17 December 2017

Holiday Reminder: Prevent, Reduce and Safely Manage Your E-Waste

With holiday shopping in full swing, a toxics watch group wasted no time in reminding consumers to think about public health and the environment as electrical appliances and electronic gadgets are replaced with something new and eventually discarded.

To promote e-waste prevention, reduction and safe management, the non-profit EcoWaste Coalition today conducted a public outreach at Quezon Memorial Circle to inform the public about e-waste, which is described as “one of the fastest growing waste streams” across the globe.

The event followed the release last December 13 of the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017 by the International Telecommunication Union, United Nations University and the International Solid Waste Association indicating the rising levels of e-waste and its improper and usafe treatment and disposal through burning or dumping.  Globally, some 44.7 million metric tonnes of e-waste were generated in 2016 or 6.1 kg per inhabitant. Filipinos  produced 2 to 5 kg of e-waste per inhabitant, according to the report.  Experts estimate that e-waste generation will reach 52.2 million metric tonnes by 2021.

“Broken appliances, outmoded gadgets, busted lamps and other unwanted electrical and electronic products that are improperly recycled, burned or disposed of can pollute the environment with health-damaging chemicals,” cautioned Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Among the hazardous substances that make up electrical and electronic equipment and their wastes are heavy metals such as cadmium, hexavalent chromium, lead and mercury, and persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDes) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), among dozens of other toxic chemical compounds.

The EcoWaste Coalition explained that reckless disposal practices can result in the release of these nasty chemicals, some of which like mercury, PBDEs and PCBs are covered by multilateral environmental agreements like the Minamata Convention on Mercury and the Stockholm Convention on POPs.  

When e-wastes such as vinyl-coated cables are burned to get the copper wire, harmful byproduct POPs like dioxins and furans are formed and released to the environment, the group explained.  Dioxins are considered as among “the most toxic chemicals known to science.”

Fluorescent lamps when dumped with ordinary trash or manually dismantled to remove the metal parts for recycling will release the mercury vapor out of the glass tubing and cause toxic pollution, the group added.  Exposure to mercury, a potent neurotoxin, can damage the brain and the central nervous system.

When the plastic casings of cathode ray tube TVs and computer monitors are incinerated or landfilled, toxic PBDEs are released contaminating the environment. PBDEs are among the new POPs targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention.

During the event, members of the San Vicente Elementary School Children’s Rondalla played Christmas songs as EcoWaste Coalition volunteers donning headgears with images of mobile phone, TV, laptop and other electrical and electronic products drew public attention on the hazads of e-waste.  

According to the leaflet “E-Waste ‘to, Iwasto!,” “e-wastes should be returned to their manufacturers for proper management as an ideal solution.  Otherwise, e-wastes should be managed by accredited treatment, storage and disposal facility.  These can be effectively done by instituting appropriate drop-off or collection points for their safe and ecological retrieval/collection, storage, and recycling or disposal.” 

The leaflet was prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition for the “Safe PCB and E-Waste Management Project” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with assistance from Global Environment Facility and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization.

To avoid and minimize the creation of e-waste this Yuletide season, the EcoWaste Coalition requested consumers to consider the following tips:

1. Extend the life of your existing electronics instead of buying new ones. Consider whether you truly need to get new ones before rushing to buy the latest stuff. 
2. Have broken electronics repaired.
3. Have outdated component of an electronic product refurbished or upgraded instead of buying an entirely new replacement.
4.  Never dispose of unwanted but still usable electronics.  Pass them on to relatives and friends for reuse or donate to charities and schools. What might be of no use to you, might come in handy for some people.
5.  Collect spent household batteries, cellphone batteries, fluorescent lamps, empty ink cartridges and the like, label and safely store them in a container with cover and kept out of reach of children and pets.  These should be safely managed or disposed of in an environmentally-sound manner and not mixed with regular waste.
6. Visit the manufacturer’s website or call the dealer to find out if they have a take-back program or scheme for your discarded electronics.
7. If you really need to spend for new electronics, choose items with less hazardous substances, with greater recycled content, with higher energy efficiency, with longer life span, and those that will produce less waste.
8.  Take good care of your electronic device – whether it’s brand new, refurbished or hand-me down - as sound maintenance will prolong its lifespan.  Read the instruction manual carefully and get acquainted and trained on easy fix-it-yourself guide.
9. Make it a point to have your e-scrap properly recycled by authorized recyclers so that they don’t end up as e-waste to be thrown away or burned.

