18 April 2018

Green groups question Palawan, DOE “waste-to-energy” deal; Warn LGUs on possible “waste-to-energy” scams

NGO coalition No Burn Pilipinas today questioned the legality of the newly signed “waste-to-energy” (WTE) facility deal in Palawan, as they warned cities and municipalities not to be lured by possible WTE scams. The group, which finds the 2.1 billion peso WTE deal in Puerto Princesa dubious, called on the Department of Energy (DOE) and Puerto Princesa City to immediately cancel the contract.

The groups were reacting to the recent report on the contract signing between the DOE, Puerto Princesa City and Austworks Corp., the facility provider for the construction of a so-called “waste-to-energy” plant. Under the deal, Austworks will build a purported “thermal gasification” WTE incinerator in the city’s Sta. Lourdes Sanitary Landfill, as well as well as provide garbage collection services. The WTE plant will supposedly generate 5.5 megawatts of electricity from the city’s 110 metric tons per day of waste.

The coalition No Burn Pilipinas contends that 1) the deal is illegal since waste incineration is banned under Philippine law; 2) the energy—if any—produced by the facility will be miniscule, and claims that the facility will pay for itself from the energy generated is false; and 3) there are no commercially operating thermal gasification WTE incinerators anywhere in the world. Moreover, for a major infrastructure project, no information is available on Austworks’ record or experience in building similar facilities.

“The planned ‘waste-to-energy’ incinerator in Puerto Princesa is patently illegal under Philippine law,” said Ruel Cabile, WTE campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition. “It is a clear violation of the ban on incineration enshrined in the Clean Air Act. It also contravenes the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which the government should be strengthening. Pursuing “waste-to-energy” incineration undermines segregation, recycling and reduction efforts--the very approaches which the government should be supporting.”

For its part, the Palawan chapter of the Environmental Legal Assitance Center (ELAC), noted that Puerto Princesa’s current sanitary landfill was intended to evolve into a Zero Waste management program, as provided in the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued to the Puerto Princesa City government. “The pursuit of WTE would result to a violation of the ECC,” said ELAC Palawan representative Kat Leuch. “We hope that the Puerto Princesa City government can still reconsider its planned incineration project and prioritize Zero Waste management in its development masterplan. Being a hall of fame awardee in the ‘Clean and Green Program’ of the Philippine government, we expect the city government to sustain its environmental protection efforts,” she added.

No Burn Pilipinas partners are further questioning the DOE’s promotion of WTE incineration. “Waste incineration is the most expensive and inefficient way to produce electricity, with construction costing twice that of coal-fired power plants and 60% more than nuclear plants, and operations costing ten times more than coal, and four times more than nuclear,” Glenn Ymata of Philippine Movement for Climate Justice. “WTE incineration is bad for the climate and is not renewable energy; it takes investments away from real energy solutions such as wind and solar.”

Aside from the deal’s illegality, No Burn Pilipinas is doubtful that the facility will actually operate successfully—even if it is constructed. “Gasification plants are among the most complicated and expensive incinerators, and are not recommended as suitable waste treatment facilities in developing countries,” said Lea Guerrero, clean energy campaigner of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “In fact, no commercial-scale gasification plant meant for the treatment of municipal solid waste exists anywhere in the world. Aside from bad economics, gasification’s history of technical challenges and failures has led to shut downs in operation which have left some cities and taxpayers in debt, paying for prohibitively expensive facilities that never worked.”

Environmental groups say that cities and municipalities should be extremely wary of incinerator companies selling billion peso “quick fix” incinerators. The case of Palawan is not the first WTE deal that seems too good to be true. In 2011, Angeles City was lured into investing in a USD 63 million WTE facility that never materialized. In 2006, the City of San Fernando in Pampanga entered into a contract for a gasification facility that was started but never completed. However, shortly after the failure of the gasification plant, the City of San Fernando chose instead to pursue Zero Waste—and the results were successful. In partnership with Mother Earth Foundation, the city was able to drastically reduce the volume of municipal waste in just six months. In the past, the city brought almost 90% of its waste to landfills. But in the last four years with a Zero Waste program, which includes segregation at source and composting of organics, this figure was reduced to 30%, resulting in huge savings for the city. 

