21 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Urges DOT to Emphasize the Use of Reusable Bags in the Nationwide Mall Sale in March 2020

Aside from promoting measures to thwart the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as well as control traffic congestion, an environmental group urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to also step up its advocacy for reusable bags as the country holds its first-ever "Philippine Shopping Festival" next month.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit green group working for a zero waste and toxics-free society, called upon Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat to optimize the shopping campaign not only to boost tourism, but also to encourage consumers and retailers to ditch the wasteful plastic bag habit.

“In line with the government’s thrust toward sustainable tourism, we urge Secretary Puyat to highlight the use of reusable bags in the month-long retail event that will be participated in by shopping malls across the country,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Puyat had previously stated that “in developing our tourism industry, we must strike a balance between economic opportunities and social responsibilities,” stressing “we must ensure that any development in the tourism industry must not be undertaken at the expense of the environment, the tourists, and the host communities.”

“With the well-being of Mother Nature in mind, the department’s promotional campaign should give due emphasis to the environmental benefits of reusable bags that will encourage more shoppers, locals and foreigners, into proudly bringing their own bags whenever they shop,” Benosa said.

“Instead of single-use plastic bags or paper bags, consumers should be reminded and rewarded for carrying reusable bags with them.  This will help in reducing the environmental and climate impact of single-use bags, particularly the myriad of problems associated with their unrestrained production, consumption and disposal,” he said.

“The use of bayong and other hand-woven bags made of native materials such as palm, pandan and water hyacinth, as well as DIY (do it yourself) tote bags from old clothes, katsa and fabric scraps, should be actively promoted and supported,” he suggested.  

"DOT's promotion of bayong and other reusable bags will also help local government units (LGUs) as this will translate to decreased volume of plastic use and waste," said Benosa, noting that over 500 LGUs have so far adopted ordinances banning or regulating plastic bags to minimize their garbage woes.

As shopping malls are also popular for dining, the EcoWaste Coalition further urged the DOT to use the nationwide sale to encourage a shift from disposables to reusables by restaurants, food courts, and other food and beverage vendors.

“Apart from urging retailers and consumers to embrace the use of reusable bags, we hope the DOT will also amplify the call for food business to rethink disposable and phase in reusable foodware substitutes, for tourists to bring their own water bottles, and for everyone to take responsibility for their discards,” Benosa said, noting the perennial problem with littering in tourism spots and events. 


20 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Lauds Baguio City Government for Protecting Babies from Wet Wipes Containing Harmful Substances

Quezon City-based environmental NGO EcoWaste Coalition lauded the approval of an ordinance banning and penalizing the sale in the country’s summer capital of wet wipes containing injurious substances that can result in skin allergy. 

City Ordinance No. 8, series of 2020 entitled “Prohibiting the Sale of Wet Wipes and Other Similar Baby Products with Harmful Ingredients in the City of Baguio” authored by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan was  passed by the City Council on January 20 on motion of Councilor Philian Louise Weygan-Allan and  seconded by Councilors Joel Alangsab and Elaine Sembrano, and subsequently approved by Mayor Benjamin Magalong on January 28.

After being duly posted and published, the said ordinance is now effective in accordance with the provisions of Republic Act 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991.

“We congratulate the Baguio City Government for enacting this ordinance that will protect consumers, especially newborns, infants, and toddlers, from certain substances in wet wipes that can provoke contact dermatitis,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the World Allergy Organization, a global federation of allergy, asthma and clinical immunology societies, “contact dermatitis is a skin disorder characterized by redness, itching and vesiculation resulting from contact with environmental substances that elicits an allergic and/or irritant response.”

“The baby’s delicate skin is most vulnerable to irritation and allergic reactions, so we consider the adoption of this ordinance as a baby-friendly act worthy of being replicated by other local government units,” Dizon said.  

“Kudos to the Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture chaired by Councilor Weygan-Allan for successfully shepherding the ordinance through the Council,” Dizon, who served as a resource person for the committee's public hearing last November 21, 2019, added.

The ordinance prohibits the sale of wet wipes and similar baby products containing iodopropynyl butylcarbamate (IPBC), methylchloroisothiazolinone (MCI), methylisothiazolinone (MIT) and parabens.

Among the initial list of non-compliant baby wipes not allowed to be sold in the city are Dong Bang, Dong Bang Yao Baby Tender, Family Treasure Baby Tender, Sky Fire, Giggley and Super Soft Skin Care Towel.  Additionally, other wet wipe products containing harmful IPBC, MCT, MIT and parabens shall be prohibited.

The ordinance assigns the City Health Services Office in coordination with the Public Order and Safety Division of the City Mayor’s Office, the City Police Office and the barangays to inspect retail outlets and to confiscate non-compliant products.

Business establishments found to have violated the ordinance shall be fined P1,000 for the first offense and immediate closure for establishments without a business permit, P3,000 for the second offense and closure until compliance, and P5,000 for the third offense and non-renewal of business permit.  

However, businesses and individuals who voluntarily surrender non-compliant products to the City Health Services Office shall not be penalized.

The City Health Services Office in coordination with the Food and Drug Administration and the City Environment and Parks Management Office shall determine the appropriate and environment-friendly disposal of the surrendered products.




16 February 2020

Groups Press for Waste Importation Ban as Philippines Returns 50 Containers of Trash to South Korea (Third batch re-exported today; fourth and last batch to be re-exported on February 23)

Environmental health groups have appealed to the Duterte government to ban the importation of foreign waste as they also asked other countries to stop exporting their unwanted waste to the Philippines.

At the send-off ceremony held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) for the third batch of illegal South Korean waste shipments to be re-exported, environmental advocates led by Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition and Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) pushed for preventive measures to halt the entry of hazardous wastes and other refuse, including household and plastic trash, into the country’s ports.

Bureau of Customs-Region X Port Collector John Simon had earlier said that “the re-exportation of the remaining wastes from South Korea this month signifies our nation’s steadfastness to protect public health and the environment from the deceptive trade in hazardous waste disguised as plastic waste for recycling,” stressing that “as guardians of our ports, we (the BOC) are committed to curb illegal trade and halt all forms of customs fraud, including the practice of falsely declaring hazardous waste and other wastes as recyclables.”

For her part, Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, emphasized that “the chain of foreign waste dumping incidents that sparked national outrage warrants the imposition of tougher policies that will effectively deter the illegal traffic of hazardous wastes and other wastes, especially those from developed economies who have more resources to safely manage their own wastes.”

Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director of IDIS agreed:  “We must not allow countries to continue exporting their waste problem to the Philippines.  To send a clear signal to these countries that we do not want their waste, the government has to fast track the adoption of preventive measures banning the entry of wastes in whatever form of disguise.”

The groups specifically pointed to the need for the Duterte government to proceed with the long overdue ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment (an international law banning the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries), and to ban the importation of waste altogether.

“These environmental justice measures will protect our country and our people from the negative consequences of global waste trade," the groups insisted.

The groups likewise asked the government to ensure that all parties behind the unlawful waste shipments from South Korea to be held fully accountable, and for the national government to extend full assistance to the local government unit affected by the illegal traffic of waste, including the conduct of environmental sampling to assess the contamination of the storage area for the illegal waste and its cleanup and rehabilitation.

The controversial waste shipments from South Korea, weighing about 6,500 tons and falsely declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” were imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation.  The shipments arrived in Northern Mindanao in July and October 2018.

Found by the authorities as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health,” BOC-10 then issued three warrants of seizure and detention against the said illegal waste shipments.  Citing violations of DENR Administrative Order 2013-22 and Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, BOC-10 ordered the waste shipments re-exported to their origin.

Following successful negotiations with the South Korean government involving stakeholders from the public and private sectors, including the EcoWaste Coalition, the first batch of 51 containers vans were re-exported from MICT port on January 13 last year.

The second and third batches of 50 containers per batch followed on January 19 and February 16, 2020.  And the last batch is scheduled for repatriation on February 23, 2020.


13 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Says: “Accept, love and be proud of your natural skin color” (Group urges consumers to say no to skin lightening cosmetics with banned ingredients such as mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin)

“Accept, love and be proud of your natural skin color.”

The proliferation of cosmetics containing banned skin whitening agents prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog group, to exhort Filipinos, especially women and girls, to embrace and take pride in their natural skin tone.

The group’s renewed pitch for “brown is beautiful” came on the heels of successive advisories issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  warning consumers against the purchase and use of cosmetics containing mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin, which are not allowed to be part of a cosmetic product as per Annex II Part 1 of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

Additionally, the FDA has warned the public about the side effects of using injectable lightening agents such as glutathione, which can have toxic effects on the liver, kidneys and the nervous system. 

“We need not poison our bodies and the environment with mercury and other harmful pigment inhibiting agents in our desire to have a lighter skin complexion,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Instead of altering your natural skin color, why not accept, love and be proud of what you have?” he asked, emphasizing “there is no shame in brown or black skin.” 

“If whitening one’s skin is really desired, please be careful on how you will do it.  Better seek the advice of licensed dermatologists on proper skincare and on skin disease prevention, detection and treatment,” he added.

The group noted the rash of cosmetics being flagged by FDA due to the presence of banned ingredients such as mercury, hydroquinone and/or tretinoin, including those banned by other ASEAN member states..

To date, the FDA has prohibited the sale of over 135 mercury-containing skin whitening creams, which are mostly imported from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Pakistan.   

The FDA has likewise banned several skincare products such as facial astringent, toner and cream containing hydroquinone and/or  tretinoin, many of which are locally manufactured.

“Adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include: kidney damage, skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to the FDA, “hydroquinone is no longer allowed to be part of a cosmetic product and is classified as a drug product in the Philippines because of its multiple serious adverse effects (i.e. sensitivity to light, skin redness and permanent skin discoloration) when used indiscriminately.”

As per the FDA, “products containing hydroquinone and/or tretinoin (retinoic acid) shall be classified as a home remedy, over-the-counter, or prescription drug depending on the amount present as per DOH Administrative Order No. 13, series of 1999.”

The US-based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Cancer has identified “cancer, organ system toxicity and respiratory tract irritation” among the health concerns associated with the use of hydroquinone in skin lighteners, facial and skin cleansers, facial moisturizers, hair conditioners, and finger nail coating products.






12 February 2020

Third Batch of Illegal Waste Shipments from South Korea to be Sent Back on February 16 (Fourth and last batch to be shipped back on February 23)

A total of 100 container vans of contaminated plastic waste illegally shipped to Northern Mindanao from South Korea will soon be returned to their source.

