end of the month. 

The fair will be a focal point of this year’s celebration of Zero Waste month as declared by President Benigno Aquino III on 5 May 2014 by virtue of Presidential Proclamation (PP) No. 760, declaring every month of January as “Zero Waste Month.”

“This year’s theme: ‘Posible ang Zero Waste, Kaya Nating Gawin!’ (Zero Waste is Possible, We Can Do it!), encapsulates the message that the fair would like to echo in a bang as a fitting capping event for this year’s celebration of the 2nd Zero Waste Month,” exclaimed Sonia Mendoza, President of EcoWaste Coalition and Chairman of Mother Earth Foundation.

According to PP No. 760, “Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

“The fair aims to build awareness, educate, and transfer skills to all stakeholders from the national and local government, private businesses, institutions, civil society, and the general public on zero waste by showcasing real waste solutions that do not discharge to land, air, and water, which threaten human and environmental health,” added Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of EcoWaste Coalition and lead coordinator of this year’s Zero Waste Fair.

Commissioner Romeo Hidalgo, NGO representative to the National Solid Waste Management Commission, said for his part that, “If we will only pursue authentic ecological solid waste management aimed at genuine waste diversion in all the barangays, we will see an approximate 50% to 70% reduction in the volume of waste getting disposed of in dumps and landfills.”

The Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 defines “Waste diversion” as “activities which reduce or eliminate the amount of solid waste from waste disposal facilities.”

Paeng Lopez of GAIA maintained that “RA 9003, instead of disposal, mandates waste avoidance and minimization, segregation at source, composting, reusing, recycling, and the listing and phasing out of non-environment-friendly products and packaging.”

The 2nd Zero Waste Fair which will be held from 30 to 31 this January at the Senior Citizen’s Garden, Rizal Park, Luneta, Manila, will see the exhibition of initiatives by local governments, NGOs, and private entities toward zero waste.


26 January 2016

Environmental Watchdog Says: Respect the Signboard “Bawal Magtapon Dito”

As the observance of the Zero Waste Month wraps up this week, an environmental watchdog group urged the public to follow the notoriously ignored signage against garbage dumping.

The omnipresent reminder “Bawal Magtapon Dito,” lamented the EcoWaste Coalition, is the “most mistreated” public service notice that apathetic citizens choose to disregard along with the “no urinating,” “no smoking” and “no parking” signs.  

“Despite the country’s 97.5% literacy rate, many Filipinos appear not to understand what ‘Bawal Magtapon Dito’ means,” observed Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“All over the metropolis, we find this reminder visibly written on plastic tarpaulins, wooden placards and even on the walls, but to no avail,”she complained.

“Even if the signboard explicitly mentions the penalty of up to P1,000 for littering and open dumping violations, many still throw their discards in forbidden places like sidewalks, street corners and vacant lots,” she noted.

“The tendency to disobey such a simple regulation of not littering or dumping mirrors the sad state of our throw-away society and the need for improved environmental awareness and responsibility among our people,” she said.

Towards the enforcement of the anti-dumping provision of Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, the EcoWaste Coalition urged citizens to use their e-gadgets to take photos of garbage heaps right on spots where the “Bawal Magtapon Dito” signs are posted, and to submit the photos to the Offices of the Barangay Chairman and the Mayor for action.

The group also appealed to each and every individual and household to prevent the generation of trash and to ecologically manage our discards to reduce their quantity, as well as toxicity.

“We urge everyone to be mindful of what you consume and what you throw away and please refrain from sending reusable and recyclable discards to the dumps.  Reusables and recyclables should not end up in dumps and get wasted,” Lucero reminded.

As garbage is made by mixing discarded items, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed the need to sort discards at source to facilitate their reusing and recycling.

Avoiding the creation of trash and managing discards in an ecological manner will have tremendous benefits, the group emphasized.

These benefits include: reduced garbage volume and toxicity, lessened pollutant emissions, increased resource conservation, expanded recycling jobs and livelihoods, cleaner and greener communities, decreased trash spillage to the rivers and oceans, de-clogged waterways,  healthier marine ecosystems, and, not to forget, huge savings due to avoided disposal expenses, as well as reduced flood mitigation costs.   


23 January 2016

Wasteful Plastic Bag Banderitas Irk Environmental Watchdog

An environmental watchdog pursuing preventive measures to stem the ever growing garbage problem in Metro Manila has slammed the use of plastic bags as fiesta banderitas.

The EcoWaste Coalition described the increasing practice of hanging plastic bag garlands across the streets as “extremely wasteful” and should stop at once.