Link to the Global E-Waste Monitor 2017


13 December 2017

Group Urges Consumers to Shun Toxic Christmas Presents

As the holiday shopping season gets underway, a chemical safety watch group reminded consumers to be on the lookout for potentially dangerous gift products in the marketplace.

After releasing its list of hazardous toys (haztoys) last Monday, the EcoWaste Coalition today has come up with a new list of non-toy gift items that are laden with hidden toxins such as cadmium and lead.

“With Christmas just a few days away, we see consumers packing out malls to buy heaps of holiday presents for relatives, colleagues and friends.  Retail stores in Divisoria, the hub of cheap finds, are enjoying brisk sales for various gifts imaginable,” observed Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“But, as we all know, not all gift items are created equal.  As not all products are regulated or are compliant with quality and safety standards, it is not uncommon to find harmful chemicals in some gift items above levels of concern,” he said.

"Furthermore, these items are inadequately labeled, providing not even a clue on their toxic composition," he added. 

To alert and to educate consumers about the undisclosed toxic substances lurking in some gift items, the EcoWaste Coalition on Sunday and Monday bought assorted gift items from 11/88, 168. 999 and Lucky Chinatown shopping malls in Divisoria and from retail stores in Quiapo.

The products costing P40 to P140 each were then screened for toxic metals using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.  

Comprising the group’s list of 12 hazardous gifts (hazgifts) are:

1. Spongebob coffee mug, P50, with 15,800 ppm lead and 974 ppm cadmium

2. Fashion Milk Cup, P140, with 15,600 ppm lead and 2,020 ppm cadmium

3. Champion coffee mug, P70, with 12,300 ppm lead and 687 ppm cadmium

4.  Xiao Dang Ja coffee mug, P60, with 11,000 ppm lead and 3,086 ppm cadmium

5.  Santa Claus-themed plate, P100, with 10,500 ppm lead and 2,947 ppm cadmium

6.  Christmas bells-themed plate, P40, with 6798 ppm lead and 3,855 ppm cadmium

7.  Fashion Cup with Minion characters, P50, with 3,982 ppm lead and 1,661 ppm cadmium

8.  Christmas ball-themed plate, P40, with 3,441 ppm lead and 1,207 ppm cadmium

9.  Enfill de Jouer coin purse, P50, with 2,678 ppm lead

10.  Santa Claus coffee mug, P40, with 3,298 ppm lead and 2,288 ppm cadmium

11.  Saglife black and yellow body bag, P100, with 1,511 ppm lead

12.  Pikachu sling bag, P80, with 1,079 ppm lead and 222 ppm cadmium

"Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal and the respiratory systems, and is classified as a human carcinogen," according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Lead, according to the WHO, is "a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems, including the neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal systems."  

Cadmium and lead belong to WHO’s list of “ten chemicals of major public health concern." 

Cadmium and lead and their compounds are also listed in the Philippine Priority Chemicals List, which includes chemical substances that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources has “determined to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace, and the environment.”





12 December 2017

Groups Give Waste Incineration Bill Thumbs Down

Green groups belonging to No Burn Pilipinas alliance denounced  the approval yesterday by the House of Representatives (HoR) Committee on Ecology of a bill repealing the waste incineration ban under R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act of 1999.

The Bangon Kalikasan Movement, EcoWaste Coalition, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Health Care Without Harm and the Mother Earth Foundation criticized the committee for hastily giving the nod to the Regulation of Thermal Treatment Technology Act proposed by Aklan Rep. Carlito Marquez and others that consequently revokes Section 20 of R.A. 8749.

Considered a milestone in pollution prevention, the incineration ban disallows “the burning of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes.”  R.A. 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, reinforced the ban by requiring the “adoption of the best practice in ecological waste management excluding incineration.”

Decrying the absence of serious efforts by the HoR  to conduct balanced and comprehensive studies on the issue, green groups slammed the Committee for the haste and lack of transparency that attended the process, especially given the serious health, socio-economic, and public health implications of the proposed measure.

Currently marketed by the industry as so-called “waste-to-energy” plants, these facilities, aside from increasing cancer risks, are more expensive than coal and nuclear plants, more harmful to the climate than coal, and generate very little electricity while burning up resources that may still be recovered, reused or recycled, the groups asserted.