As announced by Bureau of Customs-Region X (BOC-10) Port Collector John Simon through a text message to the EcoWaste Coalition, 50 container vans will be sent back to South Korea on February 16 and the last 50 containers on February 23.

“This will bring the total number of re-exported containers to 201,” said Simon, noting that 50 containers were shipped back on January 19, 2020 and another 51 containers on January 13, 2019.

“The re-exportation of the remaining wastes from South Korea this month signifies our nation’s steadfastness to protect public health and the environment from the deceptive trade in hazardous waste disguised as plastic waste for recycling,” said Simon.

“As guardians of our ports, we are committed to curb illegal trade and halt all forms of customs fraud, including the practice of falsely declaring hazardous waste and other wastes as recyclables,” he added.

The container ships “Vivaldi” and “Nordmarsh” will bring the stranded wastes back to South Korea on February 16 and 23, respectively, confirmed Simon.

The environmental health group EcoWaste Coalition, which has been monitoring compliance to the bilateral agreement by the governments of the Philippines and South Korea for the re-export of the illegal waste consignments, welcomed Simon’s announcement.

“The re-exportation of the remaining wastes and the cleanup of the storage site in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, which factually became an open dumpsite for South Korean rubbish, will help in bringing this dumping controversy to a close,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To deter illegal traffic of waste in the future, all those responsible for this mess should be fully held accountable in accordance with the rule of law,” said Lucero, who also emphasized the need for the national government to impose a total ban on waste importation and to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, an international law banning transfer of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries.  

"These environmental justice measures will protect our country and our people from the negative consequences of global waste trade," she added.  
Imported by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation, the South Korean waste shipments wrongly declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” and weighing about 6,500 tons arrived in Northern Mindanao in July and October 2018. 

Assessed by the authorities as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health,” BOC-10 then issued three warrants of seizure and detention against the illegal waste shipments from South Korea.

BOC-10 further issued a re-exportation order for the said waste shipments citing violations of DENR Administrative Order 2013-22 and Republic Act 10863, or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.  


Statement of Concern re ABS-CBN Franchise Renewal Woes

The EcoWaste Coalition, a non-profit environmental health organization, is gravely alarmed by the mounting danger of ABS-CBN losing its congressional franchise, which is set to expire on 30 March 2020. 

Grossly upset by the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General asking the Supreme Court to forfeit the franchise of the media institution, the EcoWaste Coalition appeals to the House Committee on Legislative Franchises, which has jurisdiction on “all matters directly and principally relating to the grant, amendment, extension or revocation of franchises,” to convene itself and speedily consider bills seeking to renew the franchise of the media network. 

As an advocate for the public’s right to know, we consider the moves to shut down ABS-CBN as a severe blow to the freedom of speech and of the press and contrary to the state policy that “recognizes the vital role of communication and information in nation-building.” A free press is essential to the pursuit of the peoples constitutionally-guaranteed rights to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology, to participate in decision-making and the full respect of human rights. 

As shutting down ABS-CBN will leave a huge void in environmental education and advocacy, noting the network’s programs and projects in defense of the environment and in support of disadvantaged communities, we urge members of Congress to cross party lines, and work double-time to uphold due process and to ensure that its power to grant, amend, extend or revoke franchises is duly respected and not by-passed or usurped by other government instrumentalities. 

For the sake of a free press, for the sake of environmental protection and public service, and for the sake of the thousands of workers employed by the network and its subsidiaries, we urge both the House of Representatives and the Senate not to fail in exercising their duty to prevent the non-renewal of ABS-CBN’s franchise, a tragic debacle that will deeply divide and sadden our nation.   

07 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Slams Illegal Sale of Artificial Nail Sets with Toxic Glue Despite Ban

The sale of artificial nails with matching adhesive containing a harmful ingredient banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) goes on unabated, lamented a toxics watchdog group.

During a recent visit to popular discount malls in Divisoria, Manila, the EcoWaste Coalition bought artificial nail sets for P25 per set (wholesale price).  These fashion accessories, which comes with a small glue tube, were purportedly “made in China” as written on the packaging. 

Upon examination, the glue that is used to fasten the artificial nail (also known as fake or fashion nails) to the natural nail surface was found to contain dibutyl phthalate (DBP) as indicated on the ingredients’ list.

DBP is a banned ingredient as per Annex II, Part I of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, which provides a list of various substances that "must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products."

Among these artificial nail sets with DBP-containing adhesive were Dudustrong, Elegant Touch, Losnaglar, Opoola, Skeyelinl, and Xucai.

“The sale of cosmetic products containing banned ingredients such as DBP continues to proliferate, especially in the informal market where adulterated, imitation and unregistered goods are sold cheap,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“To protect unassuming consumers from health-damaging cosmetics, we call for and support intensified law enforcement action to rid the marketplace of such poison products,” he added.     

According to FDA Advisory 2015-006 warning consumers against unnotified adhesive containing DBP, this substance "has the ability to cause allergic reactions.”

“There were previous cases where allergic response to DBP was found to be severe,” the FDA said, adding that “allergic reactions can induce a state of hypersensitivity in the immune system.”

“It can cause the immune system to respond to chemical exposures with immunological reactions that are harmful, varying from hives to life threatening responses such as anaphylactic shock, where low blood pressure and breathing difficulties can result in death,” the FDA further explained.




04 February 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Toy Retailers to Heed FDA’s Ban on Toxic “Shrilling Chicken”

The EcoWaste Coalition, a group advocating for children’s protection from harmful chemicals, appealed to all toy manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to stop the sale of “Shrilling Chicken,” a plastic toy that creates a screaming sound when squeezed.

The group’s appeal came on the heels of a recent public health warning issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against the said toy, which the agency found to contain high concentrations of toxic plastic additives called phthalates.

As per FDA Advisory No. 2020-042, the unnotified “Shrilling Chicken” contains 8.4 percent of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and 0.5 percent diisononyl phthalate (DINP) above the 0.1 percent limit under DOH Administrative Order No. 2009-005-A, series of 2011.

Phthalates, which are added to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic flexible and soft, are endocrine disrupting chemicals linked to various health problems, including genital abnormalities in boys such as malformed penises and undescended testicles, and the early onset of puberty for girls, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

“We call upon all stores selling ‘Shrilling Chicken’ to heed the FDA’s advisory and cease from selling this funny but unsafe toy,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, who also recalled sending samples of such toy to private laboratories  for phthalate analysis in 2010 and 2012.  The analyzed samples were likewise found laden with banned phthalates, especially DEHP, a probable human carcinogen.

“Toxic ‘Shrilling Chicken’ has been around for over 10 years.  It’s high time for the authorities to completely rid the market of this dangerous toy,” he said.

For children’s protection, Dizon requested FDA’s Regional Field Offices and Regulatory Enforcement Units and concerned local government and law enforcement units to launch coordinated actions to stop the importation, distribution and sale of toxic “Shrilling Chicken” toys, and to ensure their safe disposal as hazardous waste.

Prior to the FDA advisory, countries in Europe have either banned or ordered the withdrawal from the market of “Shrilling Chicken” due to their toxic content, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

Slovakia banned “Shrilling Chicken” in 2008, Sweden in 2013, Czech Republic in 2014, Spain in 2016 and Luxembourg in 2017, the EcoWaste Coalition said, citing information from the European Union’s rapid alert system for non-food dangerous products.

Slovakia, Czech Republic, Spain and Luxembourg took action after finding prohibited phthalates in toys such as DEHP and DINP on the plastic material of the chicken.  DEHP, in particular, “may harm the health of children, causing possible damage to the reproductive system.”

Sweden banned “Shrilling Chicken” as “the product poses an environmental risk (chemical pollution) because the plastic in the chicken contains up to 10% short chain chlorinated paraffins (SCCPs),” a class of persistent organic pollutants or POPs.

As per DOH. A.O. 2009-005 as amended in 2011, “it shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture for sale, offer for sale, distribute in commerce, or import into the country any children’s toys that contain concentrations of more than 0.1 percent by weight of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP).”

The FDA has warned that “the use of substandard and possibly adulterated TCCA products may result to health risks including but not limited to endocrine disruption and reproductive or developmental effects in relation to exposure to these compounds.”  





27 January 2020

Groups serve ‘notice to sue’ with DENR to douse waste incineration

As the Zero Waste Month draws to a close, environmental defense lawyers and zero waste activists pressed the authorities to faithfully enforce the provisions of the country’s waste and pollution prevention laws against the incineration of garbage.

To compel the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) into upholding the ban on incineration under Republic Act 8749 (the Clean Air Act) and reiterated in Republic Act 9003 (the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), groups belonging to the No Burn Pilipinas (NBP) today filed a “notice to sue” to rescind DAO 2019-21.

Signed by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu, DAO 2019-21 sets the guidelines for the establishment and operation of waste-to-energy (WtE) facilities, which environmentalists have dismissed as “a euphemism for incineration or burning of solid waste.”

At a press conference convened by NBP, lawyers and activists took turns in criticizing the WtE order and the gross inaction in phasing out non-environmentally acceptable products and packaging (NEAP) materials such as the ubiquitous single-use plastics (SUPs).

“By issuing the WtE Guidelines, the DENR is reneging on its constitutional and legal mandate to uphold the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology being the primary agency tasked to enforce environmental laws, not violate them. In the last two decades, DENR has failed to ensure the full implementation of RA 9003 and RA 8749,” said Atty. Aaron Pedrosa, lead counsel of the NBP. 

“By extending a blanket clearance for WtE projects through DAO 2019-21, it places itself above the law in violation of the prevailing ban on incineration. We are serving notice to DENR: rescind DAO 2019-21 now or be sued,” he emphasized.

"The DENR continues to defy the laws that mandate them to protect Filipinos from environmental harm and danger by proposing and allowing waste incineration, a quick-fix false solution to our waste problem. DAO 2010-06 and recently DAO 2019-21 are just concrete examples of how the agency circumvents RA 9003, RA 8749 and other laws that would ensure our constitutional rights to a balanced and healthful ecology,” added Glenn Ymata, Senior Campaign Manager of NBP.

“It is high time that the government exercise its powers and duties to untrash our oceans from millions of sachets, plastic bottles, straws and cutlery, and other SUPs thrown into it every second. How? By stopping and reducing its production at source. By including SUP in the list of non-environmentally sound materials - and releasing it, the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), mandated to do so within one year from the effectivity of RA 9003 eighteen years ago, we would have adequately reduced and stopped the source of plastic pollution ravaging us and our environment,” stated Atty. Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Vice President, Oceana Philippines

“This policy issuance would have already lifted the financial woes and physical burden of finding a landfill and the dire environmental justice issues and health consequences that are now lodged with the barangays, municipalities and cities, and provinces to face, who are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of single-use plastics issues they are compelled to find solutions to,” she pointed out.

“Preventing and reducing the country’s escalating garbage problem is at the core of implementing RA 9003.  For 20 years now, this continues to be a major struggle for the lead coordinating and implementing agencies – NSWMC and DENR,” noted Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

To reduce the volume of trash that ends up being littered, dumped and burned in disposal sites, or gets discarded into the oceans, Benosa called on all households, barangays and local government units to actively enforce the segregation of discards at source, recycling, composting and other requirements of RA 9003, including the establishment of community-based materials recovery facilities.

“We also call the attention of industries and businesses involved in the manufacture and sale of consumer goods to take responsibility in reducing the production and usage of wasteful and harmful SUPs clogging drains, river ways and the oceans," he added.

For his part, visiting Zero Waste expert Dr. Paul Connett explained that “energy generation and the promise of less climate impact don’t change the fact that when you burn resources they have to be replaced, which wastes more energy and creates more greenhouse gases.”

“While landfills bury the evidence (of wastefulness), incinerators burn them.  This is true of incinerators no matter what fancy name is used to describe them – WtE, thermal valorization, gasification, pyrolysis or plasma arc facilities,” said Connett, a staunch anti-incineration advocate and author of the book “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time.”


24 January 2020

Chinese New Year’s Warning: Be on guard against toxic rat-inspired "lucky" figurines

Rat-inspired "lucky" figurines with lead content (above)

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental and health group, has detected lead, a hazardous chemical, on some cute but toxic rat-inspired figurines.

To mark the Chinese New Year of the Metal Rat, the group purchased 11 decorative rat figurines from retailers in Binondo and Quiapo, Manila for P100 to P200 per set and had them screened for lead, a heavy metal banned in paint formulations, using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“While five of the samples are luckily negative for lead content, six had lead above the regulatory limit of 90 parts per million (ppm),” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Rat-inspired "lucky" figurines without lead content (above)

Out of the 11 samples, the group detected lead ranging from 874 to 3,798 ppm on six samples.  None of the 11 samples had product labeling information, and none of the lead-painted ones provided any lead hazard warning,
“These adorable items can easily pass for toys, so it’s very important to ensure that such items are guaranteed lead-safe,” Dizon said.  

A child can be exposed to lead when she or he plays with a lead-coated item, bite it and ingest the lead.  Lead exposure may also happen if the item is broken or damaged, contaminating the household dust with lead that a child can ingest as a result of hand-to-mouth behavior.  

Lead is exposure is detrimental to human health, especially to the developing brain and central nervous system of a young child. 

Childhood exposure to lead, considered one of the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO), can result to lower intelligence, speech and language problems, hearing loss, reduced bone and muscle growth, increased blood pressure, damage to the kidneys, and behavioral disorders.

Last year, the year of the Earth Pig, the EcoWaste Coalition detected lead up to 5,042 ppm on three piggy banks.  In 2018, the year of the Earth Dog, four samples of dog figurines were found to contain lead up to 6,578 ppm.

In 2017, the year of the Fire Rooster, lead measuring 5,032 ppm was uncovered in one lucky rooster figurine, while in 2016, the year of the Fire Monkey, lead up to 7,800 ppm was discovered in brightly colored monkey ornaments.

To avoid buying lead-containing products, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to insist on their right to product information and to refrain from buying items that carry no information and offer no assurance of safety from harmful chemicals such as lead.

The group asserted that producers, importers, distributors and retailers should only make and offer for sale products that are duly labeled and certified as compliant to product safety regulations.


For more information about the toxicity of lead, please see this material from WHO:

22 January 2020

Ship Carrying 2,400 Tons of Illegal Waste Imports Sails to South Korea

The container ship carrying the 2,400 metric tons of illegal waste shipments to be returned to South Korea had finally left the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

After staying for some 19 months at the Verde Soko compound at the Phividec Industrial Estate in the town of Tagoloan, the illegal waste imports from South Korea left the MICT port early Tuesday morning aboard MV Nordmarsh as confirmed by the Bureau of Customs-Region 10 (BOC-10) to the EcoWaste Coalition.

The remaining 2,700 tons of South Korean waste are expected to be shipped back on February 9 after being repacked and transferred from the Phividec facility to the MICT stockyard.

BOC-10 Port Collector John Simon reported that the government of South Korea shouldered the shipping cost amounting to P10 million in keeping with the “Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal” of which both the Philippines and South Korea are state parties to. 

Article 9 of the Basel Convention states that “in case of a transboundary movement of hazardous wastes or other wastes deemed to be illegal traffic as the result of conduct on the part of the exporter or generator, the State of export shall ensure that the wastes in question are taken back by the exporter or the generator or, if necessary, by itself into the State of export.”

“We are breathing a sigh of relief now that the first batch of the contaminated plastic waste wrongly declared as ‘plastic synthetic flakes’ has departed,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, which has participated in multi-stakeholders’ meetings attended by South Korean government representatives to resolve the issue.

"Kudos to our vigilant customs, environmental and local government officials in Misamis Oriental, and to the Filipino people,  for remaining steadfast in our shared duty to protect our country from the illegal traffic of hazardous wastes and other wastes," she said. 

“We hope the next re-exportation schedule for the remaining 2,700 tons of unlawful waste shipments would be the final one, and that both South Korea and the Philippines would take bold and resolute steps to prevent the recurrence of illegal and immoral waste trafficking,” she emphasized.

‘We particularly urge the governments of South Korea and the Philippines to strengthen their commitments as parties to the Basel Convention by ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment,” she added.  

The Basel Ban Amendment, which entered into force on December 5, 2019, prohibits member states of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the European Union (EU), and Liechtenstein from exporting hazardous wastes to developing countries or countries with economies in transition.

“To protect human health and the environment, upstream and downstream and prevent environmental injustice, in particular in developing and transition countries, all Basel Parties should ratify (the amendment) at the earliest possible date,” according to a primer published by the Basel Action Network (BAN) and the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).




21 January 2020

Visiting Scientist-turned-Activist Encourages Decision Makers to Stick to Zero Waste Solution, Protect the Ban on Waste Incineration

As the observance of the Zero Waste Month this January enters the home stretch, visiting British scientist-turned-activist Dr. Paul Connett dismissed incineration as “the biggest obstacle to Zero Waste” as he urged decision makers to uphold the incineration ban under the country’s major environmental laws.

Connett is in town as a visiting technical expert of the EcoWaste Coalition, No Burn Pilipinas and other environmental health groups who have stepped up the fight to protect the incineration ban from being lifted and to unmask the false claims of incinerator promoters. 

As lawmakers consider bills that will rescind the ban on waste incineration under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and remove barriers to the construction of “waste-to-energy” incineration plants,  Connett expressed the need for legislative support to zero waste as a goal and strategy. 

Among these legislative measures are House Bill 2286 introduced by Aklan First District Representative Carlito Marquez, which aims to repeal the incineration ban, and Senate Bill 363 filed by Senator Win Gatchalian, which, among other things, seeks to exempt waste-to-energy facilities from the said ban.

“We have to move from the back-end of waste disposal to the front-end of resource management, better industrial design, and a post-consumerist way of life.  In both industry and our daily lives, we have to get waste out of the system.  We need a zero waste strategy, not an incineration strategy, to make it happen,” said Connett.

Connett highlighted several arguments against waste incineration, including the formidable costs involved in constructing, operating and maintaining the facility, the creation of very few long-term jobs for the community, the production of toxic ash that nobody wants, and the generation of hazardous air emissions and nanoparticles.

“The claim that incinerating waste can be used to recover energy or produce electricity makes good marketing gimmick, but the reality is that if energy conservation and recovery is the goal, then more energy can be saved through composting and recycling,” he said.

“On the global scale, incinerators waste energy and waste the opportunity to really fight global warming.  On the local scale, incineration wastes the opportunity to create jobs and otherwise help the local economy in a sustainable fashion,” he said.

Connett has outlined the following steps to make zero waste community a reality: source separation; door-to-door collection; composting; recycling; reuse, repair, and deconstruction; a "pay as you throw" policy for residuals; the location of a Zero Waste Research Center in every major city; residual separation facilities built in front of landfills;  interim landfills for the biologically stabilized organic residuals and currently non-recyclables.

During his short stay in the country, Connett will interact with academicians, lawmakers, local government officials, civil society leaders and the media about waste issues and solutions. Connett is author of the book “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time.”

From 1983 -2006, Connett taught chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York where he specialized in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology. 

Over the past 35 years, his research on waste management has taken him to 49 states in the US, seven provinces in Canada and 67 other countries where he has given over 2,500 pro bono public presentations.


19 January 2020

Environmental Advocates Call for Greater Vigilance against Foreign Waste Dumping (Groups Insist: Mindanao Dili Basurahan, Bar Waste Imports, Ratify the Basel Ban Amendment)

Environmental health and justice advocates called for greater vigilance against waste imports as they cheer over the re-exportation of the remaining illegal South Korean waste shipments to their origin starting today.

At the jubilant “return to sender” ceremony held at the Mindanao International Container Terminal, over 35 representatives from the EcoWaste Coalition, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and the Sustainable Davao Movement (SDM) joined Bureau of Customs-Region 10  Port Collector John Simon and other public officials  in celebrating the re-export of the first 60 container vans of contaminated plastic waste from South Korea in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental where more than 5,000 tons of such wastes have been sitting since 2018.   

To emphasize their call for vigilance, the advocates unfurled a banner that says: “Prohibit waste importation.  Ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.”  They also held placards with anti-dumping messages “Pilipinas hindi tambakan ng basura" (Philippines not a dumpsite), "Mindanao dili basurahan" (Mindanao not a garbage bin), "no entry for foreign waste," and "no dumping from now on.”

"The re-exportation of the falsely declared waste materials back to South Korea affirms our nation's readiness and resolve to bring this dumping controversy to its just conclusion.  To stop this incident from happening again, I add my voice to the growing clamor to upgrade and strengthen our legal defense against waste dumping, including ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment," said Simon.

The Philippines, a state party to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, has yet to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.  The said amendment, which became an international law last December 5, 2019,   prohibits the export of hazardous wastes for all reasons, including recycling, from developed to developing countries.

