EcoWaste Coalition: "Please Recycle Pope Francis' Tarpaulins"

With the departure of Pope Francis after five days of cherished encounters with the Filipino people, an environmental watchdog wasted no time proposing that the tarpaulins used to welcome the “green pope” should not go to the dumps and further swell the volume of garbage collected throughout the papal visit.

“Sooner or later, the Pope Francis’ tarps hanging on electric posts, street lamps, church buildings, schools and other establishments will be taken down,” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We need to find new uses for these tarps to prevent them from going to waste and adding to the 1,271 tons of trash generated during the papal events,” she emphasized.

Based on published figures, the Manila City Government collected 1,133 tons of garbage, while the Metro Manila Development Authority hauled 138 tons during the Pope’s activities in Manila.  

“We can keep these tarps out of dumps, landfills, cement kilns and incinerators by giving them a new lease of life through appropriate recycling,” she emphasized.

“Avoiding the haphazard disposal of used tarps will cut the volume of waste being disposed of, as well as curb the environmental pollution from their dumping or burning, knowing that tarps are mainly vinyl-based containing toxic chemicals,” she explained.

Vergara recalled that the chemicals screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition right after the 2013 elections detected cadmium and lead in 200 polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tarpaulins used by political wannabes.

Tarps can be recycled or repurposed for non-food and non-child uses depending on their colors, designs, materials, thickness, grommet strength and sizes, the group said.

Large tarps, often seen in building facades and fences, can be reused as protective cover sheets for a variety of things, including carriages for religious icons, vehicles, recycling "kariton" and anything else that need protection from dust, dirt, sun and rain.

Even the homeless people in our midst have been using tarps as cover, “blanket” or sleeping sheet, the group observed.

The more sturdy tarps can be used as roofing materials for makeshift shelters of disaster victims.

Smaller tarps such as those hanging on lamp posts can be sewn into carry bags, storage sacks, shoe rack, paint drop clothes, utility aprons, multi-purpose holders, etc.

Pedicab, jeepney and tricycle drivers will find such tarps useful as hood or shield for protection against intense heat and strong rains as tarps can be easily rolled up and down as needed.

To demonstrate some of these repurposing ideas, the EcoWaste Coalition has collaborated with Buklod Tao, a community group in San Mateo, Rizal, to create samples of tarps transformed into functional items.

The repurposed tarps will be displayed at the 3-day Zero Waste Fair starting tomorrow at Quezon Memorial Circle in observance of the first-ever “Zero Waste Month” by virtue of Proclamation 760 issued by President Benigno Aquino III.  

To address the chemical, health and environmental concerns associated with tarpaulins, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed that the government should regulate their production, use and disposal.