31 May 2016

Schools Urged to Also Spruce Up Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs)

Photos taken at Gregorio del Pilar Elementary School, Tondo, Manila, 31 May 2016

An ecology group urged the participants of the ongoing Brigada Eskwela nationwide to also spruce up the materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in schools.

MRFs, also known as “ecology centers,” serve as repository for segregated discards that can be reused or recycled, as well as a place to turn biodegradable discards such as food and yard waste into fertilizer or soil conditioner.

“The annual pre-school opening makeover naturally focuses on improving the classrooms and other common areas where pupils spend most of their time,” observed Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“In this year’s Brigada Eskwela, we hope volunteers will also get assigned to spruce up the school MRF or to construct one if there is none yet,” she said.

MRFs are generally consist of a redemption area for the recyclables, a composting area for the biodegradables, an ecology garden and  a display area for recycled or repurposed items from discards. 

Functional MRFs, the group noted, can play a very important role in instilling environmental consciousness and responsibility among the members of the school community, particularly on the ecological way of managing wastes.

“By sorting discards into few categories and keeping them clean and segregated at the MRF, students are taught about the value of practising the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) to prevent and reduce waste and conserve resources,” Tolentino said.

“The school can later sell the collected recyclables to junk shops, providing the school with extra income that can be put to good use such as for school improvement projects,” she added  

“Hopefully, they can bring this learning home and encourage their respective families to make waste segregation a habit,” she pointed out.           

Tolentino underscored the need for schools to have a composting system that will cater to their needs. 

Depending on the volume of waste organics generated and the availability of materials and space, the school can adopt a practical system for composting their biodegradable wastes such as food and garden wastes.

“There is no need for fancy composting bins.  You can practically use whatever container is available to compost your biodegradable discards from broken pails, clay pots, old drums and rice sacks or through pits and windrows,” she said.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded school administrators and teachers to actively promote the implementation of the Department of Education Order No. 5, Series of 2014.

Among other things, the said directive states that "every school shall practice waste management principles, such as (waste) minimization, specifically resource conservation and recovery, segregation at source, reduction, recycling, reuse and composting, in order to promote environmental awareness and action among the students."

"We look forward to supporting DepEd's efforts under the Duterte administration to nurture a waste-free and toxic-free learning environment for all Filipino children," the group said.  


30 May 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes School Compliance to Government's Lead-Free Paint Policy

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for a lead-safe  school environment, exhorted the principals, teachers and parents to be vigilant  to ensure lead-free school makeovers during the week-long Brigada Eskwela starting today.

The chemical and waste watch group has partnered with the Sto.Cristo Elementary School in Bago Bantay, Quezon City to drum up awareness and compliance to government directives on lead paint. 

Department of Education Memorandum No. 85, Series of 2016 instructs schools to use lead-free paints in line with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2013-24 which sets a phase-out deadline for leaded architectural, decorative and household paints by January 1, 2017. 

To stir up interest and support for a lead-safe school environment, EcoWaste Coalition volunteers joined the parade prior to the cleanup drive donning giant “paint cans marked with the instruction “choose lead-safe paints” and holding mini-classrooms tagged as “lead-free school.”

“We urge Brigada Eskwela participants to opt for water-based over oil-based paint whenever possible.  By and large, water-based paints have not contained lead.  If oil-based paints are required, be sure to look for lead-free brands,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Lead-free paint is a must for decorating schools and other places frequented by children to curb a major preventable source of childhood lead exposure,” he emphasized.

Dizon clarified that surfaces painted with leaded paint will wear down and break off over time, dispersing chip and dust containing lead, a brain-damaging chemical, that young children can ingest on inhale. 

He also cautioned Brigada Eskwela volunteers from dry sanding or dry scraping painted surfaces that might contain lead as this will spread huge amounts of dust in the surroundings that may be contaminated with lead.

Citing health studies, the EcoWaste Coalition warned that children are most susceptible to lead paint exposure, which can result in lifelong health impacts, including developmental delays, learning disabilities, decreased attention span, hearing, vision and muscle coordination problems, and behavioral issues.

According to the World Health Organization, “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” stressing “lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury” at chronic and lower levels of exposure, which “for the most part are permanent, irreversible and untreatable by modern medicine.”