“Zero Waste is still the best approach for the sustainable management of discards,” said Sonia Mendoza of Mother Earth Foundation. “Waste is a complex problem that can’t be solved by a machine that burns trash and merely converts solid waste to toxic air pollution. The government should support Zero Waste approaches instead of partnering with incinerator companies that sell false solutions to cities and municipalities.”


17 April 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Parents to Choose Safe Swimming Toys for Kids

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded parents to go for kid-safe swimming toys as many families head to beaches and pools to seek a breather from the scorching summer heat.

The anti-toxics watch group revealed that some beach and pool balls, floats and rings being sold in the market may contain undisclosed chemicals of concern such as phthalates that are not permitted in children’s toys.

“We advise parents to only buy safe swimming toys that will not pose chemical risk or cause accidental drowning or injuries to young children,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Get your children out of harm’s way, please make them play with phthalate-free swimming toys that are compliant with the government’s regulation,” he said.

Dizon explained that inflatable aquatic toys made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic may contain phthalate additives that are known to interfere with hormonal functions and causing  developmental, reproductive and other health problems, especially among children. 

“As a precaution, the Department of Health (DOH) in 2011 banned certain phthalates in children’s toys.  As early as 1999, the Bureau of Food and Drugs  (now known as the Food and Drug Administration or FDA) warned ‘phthalates in children’s toys particularly those made of soft plastic materials or PVC have been found to leach out from the toys when they are sucked or chewed as commonly practiced by children… (and) may cause adverse health effects such as liver and kidney wounds, reproductive abnormalities and immune system defects’,” he pointed out.

As per DOH Administrative Order 2009-0005-A as amended in December 2011, the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of children’s toys containing more than 0.1 percent of di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP) or benzyl butyl phthalate (BBP) is prohibited.

This A.O. further bans diisononyl phthalate (DINP), diisodecyl phthalate (DIDP), or di-n-octyl phthalate (DnOP) in children’s toys that can be placed in a child’s mouth in concentrations above 0.1 percent by weight.

Dizon recalled that in 2015, three of the four swimming toys sent by the EcoWaste Coalition to a private laboratory for phthalate analysis were found to contain high concentrations of DEHP up to 19.6 percnet and DINP up to 1.29 percent in blatant breach of the government’s regulation.

The fourth sample marked “phthalate-free” on the label passed the test – a good indicator that swimming toys can be manufactured without phthalate additives.

For children’s safety, the EcoWaste Coalition further enjoined the public to heed the pointers from FDA on the proper selection of aquatic toys, including checking the label for the age suitability,  item/model/stock keeping unit (SKU) number, warning statements, name and address of manufacturer and license to operate number (LTO No.) of the local company responsible for placing the product in the market.



15 April 2018

Aspiring Barangay, SK Leaders Urged to Stand Up for the Environment

As thousands line up to file their Certificates of Candidacy, a waste and pollution watch group urged women and men aiming to become Barangay ang Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leaders to take up the cudgels on behalf of Mother Earth.

“We need grassroots leaders who will inspire and guide our communities to the cause of environmental conservation and protection and make sure that our ‘common home’ is cared for,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As front liners of public service, Barangay and SK leaders have a huge responsibility in making our neighborhoods clean, healthy and safe for everyone, especially for children who are most vulnerable to harm and illness,” he pointed out.

“We need public servants who will help in local government unit (LGU) enforcement of environmental laws and regulations that seek to protect our air, water, soil and our people against damaging and polluting activities,” he said.

One of these laws is Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which emphasizes waste prevention, volume reduction, segregation at source, recycling and composting through the adoption of “best environmental practices in ecological solid waste management excluding incineration.”

As stated in the Philippine Development Plan (PDP for 2017-2022), “LGU compliance with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act has been low and majority of local areas are still unserved by solid waste management (SWM)facilities or materials recovery facilities (MRFs).”   According to the PDP, only 31.28 percent of barangays are covered by SWM facilities and 30.92 percent by MRFs below the 2016 targets of 67.39 percent and 77.10 percent, respectively.”
R.A. 9003 requires the establishment of MRFs or ecology centers in every barangay or cluster of barangays “to receive, sort, process and store compostable and recyclable materials efficiently and in an environmentally sound manner.”