Speaking before the triumphant crowd, Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director of Davao City-based IDIS said: “This dumping controversy and similar dumping incidents have reinforced the urgency of ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment and revising current regulations that permit waste imports into the country under the guise of ‘recycling.’ We need to plug the regulatory loopholes that waste traders are taking advantage of, which is turning our country, particularly Mindanao, into a convenient dumping site for plastic, electronic and other hazardous wastes.”  

“Such wastes should be recycled, treated or disposed of in the country where such wastes were generated,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, who also added that “while we pursue ecological solutions to our domestic garbage woes, we must tell South Korea and other countries to deal with their own wastes at home and stop exporting them to the Philippines and other Asian countries."

Dr. Joe DiGangi, Senior Science and Technical Advisory of the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), which includes IDIS and the EcoWaste Coalition among its members, agreed: “Korean waste should be managed in Korea and not dumped in the Philippines or anywhere else. This experience should nudge both countries to promptly ratify the Basel Ban Amendment.”

The groups further stressed the need for a national ban on waste importation from all countries that will cover all wastes, including household and plastic wastes, as the Basel Ban Amendment is focused mainly on hazardous waste shipments from developed countries.

According to the groups, the ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment and the prohibition on waste importation will be the best legal protection of the Philippines against illegal waste traffic.

“For the protection of public health, for environmental justice, and for the preservation of the national dignity against the dehumanizing and polluting impacts of global waste trade, we call upon our leaders to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment and to impose a waste import ban without delay,” the groups asserted.

Aside from the EcoWaste Coalition, IDIS and SDM, representatives from Agro-Eco Philippines, Bantay Bukid/Bantayo Aweg,  and  Gitib-Orol (Our Rivers Our Life)  also witnessed the send-off ceremony for the illegal waste shipments from South Korea


17 January 2020

EcoWaste Coalition Objects to Plastic Banderitas Overkill for Santo Niño Feast in Tondo and Pandacan

The EcoWaste Coalition has objected to the excessive use of single-use plastic (SUP) banderitas adorning the streets of Tondo and Pandacan, Manila on the occasion of the popular feast of the Santo Niño. 

The waste and pollution watchdog expressed its disbelief over the extreme use of buntings made of disposable plastics such as the so-called “plastic labo” as if the city and the entire country are not yet churning out too much plastic garbage.

“We are deeply saddened by the lavish use of plastic banderitas in connection with the feast of Santo Niño as if there was no tomorrow. It’s an overkill of wasteful SUPs,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Rarely reused or recycled, these banderitas consisting of semi-transparent plastic bags, plastic strips or plastic packaging scraps add to the residual plastic garbage that ends up in dumps or on the streets and waterways,” he said.

“Far from being harmless, these disposable banderitas are a threat to the natural environment, especially when these are littered, burned or dumped on land or at sea,” he added.

The wild use of single-use plastic banderitas, the group said, is not in tune with Mayor Isko Moreno’s program to rid Manila of garbage as these decorative materials are meant to be thrown away after the feast.

The “plastic banderitas overkill,” the group added, is also not in step with the call made by Catholic bishops in 2019 urging dioceses to “actively promote ecological awareness and action… by eliminating single-use plastics… from our homes and institutions.” 

In this era of climate and plastic emergency, the EcoWaste Coalition requested barangays and parishes to rethink the outdated use of disposable plastic buntings during fiestas and other celebrations.

“As plastic banderitas, which are made from chemicals obtained from fossil fuels, serve no functional purpose and are not really essential for the good conduct of any festivity, we appeal to all barangay and parish officials to stop this classic example of preventable wastefulness,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.



14 January 2020

Beware of Health Hazards of Volcanic Ash (Group reminds citizens to observe DOH’s ashfall safety tips)

As the restive Taal Volcano continues to spews ash over a vast area, the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental health group, reminded the public to avoid exposure to volcanic ash.

Echoing the health advisory issued by the Department of Health (DOH), the group prodded the public, especially those who are already suffering from respiratory ailments, to prevent or reduce exposure to volcanic ash, which may cause a number of health problems, including nose, throat, eye and skin irritation, breathing discomfort, coughing, and bronchitis-like illness.

Injuries or death may also result from roof collapse due to ash accumulation or from vehicular accidents due to poor visibility and slippery roads, according to the DOH.

To cope with the ashfall from Taal Volcano, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated the following advice from the DOH :

--  Minimize exposure to ash.
--  Stay indoors as much as possible.
--  Keep doors and windows closed.
--  Keep home from ash infiltration by using damp curtains, blankets or clothing.
--  Use dust masks.
--  Wear goggles or glasses to protect eyes from irritation.
--  Keep pets in closed shelter.
--  Clean your roof of ash.
--  Observe traffic notifications and road safety measures.

According to the International Volcanic Health Hazard Network (IVHHN), an umbrella organization for all research and information on the health hazards and impacts of volcanic eruptions, “volcanic ash is composed of fine particles of fragmented volcanic rock (less than 2 mm diameter).”

“Ashfall is the most widespread and frequent volcanic hazard… that can potentially affect communities and farmlands across hundreds, or even thousands, of square kilometers,” said the US Geological Society, a partner of the IVHHN.






13 January 2020

Toxics Watchdog Group Calls for Crackdown on Dangerous Skin Whitening Cosmetics with Mercury Content (Mercury-tainted skin whitening product banned by Norway sold in Pasay City, group warns)

The EcoWaste Coalition urged law enforcement agencies to stop the sale of mercury-laden skin lightening cosmetics after finding imported Golden Pearl Beauty Cream that the government of Norway recently banned for containing mercury being openly sold by retailers at bargain malls in Pasay City.   

The group, which has been tracking mercury-added products (MAPs) such as skin whitening creams, expressed the urgency for immediate law enforcement activities to prevent further distribution and use of such health and environmentally-damaging cosmetic, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned way back in 2014.

“Our market monitoring shows that Golden Pearl Beauty Cream with 'free face wash' from Pakistan is openly sold for P250 per piece by some mall retailers in Pasay City,” reported Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The sale of Golden Pearl and other mercury-tainted skin whitening creams in the bustling malls known for selling cheap electronics, garments, and other consumer products is deeply worrisome as these cosmetics are hazardous to human health,” he said.

The Norwegian government recently banned the marketing of Golden Pearl Beauty Cream for containing mercury and for not complying with Cosmetic Products Regulation.

According to a notification submitted by Norway and published last Friday at the European Union’s Rapid Alert System for Non-Food Products (RAPEX), “mercury accumulates in the body and can damage the kidneys, brain and nervous system. Additionally, it may affect reproduction and the unborn child. “

The EcoWaste Coalition also found other products already banned by the FDA due to their mercury content being sold in the area, including Collagen Plus Vit E, Jiaoli, Goree, and S’Zitang skin whitening creams.

The continued sale of mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics goes against the 2020 phase-out of such products under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, as well as the ban on cosmetics with mercury in excess of one part per million (ppm) that is being followed by ASEAN member states, including the Philippines, the group said.

For consumer health and safety, the group urged users to stop the use of mercury-added cosmetics and to visit licensed dermatologists for proper advice.

“Adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include: kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  

“Mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into waste water. The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and can enter the food chain as highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” said WHO.

WHO has warned that “pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury can transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children.”







11 January 2020

Groups Hail Impending Re-Export of South Korean Waste as Victory for Environmental Justice (Over 5,000 tons of illegal waste imports from South Korea to be shipped back on January 19 and February 9)

The impending re-exportation of illegal waste shipments from South Korea, described by the authorities as “misdeclared, heterogenous and injurious to public health,” has been welcomed by green groups who say it will help in rectifying the environmental injustice committed against Mindanao and the entire Filipino nation.

Davao City-based Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) and Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition hailed the planned repatriation of over 5,000 tons of South Korean waste stranded since July 2018 at the PHIVIDEC Industrial Estate in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental as confirmed by customs authorities.

Through a text message received by the EcoWaste Coalition from Port Collector John Simon of the Bureau of Customs- Region 10, the authorities announced that 60 container vans of illegal waste imports by Verde Soko Philippines Industrial Corporation will be returned to South Korea on January 19 and the rest on February 9 with vessels from Maersk International Shipping Lines as the official carrier.

“The long wait will soon be over.  In line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive banning waste imports and in cooperation with the South Korean government, we are shipping back the remaining wastes to their origin on January 19 and February 9.  The re-exportation of the misdeclared plastic wastes to where they come from should send a clear signal to all parties that our beloved country is not a global dump and that waste traffickers will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Simon said.

"This is good news for the people of Mindanao as we assert our unwillingness to be an entry point of hazardous waste from overseas.  The re-shipment of the South Korean waste to its source is a historic win for our people and the environment,” said Chinkie Peliño-Golle, Executive Director, IDIS, adding that “this is only a partial victory as the culprits behind this toxic mess have yet to account for their misdeeds."

“The complete removal of the remaining South Korean waste in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, the clean-up of the storage site and the prosecution of the offenders will help in correcting the grave environmental injustice inflicted on Mindanaoans in particular and Filipino people in general,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We commend Port Collector Simon and his team, as well as other customs, environmental and local government officials in the region, for taking a brave and solid position against foreign waste dumping and for finding ways to overcome logistical challenges, especially with the complicated repacking of the bulk waste,” she said.   

It will be recalled that illegal waste shipments from South Korea, falsely declared as “plastic synthetic flakes,” with a total combined weight of 6,500 tons arrived at the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT) in July and October 2018.  

BOC-10 issued three warrants of seizure and detention against the illegal waste cargoes followed by a re-exportation order citing violations of DENR Administrative Order 2013-22 and the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act.  

Following the agreement reached by the governments of the Philippines and South Korea in December 2018, some 1,400 tons of illegal waste shipments were sent back to South Korea on January 13, 2019, which was witnessed by representatives from the EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace, IDIS and other civil society groups from Davao City.   

The repatriation of the remaining wastes from South Korean was delayed due to financial and logistical issues related to their re-bagging and transfer from the PHIVIDEC site to the MICT.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed the national government to speed up its ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment, which entered into force on December 5 last year, and to adopt a full ban on foreign waste importation to protect the country from illegal waste traffic.  

The Basel Ban Amendment prohibits the export of hazardous wastes for all reasons, including recycling, from rich countries belonging to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), European Union (EU) and Liechtenstein to developing countries like the Philippines.

“Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment and further prohibiting the export of all wastes to the Philippines will be our best legal protection against waste trafficking," the EcoWaste Coalition insisted.