“It seems to be getting out of control as we can see in San Andres, Manila with many neighborhood streets festooned with plastic bag banderitas that will surely end up as garbage,” observed Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The banderitas consisting of plastic sando bags, ultra-thin plastic bags and other plastic-based materials compete with the countless plastic tarpaulins of local politicos for space and attention.  It’s plastic all over,” she noted.

The Sagrada Familia Parish in the vote-rich San Andres Bukid is set to observe the Feast Day of the Holy Family on Sunday, January 24.

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier decried the wide and wild usage of new plastic bags as fiesta banderitas in some streets of Pandacan and Tondo, which recently celebrated the feast of the Santo Niño.

“Hanging banderitas has become an extremely wasteful practice that only contributes to Manila’s huge garbage disposal expenditure,” she said.

Based on the 2013 year-end report of the Commission on Audit, the City Government of Manila spent P512.6 million for garbage hauling expenses, second to Quezon City that spent P999.6 million, the top garbage spender in Metro Manila, which totally spent a mind-boggling P4.2 billion.  

Aside from insisting for a ban on plastic bag banderitas, the group also sought the enforcement of Manila City Ordinance 8282 that  bans the use of plastic bags for dry goods and regulate their use for wet goods, as well as bans polystyrene (Styrofoam) as container for food, produce and other products.

The Manila-wide regulation on plastic bags and polystyrene containers should have taken effect in September 2013.

‘With effective public education and vigilant implementation, Manila’s plastic bag regulation has the potential to succeed in reducing garbage spilled onto the streets and esteros, and in cutting the staggering costs of waste disposal and flood control,” she emphasized.

“We also hope that Manila will take action against wasteful plastic banderitas and ban them at once,” she added.


21 January 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Cosmetics Companies to Recall Products Containing Banned Ingredients

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog group, renewed its call for  manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers of cosmetics containing banned ingredients to promptly recall their non-compliant products.

The group had earlier found 15 imported as well as locally-produced cosmetics being sold in the local market that still contain banned isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben as ingredients.

Isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben, along with benzylparaben, pentylparaben and phenyparaben, had been included in the “list of substances which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products” under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

“While the other types of parabens are still permitted under current regulations, these five parabens should no longer be added to cosmetics,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The government has given the cosmetics industry enough time to reformulate and replace the banned parabens with permissible preservatives,” he added.

“For the health and safety of consumers, we urge the concerned companies to take every non-compliant products off store shelves,” he stated.

The EcoWaste Coalition had recently found banned isobutylparaben and isopropylparaben listed as ingredients in some skin moisturizing lotion, skin whitening cream and lotion, sun protection lotion, body wash, cleanser, liquid hand soap and foot scrub cream.

As per Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Circular 2015-008, cosmetics that contain any of the five aforecited parabens can still be in the market until December 31, 2015.

The agency reiterated the said grace period through FDA Circular 2015-014, which means that cosmetics containing the banned parabens will no longer be allowed in the market by January 1, 2016.

“Cosmetic companies are advised to recall their products containing the abovementioned ingredients by the end of the grace period,” the FDA said.

“All cosmetic company/ies or person/s responsible for placing cosmetic products in the market which are found to be out of specifications shall be subject to appropriate legal actions,” the FDA warned.

Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics to prevent the growth of microbes and promote a longer product shelf life.  However, parabens have attracted critical attention because they can mimic hormones and negatively affect human health.  

Some studies have indicated that parabens can imitate estrogens, which have been associated to an increased risk of breast cancer.  Other studies have suggested that parabens can disrupt reproductive hormones.





19 January 2016

Toxics Watchdog Finds Banned Preservatives in Cosmetics Products

A watchdog group tracking banned substances in consumer products found 15 items laden with certain types of parabens, which should no longer be used in cosmetics formulations starting January 1, 2016.

As part of its ongoing campaign for chemical safety and zero waste, the EcoWaste Coalition conducted test buys on January 16 and 17 to determine if the ban on certain parabens under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive (ACD) is being followed or not.

Annex II of the ACD has been amended to include benzylparaben, isobutylyparaben, isopropylparaben, pentylparaben and phenylparaben  in the “list of substances which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products.”

Last year, Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) OIC Director General Maria Lourdes Santiago through FDA Circular 2015-014 advised cosmetics companies to recall products containing the banned parabens and other substances by the end of the grace period, which lasted until December 31, 2015.

“While the grace period has already come to an end, we still managed to find and buy 15 products that list either isobutylparaben or isopropylparaben or both among the product ingredients,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We found them in skin lightening and moisturizing lotion, body wash, liquid hand soap and foot scrub cream,” he said.

“Out of these 15 products, six are locally manufactured and the rest are imported from Canada and Indonesia,” he added.

In addition, the group also found US-made sun protection lotion products with isobutylparaben on store shelf, but did not buy the high-priced items.

The group on January 18 sent its findings to the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), which promised to ask concerned companies to conduct the necessary product recalls.

In their letter to the FDA  Center for Cosmetics Regulation and Research (CCRR), the group requested the agency “to enforce FDA Circular 2015-014 and related issuances, compel the concerned companies to immediately withdraw the above products, which are out of specifications, and undertake other necessary legal measures to ensure industry compliance.”

“It will also be useful to remind cosmetics consumers to carefully read the product labels and shun those listing any of the banned parabens as ingredient,” the group said.

Newly-designated CCRR Director Ana Rivera immediately replied saying that the information received from the EcoWaste Coalition will be forwarded to the FDA Field Regional Office.

“(We) will also write the concerned companies and call their attention to the agreement to voluntarily recall these products by December 31, 2015 with the appropriate penalties and sanctions that may apply,” the CCRR said.

Parabens are commonly used as preservatives in cosmetics to prevent the growth of microbes and promote a longer product shelf life.  However, parabens have attracted critical attention because they can mimic hormones and disrupt normal endocrine functions that can negatively affect human health.

Some studies have indicated that parabens can imitate estrogens, which have been associated to an increased risk of breast cancer.  Other studies have suggested that parabens can disrupt reproductive hormones.

The ban on cosmetics containing any of the abovementioned parabens took effect in most ASEAN member states on August 1, 2015 except for Philippines and Thailand, which requested for a longer grace period that ended on December 31, 2015.

The European Union had also banned these five parabens in April 2014 because “limited or no information was submitted by industry for (their) safety evaluation,” according to the European Commission Regulation No. 358/2014.






18 January 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Warns against Monkey "Lucky Charms" Containing Lead Paint

Some monkey figurines sold as “lucky charms” in Quiapo, Manila were found to be decorated with paints containing high levels of toxic lead.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, found this out after subjecting five of such painted figurines to chemicals screening using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Sold ahead of the upcoming Chinese New Year of the Fire Monkey, the locally-made figurines can be purchased from street vendors for P20 to P50 each depending on the size.

As per XRF screening, the green and yellow paint coatings of the monkey figurines contained 2,690 to 7,800 parts per million (ppm) of lead, exceeding the government’s limit of 90 ppm for lead in decorative paints.
Under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-issued regulation, leaded decorative paints are to be phased out by December this year.

“The use of lead paint in products that are supposed to attract good luck is unacceptable as lead is known to pollute the environment and harm human health,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Children may be exposed to lead as the painted surfaces of the figurines chip with time or when the figurines are broken creating lead-contaminated dust,” he said.

“Children playing at home may pick and eat the lead-containing paint chip or ingest the lead-containing dust through their usual hand-to-mouth behavior,” he added.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead, and even relatively low levels of exposure can cause serious and in some cases irreversible neurological damage.”

To protect young children from being exposed to lead in paint and dust, the EcoWaste Coalition urged lucky charm makers to switch to lead-safe decorative paints.

The group further asked entrepreneurs to properly label their products in keeping with the consumer right to information under the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

“Aside from the basic information about their manufacturer, importer or distributor, consumers need to know what chemicals constitute a product and what precautions, if any, are to be taken to avoid harm.  Painted products like household decorations, furniture and toys should carry a ‘lead-safe’ mark,” Dizon pointed out.

Lead, a toxic chemical, has been shown to harm a child’s developing brain and central nervous system even at low levels of exposure with life-long adverse impacts, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

Lead, according to WHO, “is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”




15 January 2016

Environmental Watchdog Says Plastic Banderitas Should Go for Waste-Less Fiestas

A watchdog group for environment and health urged church and community leaders to forbid the hanging of fiesta garlands, stressing there is “zero justification” to put “litter on the sky.” 

The EcoWaste Coalition emphasized that fiesta buntings, popularly known as “banderitas” or “lastay,” has no aesthetic, functional or spiritual value and contribute nothing but residual garbage that could even pollute the oceans and harm marine animals.   

The group aired its gross disappointment over the upsurge of fiesta buntings, particularly in Pandacan and Tondo neighborhoods, in time for the popular feast of Santo Niño this coming Sunday.

“We are deeply concerned with the unrestrained practice of filling the streets with banderitas that are hardly reused or recycled after the revelry.  It's like throwing litter on the sky,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group cited Pandacan and Tondo as examples of communities with a strong penchant for buntings as the vibrant feast day of the Holy Child is observed by the faithful. 

“In both communities, we saw various types of mostly plastic banderitas hanging across the streets and alleys.  But what really annoyed us is the wide and wild usage of new ultra-thin plastic bags as bunting materials,” she said.

“There really is zero justification for ultra-thin plastic bags to be produced and used, especially for fiesta garlands,” she pointed out.

“Local ordinances exist in many cities, including Manila, banning or restricting the use of single-use plastic bags to control plastic pollution, but we often see these measures being skirted, thus making a mockery of such regulations,” she observed.

The ultra-thin single-use plastic bags used as buntings are particularly problematic, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.  

“These mega thin and super light plastic bags are easily blown away to storm drains and into water bodies, causing ocean pollution and killing aquatic animals who mistake plastic litter as food,” Lucero said.

Even the United Nations has spoken loud and clear in favor of phasing out or banning thin film single-use plastic bags to arrest the growing problem with marine litter.

The group quoted Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, who said: "Some of the litter, like thin film single use plastic bags which choke marine life, should be banned or phased-out rapidly everywhere.  There is simply zero justification for manufacturing them anymore, anywhere.”

The EcoWaste Coalition also scored the use of colorful polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic sheets as banderitas due to toxicity issue.

To prove its point, the group cited the chemical screening that it conducted on a yellow PVC plastic used as garlands in one street in Pandacan.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the group found the PVC plastic laden with 4,430 parts per million of lead.  

“That’s a lot of lead going the dump where the discarded buntings will surely end up being buried or burned.  Our fiestas should not add to our nation’s mounting problem with wastes, particularly those laced with hazardous substances such as toxic metals like lead,” Lucero emphasized.  

If hanging garlands cannot be altogether avoided, the EcoWaste Coalition stressed that bunting materials should be recyclable or reusable for Mother Earth’s sake.




14 January 2016

Politicians' Tarpaulins Mushroom in Pandacan as Santo Niño Fiesta Approaches

Photos taken by EcoWaste Coalition's Basura Patrollers on 13 January 2015 in Pandacan, Manila. 

13 January 2016

More Photos of Political Tarpaulins Hanging on Manila's Streets

Photos taken between January 5 to January 12, 2016  by EcoWaste Coalition's Basura Patrollers in Paco, Quiapo and Tondo, Manila.

Brace for the "Battle of Tarpaulins" as Election Nears, Watchdog Warns

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog group, has expressed serious concern over the explosion of politicians’ tarpaulins on streets even before the campaign period for the May 2016 election commences.

The uncontrolled display of tarpaulins in public places to plug the candidacy of aspiring public servants outside the official campaign period has become a public nuisance as well as an environmental issue, the group said.

As per the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) calendar, the campaign period for candidates for President, Vice-President, Senator and party-list groups will start on February 9, while that for the candidates for congressional district representatives, and elective regional, provincial, city, municipal officials will begin on March 25.  The campaign period will finish on May 7.

“In Manila, for example, ‘happy fiesta’ tarpaulins from contending politicians filled the streets of Quiapo as the mammoth Feast of the Black Nazarene was observed last weekend,” said  Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The ‘battle of tarpaulins’ is now underway in Pandacan and Tondo ahead of the popular feast of Santo Niño on January 17,” she added.

“This ‘battle’ will continue to rage as politicians take advantage of all imaginable occasions from Chinese New Year, Valentine's Day, Lent, Easter to school graduation rites to publicize their names and faces among voters,” she said.

Aside from being annoying or offensive to the senses and posing risk to public safety, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the unrestrained use and disposal of tarpaulins are adding to the nation’s garbage and toxic woes.

To lessen the waste and toxic threat from tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition advised political aspirants to moderate their use of tarpaulins for self-promotion.

The group specifically reminded Manila’s local politicians to abide by the City Council Resolution No. 420 adopted on October 15, 2015 "urgently appealing to poll candidates to exercise environmental stewardship to protect Mother Earth."

The group further urged political aspirants to follow COMELEC guidelines encouraging parties and candidates “to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda.”

The group also asked concerned parties and candidates to add the statement “This material should be recycled” on their campaign materials as proposed by COMELEC to encourage the recycling and discourage the burning or dumping of discarded materials. 

Lucero explained that tarpaulins are not biodegradable, and those sent to the dumpsites and landfills will take a long time to degrade.  She added that tarpaulins are not necessarily benign materials, citing the presence of toxic metals in samples screened in the past. 

She recalled that her group screened 200 pieces of tarpaulins from various candidates for the May 2013 polls using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device and detected toxic cadmium up to 1,279 parts per million (ppm) in 100 percent of the samples and toxic lead up to 1,704 ppm in 25 percent of the samples. 

Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries. Therefore cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping.”

“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” the UN agency said.