For waste-free and toxic-free school renovations, the EcoWaste Coalition requested Briada Eskwela participants to observe the following tips:

1.  Separate discards at source to keep the volume of residual trash to the minimum.  

2.  Do not burn discards; reuse, recycle or compost them.  

3.  Go for reusable or recyclable containers for volunteers’ drinks and foods to reduce trash.

4.  Do not dispose of busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps in ordinary trash.

5. Use safer cleaning agents and avoid hazardous ones such as muriatic acid, oxalic acid and dichlorobenzene toilet deodorizer.

6.  Apply lead-free paints for school interiors, exteriors, furniture and fixtures.

7. Avoid dry sanding or dry scraping painted surfaces that might contain lead so as not to disperse lead dust into the surroundings.

8.  Keep children and pregnant women out of the work area (lead is very hazardous to unborn children).

9. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before meals and after the work is done.

10. After a repainting job, change clothes before going home, set aside in a sealed reusable bag and wash separately.



28 May 2016

Brigada Eskwela Participants Told: Don’t Burn Trash, Don’t Use Lead Paints

Photos taken at Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Paco, Manila, 30 May 2016
A waste and pollution watch group urged participants of this year’s Brigada Eskwela on May 30 to June 4 to clean and beautify the country’s public schools in a way that will not put human health and the environment at risk.

As schools gear up for the annual sprucing up, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded participants to ensure that wastes collected from the week-long clean-up drive are not burned and that lead-free paints are solely used for school renovations.

“Burnish trash and using leaded paint must be avoided all the time as these practices can contaminate the school environment with health-damaging substances,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect. 

The group reminded school principals, teachers and the general public that open burning is prohibited under the Republic Act 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and that the use of lead-free paints is prescribed under the Department of Education Memorandum No. 85, Series of 2016.

Unknown to many, the burning of discards discharges microscopic toxins that can trigger headaches, cause eye, throat and skin irritation, weaken respiratory functions, cause asthma and heart attacks, bring about reproductive disorders, and even result in cancers, the group pointed out.

On the other hand, coating school walls, doors, windows, chairs, tables and other fixtures with leaded paints creates a lead poisoning hazard as the painted surfaces will chip and deteriorate over time, dispersing lead-containing paint flake and dust that can enter the human body via ingestion or inhalation, the group added. 

According to health experts, the brain damage caused by chronic and low-level exposure to lead, a potent neurotoxin, is irreversible and untreatable.

Disturbing lead painted surfaces through dry sanding or dry scraping will create enormous amounts of lead dust and should also be avoided, the EcoWaste Coalition likewise said.

Instead of simply mixing or setting them on fire, the group urged Brigada Eskwela partakers to recycle or reuse the non-biodegradable discards and to compost the biodegradable discards.

As for the paints, the group advised Brigada Eskwela volunteers to use water-based paints whenever possible and, if oil-based paints are required, to choose lead-free brands. 

The group offered the following tips towards a waste-free and toxic-free Brigada Eskwela:  

1. Opt for reusable or recyclable containers for volunteers’ drinks and foods to reduce trash.

2.  Separate discards at source to keep the volume of residual trash to the minimum.  

3.  Reuse, recycle and compost discards instead of burning them.  

4.  Do not dispose of busted mercury-containing fluorescent lamps in ordinary trash.

5. Use safer cleaning agents and avoid hazardous ones such as muriatic acid, oxalic acid and dichlorobenzene.

6.  Apply lead-free paints for school interiors, exteriors, furniture and fixtures.

7. Avoid dry sanding or dry scraping painted surfaces that might contain lead so as not to disperse lead dust into the surroundings.

8.  Keep children and pregnant women out of the work area (lead is very hazardous to unborn children).

9. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and water before meals and after the work is done.

10. After a repainting job, change clothes before going home, set aside in a sealed reusable bag and wash separately.


Groups Back Duterte’s Plan to Ban Firecrackers and Fireworks Nationwide

A waste and pollution watchdog urged presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte to make good on his promise to ban firecrackers and fireworks nationwide.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a civil society partner of the Department of Health in the yearly “Iwas Paputok” campaign, expressed optimism that the Davao City’s ban on firecrackers and fireworks would finally get replicated this year in towns and cities across the country.

“We want a comprehensive ban on firecrackers and fireworks to save lives and to protect the climate, the environment and the public health from hazardous emissions and wastes,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“It’s high time that the Philippines, a climate hotspot, bid goodbye to New Year pollution and mayhem,” she said. 

Several other groups have joined the EcoWaste Coalition in manifesting support for a national ban on firecrackers and fireworks under the Duterte presidency, including the Bangon Kalikasan Movement, Concerned Citizens Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Health Futures Foundation, Health Justice, Interface Development Interventions, Kinaiyahan Foundation, Mother Earth Foundation, Philippine Animal Welfare Society and the Philippine Medical Association – Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology. 