“These MRFs have the potential to boost community-driven ecological waste management that will reduce hauling costs, conserve resources, prevent spillage of plastics to water bodies, and foster environmental values among the people,” Alejandre said.

“We hope that those running for the May 14 Barangay and SK polls do recognize the importance of enforcing R.A. 9003 in their localities and their role to get the law implemented,” he added.

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed its hope that contenders will address garbage and other pressing environmental concerns in their electoral platforms, and that voters will support pro-Mother Earth candidates at the ballot box come polling day.

Last Friday, the EcoWaste Coalition launched its campaign for waste-free Barangay and SK elections outside the headquarters of the Commission on Elections and in the presence of Commissioner Luie Tito Guia.

“As actions speak louder than words, we urge candidates to campaign in a manner that will not misuse resources, dirty the surroundings and cause damage to community health and environment,” the group said.


13 April 2018

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Barangay and SK Election Candidates to “Think Environment” (Group Campaigns for Waste-Free Barangay and SK Elections)

Environmental activists today dared political wannabes aspiring for Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan posts to run with the good of the environment in mind.

At the launch of its drive for waste-free elections outside the headquarters of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in Manila, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed to the need for candidates to demonstrate their commitment to the environment not only in words but in deeds.

The EcoWaste Coalition made a strong pitch for environmental protection in the upcoming elections on May 14 as the filing of the Certificates of Candidacy begins tomorrow April 14 until April 20 as per COMELEC Resolution No. 10246.

COMELEC Commissioner Luie Tito F. Guia echoed the group’s plea affirming “the COMELEC is one with the EcoWaste Coalition in appealing to all candidates to be environmentally conscious and responsible in their campaigning activities.”  He added:  “Please be respectful of our environment as you woo voters to back your political aspirations.  Please prevent and reduce your campaign trash to the minimum.”

For his part, Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner  of the EcoWaste Coalition, stated  “the May 14 polls offer a unique opportunity for would-be barangay and youth leaders to articulate and show their commitment to the preservation and protection of the environment.” 

“Well-meaning candidates, we hope, will use the campaign period to rally their constituents into supporting pro-environment policies and programs such as the active enforcement of Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, at the household and community level,” he said.

“As actions speak louder than words, we urge candidates to campaign in a manner that will not misuse resources, dirty the surroundings and cause damage to community health and environment,” he emphasized.

The EcoWaste Coalition specifically requested candidates to use recyclable and environment-friendly campaign materials and to avoid those materials that contain hazardous additives.

To get their message across, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition wore a mock ballot box with a message that says: “Wanted: Mga Kandidatong may Pagkalinga sa Kalikasan” (Wanted: Candidates Who Care for the Environment), while others hold ballot box replicas with the words “Isipin ang Kalikasan” (Think Environment).  

The group identified the following campaign practices that should be avoided to reduce the generation of trash and prevent damage to the ecosystems:

1.  Producing excessive campaign materials beyond what is allowed and needed;
2.  Leaving, dumping and burning trash in campaign sorties; 
3.  Throwing confetti, exploding firecrackers or releasing balloons in campaign events;
4.  Using smoke-belching vehicles in campaign motorcades;
5.  Nailing, hanging and pasting of campaign materials on trees and other places prohibited places, and
6.  Failing to remove campaign materials and clean up immediately after the polls.

On the other hand, the group urged the candidates to observe the following suggestions for an eco-friendly campaigning: 

1.  Use recyclable and non-toxic campaign materials;
2.  Refrain from using Styrofoam, plastic bags and other single-use containers for volunteers’ meals and drinks;
3.  Practice ecological solid waste management in campaign meetings and assemblies;
4.  Zero tolerance on littering and the open dumping and open burning of campaign waste materials; and 
5.  Repurpose, reuse or recycle campaign materials.


12 April 2018

Toxics Watch Group Pushes for Safe Disposal of Busted Mercury-Containing Lamps (EcoWaste Coalition Releases Report "The Toxic Silence of the Lamps")

Don’t Trash Fluorescent Lamps: The EcoWaste Coalition cautions the public against the improper handling, storage and disposal of busted fluorescent lamps that can result to breakage and the eventual escape of mercury vapor, which is harmful to human health, especially to babies, children, pregnant women and workers.  

