EcoWaste Coalition Appeals to COMELEC Not to Burn Defective Ballots

The waste and pollution watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) not to proceed with its reported plan to burn nearly 106,000 defective ballots for the May 9 polls.

The Comelec through Commissioner George Garcia yesterday told the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms that “these defective ballots will be presented to the public, accounted for individually with proper data, and burned in front of all the political parties, the candidates and their representatives.”

“We appeal to our poll authorities to reconsider their plan to burn the defective ballots, which can be safely recycled instead,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Instead of burning the 105,853 flawed ballots, which will completely destroy such recyclable materials while adding to air pollution, the group requested Comelec to have them shredded or simply kept in a secure place for recycling after the polls.

“The Comelec can borrow shredding machines from government offices and pay a team of informal waste workers for the job of cutting the defective ballots into strips,” Benosa suggested.

“Alternatively, Comelec can store the defective ballots in a secure warehouse, lock them up and have them collected for recycling after the polls,” he said.

“Election stakeholders will surely support a non-polluting way of dealing with the faulty ballots while conserving paper, a valuable resource that comes from trees,” he added.

Burning the flawed ballots will not only turn recyclable paper into ash, but also generate health-damaging pollutants, the advocacy group for zero waste and a toxics-free society said. 

Regardless of the method used – whether the substandard ballots are burned in the open or in an incinerator – burning paper will produce smoke and ash, create fine particles, and emit numerous pollutants of concern, including greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) like dioxins, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

Open burning is banned under Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, while incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes, is prohibited under Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act (paper waste is classified as municipal waste).

“Burning paper waste when the same can be recycled is not an environmentally sound option at all in the face of the global climate crisis,” concluded Benosa.