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 NiƱo 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.