The toxics watch group EcoWaste Coalition today aired the urgency to address the improper disposal of burned-out mercury-containing fluorescent lamps to curb mercury emissions that can contaminate the environment and harm human health.

At a press briefing held today in Quezon City, the group released its new report entitled “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” which contains over 150 photos taken from February 1 to March 8, 2018 showing inadequate and unsafe practices in the handling, storage and disposal of busted mercury lamps in 21 local government units in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

“We conducted this photo investigation to call attention to prevailing lamp waste management practices that are putting the health of the public, particularly the waste workers, at risk from cuts with glass shards and from mercury exposure,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The mercury vapor in the glass tube of fluorescent light bulbs can escape if the lamp is broken, dumped, burned or recycled in uncontrolled conditions, the group warned.  

At present, burned-out lamps are carelessly disposed of alongside household trash as well as construction and demolition debris, thrown on the streets, dumps, vacant lots and creeks, abandoned on corners and sidewalks with the ubiquitous “bawal magtapon ng basura dito”(do not throw garbage here) signage, and hauled to landfills.

“The threat to waste workers’ health is real and serious as they are not informed and protected against toxic substances lurking in the waste stream, including mercury from fluorescent lamps and other electronic wastes, thermometers, skin lightening products, and dental fillings,” Dizon said.    

According to the report, “waste workers who handle, collect, store and dispose of lamp wastes are particularly prone to chronic exposure to mercury from the moment such wastes are tossed to the garbage trucks and transported to dumpsites and landfills.”

Speaking at the press briefing, medical doctor and toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio said that “breathing mercury vapors is the most typical way to be exposed to this chemical poison, which can harm the nervous, digestive, renal, respiratory and immune systems.  Short-term or long-term exposure to mercury vapors will yield a variety of health problems.  Infants, young children, pregnant women and workers are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of mercury exposure.”

According to studies, the country generates approximately 50 million pieces of lamp wastes per year of which only 0.5 million pieces (1%) are treated off-site, 4 million pieces (8%) are stored, 3.5 million pieces (7%) are sold to junk shops, and 42 million pieces (84%) are disposed of as garbage.

There is no system yet for a free take-back of busted lamps in the country despite a joint administrative order issued in 2013 by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) directing the lighting industry to set up a systematic collection, transportation and disposal of lamp wastes, the report noted.

As per inventory assessment by the Environmental Management Bureau, 378.89 tons of mercury and mercury-containing wastes are emitted or released yearly into the environment, which include 23.5 and 2.20 tons from double-end fluorescent tubes and compact fluorescent lamps, respectively.

To promote the environmentally sound management of busted lamps and minimize mercury pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition has recommended the following action points:

a.  For the DOE to get the dormant US$1.37 million Lamp Waste Management Facility with mercury recovery up and running in 2018.

b.  For the DOE and the DENR to review the implementation of extended producer responsibility for lamp waste management.

c.  For the Government of the Philippines to proceed with the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2018 and the required concurrence by the Senate.

d. For the National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC), in collaboration with environmental health groups, to conduct public information and education on mercury lamp waste management.

e.  For municipal and city authorities to craft ordinance to ensure the inclusion and implementation of environmentally sound management of special wastes, including lamp wastes and other household hazardous wastes.

f. For the lighting industry to designate convenient collection programs and/or drop-off points for lamp waste, especially for household and small-sized lamp waste generators, with appropriate receptacles that will prevent breakage.

g.  For manufacturers to specify the mercury content on the lamp and its packaging and to indicate the following warning label as required by the Philippine National Standards: “WARNING: Contains Mercury, Handle with Care and Dispose of Properly.”

The EcoWaste Coalition will provide copies of “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps” to the DOE, DENR, NSWMC, the Philippine Lighting Industry Association and other concerned entities to generate concerted action to halt the unsafe disposal of mercury-containing lamp waste that can contaminate the surroundings and endanger the people and wildlife.  


Link to The Toxic Silence of the Lamps Study 2018 Edition: