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.