EcoWaste Coalition: “Untrash Undas. Enforce B.T.S. Policy”

Members of the EcoWaste Coalition, with some dressed as "Zombasura" (the cemetery litterbugs), gather outside the Manila North Cemetery to campaign for an eco-friendly and waste-free observance of Undas in anticipation of the massive influx of visitors to cemeteries, memorial parks and columbaria, stressing that this time-honored tradition should not disrespect the dead and Mother Earth with garbage. ECOWASTE COALITION

With B.T.S. (Bawal magTapon sa Sementeryo) as its battlecry, the EcoWaste Coalition today urged the Filipino people not to litter in the cemeteries as they visit the tombs of their dearly departed ones on November 1 and 2.

Anticipating a massive turnout of visitors with the easing of COVID-19 restrictions, the advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society exhorted families and individuals who will visit the public cemeteries, private memorial parks and columbaria not to throw and leave any trash behind.

“We appeal to our fellow Filipinos to make this year’s observance of Undas different from the pre-pandemic celebrations marred by tons of garbage left by cemetery visitors and vendors,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. “Enforcing B.T.S. (no littering in the cemetery) and taking other practical steps to minimize other forms of environmental pollution will contribute to a cleaner and healthier commemoration of Undas.”

"Upang matiyak ang malinis, ligtas at maayos na paggunita sa Araw ng mga Patay ay iwasan po natin ang pagkakalat sa loob at labas ng sementeryo bilang paggalang na rin sa ating mga nakahimlay na mahal sa buhay. Kakayanin po natin na mapanatiling maaliwalas at walang basura ang sementeryo kung tayo'y makikinig at magtutulungan," stated Rosele Castañeda, Director, Manila North Cemetery. 

For his part, Father Antonio Labiao, Jr., Executive Secretary of Caritas Philippines and member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Board of Trustees, said: "It's our shared responsibility to ensure that our environment, which includes us all, is protected against practices that pollute and degrade it. As good stewards of Mother Nature, let us show how we value and care for her as we remember our deceased loved ones this coming Undas. Let's make our cemeteries trash-free." 

To amplify their appeal for B.T.S., the EcoWaste Coalition assembled at the entrance of the Manila North Cemetery, one of the oldest and biggest in the country, together with the representatives of the Manila City Government, Manila North Cemetery, and Metro Manila Development Authority.

Five volunteers dressed up as “Zombasura,” a name coined by the group to describe cemetery litterbugs, drew attention to the notorious generation and disposal of trash in burial grounds, both public and private.

Waste monitoring conducted by the group’s Basura Patrollers before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic showed unrestrained littering of food packaging and food waste, plastic bags and bottles, soiled papers, cigarette butts and other discards, turning cemeteries into dumpsites. 

In line with Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which espouses waste prevention and reduction and prohibits polluting acts like littering, open dumping and open burning, and in accordance with other environmental and health laws and regulations, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to heed its ten-point cemetery etiquette, or “cemetiquette” for short.
  1. Be mindful of COVID-19 health and safety protocols when you visit the cemetery. Mask up, keep a safe distance, clean your hands, practice good hygiene when coughing or sneezing, and avoid spitting.
  2. Clean up the tombs of your departed ones in an eco-friendly manner without burning or dumping trash by the sidewalk or on other people’s graves.
  3. When repainting tombs, use lead-safe paints and refrain from dry sanding or scraping surfaces that might be covered in lead paint to avoid spreading lead dust.
  4. Instead of disposable plastic bags, bring bayong, tote bags or other reusable carry bags for your stuff. Refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.
  5. Offer locally grown cut flowers (or potted plants and flowers) to the dead.  Shun plastic flowers, as well as plastic wrappers.
  6. Choose clean-burning candles and do not let the plastic receptacles or holders burn. Don’t light candles with lead-cored wicks to avoid toxic lead emissions.
  7. Bring home-cooked meals in reusable carriers and containers, and don’t forget your water jug or tumbler to avoid purchasing water in plastic bottles. Just bring what you need to avoid wastage, and don’t leave leftovers behind.
  8. Always keep the surroundings tidy and liter-free by not leaving used face masks, cigarette butts, candy wrappers, food packaging, and food waste behind. Put discards into their proper bins when available, or bring them home for proper sorting, reusing, recycling, composting or disposal.
  9. Do not urinate in public places, particularly on people’s graves. It’s disrespectful and unhygienic.
  10. Refrain from smoking or vaping in the cemetery, which will only add to the particles and vapors released by burning candles. 
The group’s pre-Undas event concluded with a short parade inside the Manila North Cemetery.