“Like the Davaoeños, we can usher in the New Year in a non-wasteful fashion through non-deafening, non-injurious and non-toxic noisemakers and through the conduct of fun-filled ‘kantahan,’ ‘salu-salo’ and more in our homes and neighborhoods,” Lucero said. 

The massive detonation of both legal and illegal pyrotechnics to herald the New Year goes against the basic state policies of protecting human health and the ecosystems as enshrined in the Constitution, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

On the other hand, banning firecrackers and fireworks will help in meeting the objectives of the Clean Air Act, Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, Climate Change Act, Animal Welfare Act and other environmental and health laws..

The EcoWaste Coalition cited eight reasons why the Filipino people should rally behind a national ban on firecrackers and fireworks as announced by Duterte:

1. Firecrackers and fireworks cause serious, if not fatal, injuries to users and non-users alike.

2.  Firecrackers and fireworks generate carbon dioxide, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. 

3. Firecrackers and fireworks produce toxic fumes that exacerbate the air quality and aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular episodes.

4.  Firecrackers and fireworks generate tons of toxic-laced non-reusable and non-recyclable discards disposed of in streets, waterways, dumpsites and landfills.

5.  Firecrackers and fireworks can lead to fires.

6.  Firecrackers and fireworks create thick smog resulting to poor visibility, causing public safety hazards.

7.  Firecrackers and fireworks produce ear-splitting noise that is painful for animals, especially to cats and dogs.

8. Firecrackers and fireworks squander hard-earned money for few minutes of “dirty” entertainment that is better spent for food, clothing, books, medicines and other necessities.

“If Davao City can enforce the ban on firecrackers and fireworks since 2001, we see no reason why the entire country cannot do the same,” Lucero said.


26 May 2016

Watchdog Urges Schools to Take DepEd’s Directive on Lead-Free Paints to Heart

Photo Courtesy of Boy Santos

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, today lauded the Department of Education (DepEd) for acting on its request to ensure that only lead-safe paints will be used in all schools during the Brigada Eskwela next week and beyond.

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Armin Luistro issued DepEd Memorandum No. 85, series of 2016 stating “the use of lead-free paints in schools must be observed at all times, especially during the conduct of activities related to Brigada Eskwela and other preparations for the opening of classes.”

The EcoWaste Coalition had earlier requested Luistro to issue a directive that will make it mandatory for schools to use only lead-safe coatings for painting school facilities and amenities.

“We urge school principals, teachers and all Brigada Eskwela supporters to take DepEd’s directive to heart as this will help in preventing childhood lead exposure through the ingestion and inhalation of lead-containing paint, dust and soil,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Please specify to your benefactors to donate paints with no added lead that are safe to use for school interiors, exteriors, chairs and tables,” she suggested.

“It is our shared responsibility to remove preventable sources of lead exposure in our children’s surroundings such as lead-containing paints,” she added, stressing “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe” as stated by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The group likewise cautioned Brigada Eskwela participants against disturbing old paints that might contain lead, emphasizing that dry sanding or scraping can generate huge quantities of lead dust that is detrimental to human health.

Citing information from the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP), the DepEd directive warned  that “childhood lead poisoning can have lifelong health impacts, including learning disabilities, anemia and disorders in coordination, visual, spatial and language skills.”

GAELP, a cooperative venture of the WHO and the United Nations Environment Programme, includes the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the EcoWaste Coalition and the Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines, Inc. among its partners.

The EcoWaste Coalition is the civil society partner of the DENR and the Philippine Association of Paint Manufacturers (PAPM) in promoting effective compliance to the country’s phase-out deadlines for leaded-decorative paints by January 2017 and leaded-industrial paints by January 2019.

On Monday, members of the EcoWaste Coalition will participate in the Brigada Eskwela activities at Sto. Cristo Elementary School in Bago Bantay, Quezon City to help with the school repair and maintenance, as well as to drum up support for a lead-safe school environment.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition thanked Senators Chiz Escudero, Loren Legarda and Grace Poe and incoming Senators Risa Hontiveros and Migz Zubiri who, along with over 100 health professionals, educators, environmentalists, religious leaders and  trade unionists, have supported the group’s call for Luistro “to declare the entire educational system as a lead-free zone by adopting a lead-safe paint procurement policy and by carefully addressing lead paint hazards.”

In her letter to Luistro, Legarda pointed out that “various studies have shown that lead exposure is highly detrimental to the health and early development of young children and could possibly result in permanent and irreversible effects.”

“In this regard, I join the EcoWaste Coalition’s call to adopt a lead-free procurement policy for all materials to be used in the construction and maintenance of educational institutions,” she said.
DENR Assistant Secretary Juan Miguel Cuna, who is concurrent Director of the Environmental Management Bureau, also wrote to Luistro conveying the same message.

Some of the country’s foremost health organizations have likewise backed the call for a lead-safe school environment, including the Philippine Medical Association – Committee on Environmental Health and Ecology, Child Neurology Society of the Philippines, Philippine Academy of Family Physicians,  Philippine Pediatric Society,  Philippine Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology.  




24 May 2016

EcoWaste Coalition: Probable Human Carcinogen Found in Some PVC Plastic School Supplies

A waste and pollution watchdog group advised the public to steer clear of school supplies containing cancer-causing and endocrine disrupting chemicals as consumers take advantage of “back-to-school” promotional sales.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the suggestion at a press briefing held today to announce the test results of some items that the group bought and sent to SGS, an international testing company, for phthalate analysis.  Toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo was on hand to shed light on potential health effects of phthalates to children's health.

The group specifically told consumers to avoid school supplies made of polyvinyl chloride plastic, or those marked “PVC,” “V” or “3”, which may contain elevated concentrations of toxic phthalates (pronounced as THAL-ates).

Phthalates, a class of plasticizers added to PVC to render it soft and flexible, are known to disrupt the body’s hormonal systems.  DEHP, one of the two types of phthalates found in the samples, is classified as a “probable human carcinogen” by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Phthalates are absorbed by the human body through ingestion, inhalation and skin absorption.
Out of five samples of seemingly harmless school supplies obtained from retail outlets in Divisoria, Quiapo and Cubao, four were found positive for toxic phthalates DEHP and/or DINP, namely:

1. A Cat Man ballpen with yellow PVC accessory, with 31.80 % DEHP 
2. A yellow PVC raincoat with tiger design, with 17.10 % DEHP and 0.13 % DINP
3. A PVC plastic envelope with penguin design, with 13.10 % DEHP and 0.12 % DINP
4. A PVC Princess Mica shoulder bag, with 1.87 % DEHP and 0.16 % DINP

The fifth item, a plastic ID holder with Minion design, passed the laboratory test.

According to the  Department of Health Administrative Order 2009-0005-A as amended in 2011, phthalates DEHP, DBP and BBP in concentrations exceeding 0.1%  are banned in the manufacturing of toys.  On the other hand, phthalates DINP, DIDP and DNOP above 0.1% are banned in toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth.

“DEHP and DINP are restricted in children’s toys not only in the Philippines, but also in Europe and the US.  So why are we finding them in very high concentrations in school supplies, which, like toys, are directly handled and used by children?,” asked Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

Last year, the group reported finding high levels of DEHP and/or DINP in two backpacks, two raingears and one lunch bag, as well as in two kiddie boxing gloves and two swimming toys. 
"The unregulated use of PVC-based children’s products is not only a public health issue, but an environmental one as well.  Burning PVC products at the end of their useful lives will generate extremely toxic pollutants known as dioxins,” Dizon warned.

“For the health of our kids and the ecosystems, we ask our parents to buy PVC-free school supplies.  At the same time, we ask the government to extend the ban on toxic phthalates in toys to all children’s products, including childcare articles and school supplies,” he added.

According to a booklet published by the Endocrine Society and IPEN, “phthalate exposure is linked to genital abnormalities in boys, reduced sperm counts, decreased ‘male typical’ play in boys, endometriosis and elements of metabolic disruption, including obesity.”   

Information from the US EPA stated, “children have been reported as having the highest exposures to phthalates, and that their exposures are often greater than those in adults…due to increased intakes of food, water and air on a bodyweight basis, as well as children’s unique exposure pathways such as mouthing of objects and ingestion of non-food items.”

To prevent exposures to phthalates via school supplies, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to heed the following “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 modelling 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.

The EcoWaste Coalition also appealed to all manufacturers of school supplies and other children’s products to switch to non-PVC materials and to disclose the chemical ingredients of their products, as well as to provide health and safety instructions and warnings for the guidance of consumers.


Places of purchase and prices of the items:
1. Cat Man ballpen, SM Department Store, Quiapo, Manila, P29.75
2. Yellow raincoat with tiger design,  Taliba Marketing, Juan Luna St., Divisoria, Manila, P200.00
3. Plastic envelope with penguin design, National Book Store, Lucky Chinatown Mall, P134.00
4. Princess Mica shoulder bag, National Book Store, Alimall, Cubao, Quezon City, P135.00



23 May 2016

Lead Exposure Costs the Philippines Over US$15 Billion Annually - NYU Researchers

A new interactive map shows that lead exposure costs the Philippines more than US$ 15 billion (almost PHP 700 billion) annually. This cost exceeds the over US$ 675 million the Philippines received in net official development assistance (ODA) in 2014.  

The interactive map “Economic Costs of Childhood Lead Exposure in Low-and Middle-Income Countries” was developed by New York University School of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics (NYU) and released today at the United Nations Environment Assembly meeting being held in Nairobi, Kenya. It can be accessed at: nyulmc.org/pediatricleadexposure.

“Children’s developing brains are permanently harmed by exposure to lead. One key impact is reduction in IQ score, which is correlated with decreases in lifetime earning potential. For the nation as a whole population-wide reductions in IQ means greater social costs and reduced intellectual capital, and other factors that adversely impact the Philippine economy, as the NYU map clearly shows,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. 

According to the World Health Organization, "There is no known safe blood lead concentration.”  When a young child is exposed to lead, the harm to her or his nervous system makes it more likely that the child will have difficulties in school and engage in impulsive and violent behavior. Lead exposure in young children is also linked to increased rates of hyperactivity, inattentiveness, failure to graduate from high school, conduct disorder, juvenile delinquency, drug use, and incarceration.

According to the NYU researchers: “One of the most important things we can do to decrease children's exposure to lead in  low- and middle-income countries is to ensure lead is no longer used in household paint and other paints to which children may be exposed (such as paints on playground equipment).”

EcoWaste Coalition is a partner organization in IPEN’s Global Lead Paint Elimination Campaign (http://ipen.org/projects/eliminating-lead-paint).  

In 2015, the EcoWaste Coalition released  the report “Lead in New Enamel Household Paints in the Philippines,” which analyzed the lead content in paints sold in the local market.   That study found 97 out of 140 enamel decorative paints (69 percent of the samples) contained lead concentrations above the regulatory standard of 90 parts per million (ppm), which may render young children and pregnant women at risk of lead poisoning.  Sixty-three of these samples contained dangerously high lead concentrations greater than 10,000 ppm, with one yellow quick-dry enamel paint containing the highest total lead content at 153,000 ppm.

DENR Administrative Order 2013-24 establishes a 90 ppm limit for lead in paint and provides for a phaseout deadline for leaded decorative paints by December 2016 and leaded industrial paints by December 2019.

“The research and the map released today clearly demonstrate that lead exposure greatly erodes the gains from development aid and that sustainable development will be severely hindered as long as childhood exposure to lead continues,” Lucero said.

Worldwide the cost of lead exposure, according to the NYU research, is $977 billion international dollars with economic losses equal to:

·         $134.7 billion in Africa (4.03% of gross domestic product (GDP) in that region),
·         $142.3 billion in Latin America and the Caribbean (2.04% of GDP in that region), and
·         $699.9 billion in Asia (1.88% of GDP in that region).

To prepare the interactive map, researchers assessed the neurodevelopmental impacts of lead, assessed as decrements (or reductions) in intelligence quotient (IQ) points caused by lead and how those reductions translated into decreases in lifetime earning potential, assessed as lost lifetime economic productivity (LEP) in each country examined. 

Additional comparison information to developed countries and to ODA dollars is also provided, along with links to the full report and supplemental information.

The EcoWaste Coalition is an environmental organization pursuing socially just and sustainable solutions to waste, chemical and climate issues in the Philippines, and is a member of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint (GAELP).  

IPEN is a network of non-government organizations working in more than 100 countries to reduce and eliminate the harm to human health and the environment from toxic chemicals. IPEN is a member of the Advisory Group of GAELP, which seeks the elimination of lead in paint by 2020. 



Link to the interactive map:


Link to the World Bank data on net official development assistance:


Link to civil society campaign to eliminate lead paint:


18 May 2016

Watchdog Proposes Action Agenda on Wastes and Toxics for Duterte’s First 100 Days in Office

IDIS representatives submit "Sustainable Davao City Movement's 8-Point Environmental Agenda" and the EcoWaste Coalition's "13-Point Agenda on Wastes and Toxics" to Mr. Peter Tiu Laviña, spokesperson and member of the Duterte Transition Committee

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental organization working towards a zero waste and toxic-free Philippines, has propounded the following 13-point action plan to ease the country’s uphill battle against wastes and toxics under the administration of presumptive President Rodrigo Duterte. 
The EcoWaste Coalition through its Davao City-based affiliate Interface for Development Interventions (IDIS) will submit today its proposed “Action Agenda on Wastes and Toxics” to Peter Tiu Laviña, spokesperson and member of the Duterte Transition Committee.

1.  Appoint a genuine pro-environment and pro-people Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary with an exemplary track record in environmental protection. 

2.  Announce the government’s program to determinedly combat waste and pollution through Zero Waste strategies and practices sans incineration at his first State of the Nation Address (SONA).

3. Convene and chair the first meeting of the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC) and set a comprehensive Zero Waste agenda to reduce the volume and toxicity of the country’s waste. 

4.  Instruct the DENR  Secretary to take full leadership and responsibility in ensuring that the Zero Waste agenda is put into operation by the entire government machinery. 

5.  Order a participatory review and analysis of where the public funds for managing wastes go and recommend priority use of taxpayers’ money to support and advance the Zero Waste agenda. 

6.  Ensure the proper release and use of the allocated budget from the General Appropriations Act of 2016 for capacity building programs towards the effective implementation of Republic Act  9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.

7.  Make the NSWMC and all its members accountable for the performance of their responsibilities towards the effective enforcement of R.A. 9003, including providing quarterly submission of accomplishment reports that should be publicly available.

8.  Stop all undertakings that are in breach of the incineration ban under R.A. 8749 and R.A. 9003, including the ongoing formulation of “waste-to-energy” guidelines by the NSWMC.  

9.   Suspend  the development and implementation of  proposed coal power plants in the pipeline and so-called waste-to-energy facilities. Instead, prioritize the development and mainstreaming of  clean and renewable energy projects to meet the country’s projected energy requirements.

10.  Order the NSWMC to fast track the implementation of the “National Framework and Strategy on the Role of the Informal Sector in Waste Management,” including ensuring the safety of workers handling electronic wastes.

11.  Draw up the government's legislative agenda for the environment, which should, among others,  include the passage of laws a) banning plastic bags, b) restricting toxic chemicals in packaging,  c) establishing extended producer responsibility for electrical and electronic equipment, and for packaging, and d) ensuring public’s right to know through the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register.

12.  Ensure early ratification and implementation of major multilateral environmental and chemical agreements such as the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Basel Convention Ban Amendment.   

13.  Order the re-export of Canadian garbage back to its origin and initiate policy reforms to effectively block foreign waste dumping in the country, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment.


17 May 2016

Watch Group to Consumers: Be Cautious of Lead-Laden School Supplies (Group Hopes Toxic Children’s Products to Vanish under Duterte Presidency)

A non-profit watch group for toxic chemicals in products and wastes has again alerted consumers against buying school supplies laced with lead, a brain-damaging chemical.

For the fifth year in a row, the EcoWaste Coalition warned against toxic lead in school supplies as part of its annual back-to-school campaign for children’s health and safety.

For this year’s campaign, the group released its findings today in front of children and their parents at a day care center in Tatalon, Quezon City with a lecturette on childhood lead poisoning and prevention by Dr. Erle Castillo, a toxicologist.

Lead, a hazardous substance linked to learning and behavioral problems, is prohibited in the production of school supplies as per DENR Administrative Order 2013-24, or the “Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds,” which the group pushed to prevent and control childhood lead exposure.   

“Forty-three percent of the 75 items that we screened for toxic lead had lead levels that should make parents, who care for their children’s health and well-being, worried,” said Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“On the other hand, 57 percent of the samples were found to be lead-free, indicating the availability of alternative products that are safe to use by children,” he pointed out.

As Rodrigo Duterte, the presumptive president, is about to take over the reins of the government by June 30, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed the need for the next administration to do more to curb the sale of school supplies and other children’s products laden with lead and other harmful chemicals.

At the event, participants brandished small tri-color placards of blue, red and yellow suggestive of Duterte’s campaign colors with the text: “School supplies dapat ligtas sa lead.”

“We hope, in the next six years of the Duterte presidency, consumers will no longer worry that they are buying poison products for their children and that they are not sending hazardous substances to school with their kids,” Dizon said. 

“As a doting grandfather, we believe that Duterte will make it sure that only non-toxic school supplies, toys and other children’s products are offered for sale by manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers,” he added.  

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead in 32 out of 75 school supplies -purchased from formal and informal retailers in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila, Monumento, Caloocan City and Cubao, Quezon City - in the scale of 201 to 87,000 parts per million (ppm), way above the regulatory limit of 90 ppm.

Topping this year’s “dirty dozen” school supplies with lead above 5,000 ppm were:

1.  A plastic envelope with yellow handle, 87,000 ppm.
2.  A yellow thumb tack, 78,700 ppm
3.  An “Artex Fine Water Colors” set, 62,600 ppm
4.  A plastic envelope with red handle, 36,800 ppm
5.  An orange metal water jug with “Car” design, 28,200 ppm

6.  A “Rubber Duck” pencil pouch, 27,800 ppm

7.  A yellow “Despicable Me” pencil pouch, 22,000 ppm

8.  A PVC keychain with ice cream design, 13,100 ppm

9.  A “Ronron” school bag, 7,081 ppm

10.  A yellow vinyl coated paper clip, 6,015 ppm

11.  A “Minghao” school bag, 5,862 ppm

12.  A “Snoopy” school bag, 5,777 ppm

The group noted that the Food and Drugs Administration in 2014 banned “Artex Fine Water Colors” for containing high lead content as reported to the agency by the EcoWaste Coalition.

While the four samples of crayons tested negative for lead, the group pointed out that their packaging carried no toxicity warning and “non-toxic” label as required by the Department of Trade and Industry.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed lead as one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” contributing to about 600,000 new cases of children with intellectual disabilities every year with the highest burden in developing regions.

“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,” the WHO said.

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

“There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe,” the WHO warned.


12 May 2016

Watchdog Red-Flags Open Burning of Used Campaign Materials

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, has red-flagged the hazards of burning discarded election campaign materials in streets and garbage dumps.

The group aired the warning as government workers as well as civic groups and concerned individuals embark on clean-up activities following the elections last Monday.  

“The open burning of trash, including discarded campaign materials, is punishable by law,” reminded Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, prohibits the open burning of solid waste and provides for a fine of P300 to P1,000 or imprisonment for one to 15 days, or both.

“The law has banned this old-fashioned form of getting rid of trash because it destroys valuable resources that can be recycled and seriously harms human health and the environment," Lucero said.

“Open burning emits harmful chemicals into the air we inhale, including particulate matter, heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants or POPS that would eventually contaminate the soil, water and even the food we eat,” she explained.

Among these highly toxic pollutants is a class of byproduct chemicals known as dioxins, which can result from the burning of trash containing chlorine, the EcoWaste Coaliton said.   

Campaign materials such as paper and plastic campaign banners, posters and fliers contain varying amounts of chlorine and other chemicals, coatings and inks, the group pointed out. 

Dioxins are dangerous even at very low levels and have been linked to grave health problems like cancer, the group warned.

“Recycling the tons of campaign materials instead of burning them will help prevent the formation and release of dioxins and many other dangerous pollutants,” Lucero emphasized.

The Stockholm Convention on POPs, which the Philippines ratified in 2004, gives priority to “the promotion of the recovery and recycling of waste and of substances generated” to prevent the creation and discharge of dioxins and other by-product POPs, the EcoWaste Coalition added.

Last Tuesday, the group conducted a clean-up drive in Quezon City and showed how common campaign materials can be creatively recycled.

For example, paper posters can be used as book and notebook covers, envelopes and folders, sample ballots can be made into notepads, and paper fans can become bookmarks and picture frames.

According to the group, plastic tarpaulins can be converted into bags and other functional items not intended for children's use or for food contact applications due to their cadmium and lead content.  



10 May 2016

EcoWaste Coalition Pushes Early Post-Election Campaign Clean-Up, Bats for Creative Recycling to Cut Trash


Without wasting time, members of the EcoWaste Coalition and their community partners got themselves dirty and sweaty to clear an area in Project 6, Quezon City of used election campaign materials.

“We have partnered with the local barangay council for this clean-up activity to motivate election   winners and losers to take responsibility in removing their publicity posters at once,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Now that the campaign is over and the electorates have made their judgement, we urge all candidates and their backers to switch to the clean-up mode and bring their campaign materials down,” she said.

“We specifically request the winning President, governors and city and municipal mayors to hit the ground running and be the forerunners in tidying up the post-election mess,” she emphasized.

“Please dispatch clean-up brigades to clear major as well as secondary roads of campaign remnants, including posters on the walls, trees, cables and lamp posts.  Government workers will need all your support to finish off the massive clearing operations at the earliest time,” she said. 

At the clean-up drive held outside the Project 6 Elementary School, the eco-volunteers, armed with cutters, scissors and pliers, removed paper and plastic posters hanging all over the place.

To reduce the volume of campaign discards for disposal, the clean-up participants carefully sorted them to retrieve items that can still be reused, repurposed or recycled.

“It might appear easier and quicker if we just mix and throw the removed materials altogether or, worst, set them on fire.  But, that is not the ecological way to spruce up our sullied surroundings.  Open dumping and open burning aggravate environmental pollution and are, in fact, forbidden under the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act,” Lucero said.

“We create garbage by mixing up the used campaign materials.  We avoid creating garbage by keeping them segregated into few categories: “paper” for the paper posters and sample ballots, “plastic” for the plastic banners and posters, “PVC” for plastic tarpaulins, and “garbage” for residual wastes,” she pointed out.  

“Instead of dumping or burning them, we can sell the segregated discards to junk shops or find appropriate uses for them,” she said.

To show how some campaign materials can be creatively reused or repurposed, EcoWaste volunteers conducted a DIY (do it yourself) side event coinciding with the clean-up drive.

EcoWaste staff and volunteers turned paper posters into bookmarks, envelopes, folders, name tags, photo albums, scrap books and sketch pads, paper and plastic posters into book and notebook covers, cardboard fans into picture frames, and fliers and sample ballots into notepads.

The group also put on display various functional items that can be made from used tarpaulins, including aprons, organizers and assorted types of bags and purses.

In addition, tarpaulins can also be repurposed for non-food applications such as awnings for homes and stores and as a protective shield against rain or sun for jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs.

Among the groups that participated in the post-election clean-up and recycling drive were the Barangay Project 6 Council, Office of Mrs. Beth Delarmente, Junior Chamber International-Quezon City (Diamante) and the EcoWaste Coalition Secretariat.


09 May 2016

Watchdog Says Election Day Not a Field Day for Litterbugs

 Margarita Roxas Elementary School, Augusto Francisco St., Manila
 Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Pedro Gil St., Manila
  Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Pedro Gil St., Manila
  Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Pedro Gil St., Manila
  Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Pedro Gil St., Manila
  Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, Pedro Gil St., Manila
 Villamor High School, Pasig Line, Manila
  Villamor High School, Pasig Line, Manila
  Villamor High School, Pasig Line, Manila
  Villamor High School, Pasig Line, Manila
 Villamor High School, Pasig Line, Manila

A waste and pollution watchdog group warned against littering as millions of voters troop to the polling stations today.

Fearing repeat of unrestrained littering that marred past elections, the EcoWaste Coalition made a last-minute appeal to the public to go out and vote without defiling our shard environment. 

“On this historic day for democracy, let us treat our surroundings with more respect and litter no more,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We will not get tired of reminding ourselves not to litter; hope springs eternal,” she added.  

Specifically, she requested the voting public to keep the polling precincts and their immediate vicinities litter-free.

“Please do not discard sample ballots, the most notorious litter on election day, in polling places or on the streets,” Lucero said.

Other commonly littered items include cigarette filters, candy and snack wrappers, food and beverage containers and plastic bags, the group noted.

“Election day is not a field day for litterbugs,” Lucero emphasized. 

Littering, she reminded, is a prohibited act under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which provides for a punishment of P300 to P1,000 fine or one to 15-day community service, or both.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition, a non-partisan group, lauded the massive miting de avance of team Duterte-Cayetano last Saturday at Rizal Park for keeping trash at a minimum.

Please see video by Pia Ranada of Rappler here:

“Thumbs up to the organizers and their supporters for their commendable act of picking up the trash after the event and for not passing the burden to the park sweepers.  Thanks to the waste pickers for retrieving the recyclables, too,” Lucero said.   

“People voluntarily picking up litter was a sight to behold,” she said. 

Based on reports gathered by the group, the rallies organized by team Poe-Escudero at Plaza Miranda and team Roxas-Robredo at the Quezon Memorial Circle were blighted with trash.

 Poe-Escudero Miting de Avance
 Poe-Escudero Miting de Avance
 Peo-Escudero Miting de Avance
 Roxas-Robredro Miting de Avance (Photo by Floryann Buenaseda)
Roxas-Robredo Miting de Avance (Photo by Floryann Buenaseda)