Warning Out on Toxic New Year Revelry Practices

As the nation awaits the New Year’s countdown to 2023, the environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition warned against practices that tend to endanger human health and the ecosystems.
With few hours before the revelry, the group raised concern over bad practices that add to environmental degradation and pollution, particularly the mixing of discards, the burning of garbage and used car tires, the releasing of balloons and sky lanterns, and the lighting of firecrackers and fireworks, including the use of improvised polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pipe cannon called “boga.”

“We appeal to the Filipino people to refrain from engaging in activities that can contaminate the air, soil and water with various pollutants, and result in an array of serious health problems, especially for vulnerable populations, as well as start fires,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The mixing of discards from the end-of-the-year household cleanup and from the New Year's Eve revelry adds to the volume, as well as toxicity, of holiday trash or "holitrash" hauled to disposal facilities, the EcoWaste Coalition said. Keeping waste materials separated into a few categories prevents cross-contamination and facilitates the reuse, repair, recycling and composting of discarded resources, the group emphasized.

The open burning of garbage before, during or after the revelry, the EcoWaste Coalition warned, can generate numerous pollutants that can pollute the air and cause a range of health effects, including eye, throat and skin irritations, shortness of breath and headaches, and respiratory diseases. Burning chlorinated waste materials, the group pointed out, will lead to the formation and release of dioxins and furans, which are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) linked to reproductive, developmental, immune and nervous system disorders, as well as cancers.

Burning used car tires to serve as a bonfire or as a “pit” where firecrackers are thrown, the EcoWaste Coalition said, can produce a whole gamut of chemicals pollutants such as particulates, heavy metals, carbon monoxide, sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and carcinogenic benzene, butadiene and benzopyrene. Aside from producing toxic smoke and ash, burning tires may damage the roads, especially the asphalted ones, the group added.

Releasing balloons and sky lanterns to herald the New Year can be harmful to aquatic animals who can be entangled in balloon strings, get trapped in lantern frames, or eat such marine litter by mistake, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented. Also, sky lanterns cannot be controlled and may drop anywhere causing structural fires and wildfires.

Finally, the EcoWaste Coalition discouraged the general public from lighting firecrackers and fireworks, including PVC “boga,” which can cause burns and injuries, worsen the air quality, diminish visibility, set off or aggravate health problems, and increase noise pollution, as well as harm cats, dogs and other animals with acute sense of hearing.

For a clean and non-toxic welcome to 2023, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the general public to celebrate with the health of fellow human beings and that of the planet in mind.

Let’s usher in the New Year with less trash and toxin from the revelry,” the group said, “in line with the human right of every Filipino to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.