“The pro-incineration bill is unconstitutional and threatens to create  massive disaster to the environment and irreversible damage to the health of all people, especially children for generations to come," stated Joey Papa, President, Bangon Kalikasan Movement. 

Papa pointed out that incineration violates  Section 16 of the Philippine Constitution of 1987 ("The State shall protect and advance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature."); Section 20 of R.A. 8749 ("Incineration... the burning of municipal, biomedical, and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes, is hereby prohibited."); and  Section 3 of R.A. 9003 ("Resource recovery shall refer to the collection, extraction or recovery of recyclable materials from the waste stream for the purpose of recycling, generating energy or producing a product suitable for beneficial use: Provided that such resource recovery facilities exclude incineration."). 

“Far from solving our garbage woes, the lifting of the incineration ban as proposed by some lawmakers will only compound our problems as incinerators can inflict harm to human health and the ecosystems, contribute significantly to environmental pollution and global warming, and fuel an unsustainable system of unbridled production, crass consumerism, and throw-away culture," said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Burning trash is a regressive approach to waste management that is being phased out in other parts of the world which are now pursuing a more sustainable circular economy,” said Lea Guerrero, climate and clean energy campaigner of Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA). “Our lawmakers must reject this bill. We are also calling on President Rodrigo Duterte to seriously reconsider his plans to pursue incineration which puts the Filipino people’s welfare and the environment at risk.”

"Incineration will be tantamount to national regression.  It will be an illogical step backward.  We already have the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which adheres to the ways and rhythms of nature, the best in the world.  Instead of making it work with the needed political will, why would we go to a dangerous, expensive technology that many advanced nations are turning their back on?," said Dr. Angelina Galang, President, Green Convergence.

“No Burn Pilipinas believes that the haste surrounding the bill is highly irregular and deplorable given that what is under deliberation will undermine cornerstone environmental laws,” said Ramon San Pascual, executive director of Health Care Without Harm. “This issue deserves more deliberation and public discussion than the hurried token consultations our honorable representatives have deemed sufficient.”

According to Sonia Mendoza, chairman of Mother Earth Foundation, “The push to repeal the incineration ban will undermine source segregation, recycling, and other Zero Waste strategies that conserve precious resources, avoid toxic pollution, and generate livelihoods and jobs. Instead of overturning the prohibition on waste burning, Congress should in fact strengthen it by supporting the strict implementation of RA 9003 through innovative Zero Waste projects in the country.”

No Burn Pilipinas is an alliance of civil society groups who are advocating Zero Waste technologies and are calling on the government to uphold the ban on waste incineration.


11 December 2017

Watch Group Names 10 Haztoys (Hazardous Toys) to Tip Off Consumers on Toys to Avoid this Christmas

A non-profit watch group promoting children’s health and safety today released a list of toys that may put a child at risk of physical injuries and chemical exposures.

“Children are uniquely susceptible to the negative effects of shoddily made and chemically laden toys as their immature bodies and minds are still growing and developing,  It is the responsibility of  toy manufacturers, distributors and vendors, and even individual toy givers, to offer toys that meet quality and safety standards in recognition of the right of children to safe games and toys to play with,” reminded Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“While all children are vulnerable to injuries and chemical exposures, children from families living in poverty may be at increased risk due to their lack of purchasing power and their lack of access to product safety information, justice and redress,” he added.

In a bid to keep unsafe toys out of children’s hands, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with a list of hazardous toys (haztoys) that are often sold without the required market authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the country’s toy regulator.

“Through this list, we hope to hammer home the need for consumer awareness and vigilance against unsafe toys this Christmas season,” Dizon said.  “It is not an exhaustive list of toys in the market that may present various health and safety hazards to innocent children,” he clarified.

Among those that landed on the EcoWaste Coalition’s list of 10 “haztoys” are baby rattles, fidget spinners, a xylophone, doll figures, a “Shrilling Chicken,” duck bath toys, toy artificial nails, a Rubik’s Cube-like toy, a toy car, and battle swords. 

I. Baby Rattles.  Sold very cheaply for as low as P15, rattles come in various types and sizes and are often sold without choking hazard warnings in violation of R.A. 10620, or the Toy and Game Safety Labeling Act.  Rattles can break and release the small beads, bearings or balls inside, posing a choking hazard to helpless babies.  

II. Fidget Spinners.  Also called hand spinners, these popular toys contain bearings and bushings that many come off and get ingested by children.  Aside from its small parts that may detach and its pointed edges that may cause cuts or lacerations, the EcoWaste Coalition found a “Ninja Animation” hand spinner adorned with a yellow paint containing dangerous lead concentrations amounting to 125,100 parts per million (ppm), way above the 90 ppm limit.  Lead, a toxic metal, can wreak havoc on the developing brain, leading to reduced intelligence.  

III. “Wonderful Music Xylophone.”  While lead was not detected on the other coated metal bars of this musical instrument, the orange bar was found to contain 10,800 ppm total lead, in violation of the 90 ppm limit under the DENR’s Chemical Control Order for Lead and Lead Compounds.

IV: Doll Figures.  Cadmium, a carcinogenic chemical, was detected on the paint coatings of these unlabeled dolls at 1,200 ppm.  Like lead, cadmium can disrupt the development of a child’s brain, causing learning disabilities.

V. Shrilling Chicken.  This “screaming” chicken toy may contain banned substances such as di(2- ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) and short chain chlorinated paraffins (SCPPs).  A laboratory analysis contracted by the EcoWaste Coalition found a sample of Shrilling Chicken laden with 19.1% DEHP, exceeding the 0.1% limit.  Luxembourg banned Shrilling Chicken in 2017, Spain in 2016, and the Czech Republic in 2014 due to its DEHP content.  Sweden banned it in 2013 for containing highly toxic SCPPs.

VI. Floating Duck Bath Toy.  Supposedly a fun companion for babies during bath time, this toy may contain DEHP.  A laboratory test commissioned by the EcoWaste Coalition found a vinyl rubber duck laced with 18.87% DEHP, way above the 0.1% limit.

VII. Toy Fashion Nail Set.  The adhesive used to attach these artificial nails contains Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), which is listed among the substances that must not form part of cosmetic products under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.  According to a health warning by the FDA, “DBP has the ability to cause allergic reactions, (which) can induce a state of hypersensitivity in the immune system.”

VIII. Dian Sheng Eatena Puzzle Cube.  This Rubik’s Cube-like toy tested positive for toxic flame retardant chemicals OctaBDE and DecaBDE, which are commonly found in the plastic casings of cathode ray tube TVs and computer monitors.   Based on tests conducted at the Czech Republic in 2015, this China-made toy purchased in the Philippines contains 108 ppm of OctaBDE and 293 ppm of DecaBDE, which are chemicals know to disrupt human hormone systems, affecting the brain and the central nervous system. 

IX. Police Cool SUV.  Sold on the sidewalk for P20, this plastic toy car contains 1,380 ppm of bromine, an indicator that the material may contain polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) from recycled e-waste plastics. PBDEs are targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants.

X. Battle Swords.  These toy weapons measuring 25 to 30 inches long have the potential to cause blunt force injuries to the eyes, face and body due to the plastic blade, especially when played without adult supervision.

“We hope consumers will heed our call for toy safety.  All children deserve nothing less than safe toys that are well-designed, durable, age-appropriate, and non toxic,” Dizon emphasized.


07 December 2017

EcoWaste Coalition Urges the Public to Cut Down on Holiday Trash (Holitrash) with 3Rs and More

With Christmas rapidly approaching, a waste and pollution watch group today drew attention to what each and every person or household can do to lessen what it calls the enormous holiday trash or “holitrash.”

At an event held at the Quirino Elementary School (QES) in Quezon City, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the tons of “holitrash,” if not kept in check, would end up being disposed of in streets, waterways, dumpsites, incinerators, or in the oceans, which are already choking with plastics and trash.   The group chose “Christmasaya kapag walang aksaya” as the perfect theme for the occasion.

“The volume of waste produced is expected to soar as people shop, party, dine and have fun during the joyful season.  Sad to say, the throwaway culture is at its worst as the birth of the Redeemer is recalled and celebrated.  In Metro Manila, for instance, per capita waste generation during Christmastime is estimated to rise from 0.7 kilo to 1.2 kilo,” said Daniel Alejandre, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

The most discarded items during the extended celebration of Christmas and New Year include paper and plastic shopping bags; all sorts of packaging materials; party wares, including single-use paper and plastic beverage and food containers; bags, boxes and wrappers for gifts; and tons of food waste, according to the group.

“The humongous ‘holitrash’ situation is aggravated by the poor segregation of discards at source, and the toxic byproduct waste from the lighting of firecrackers and pyrotechnic devices,” he added.

“But the situation is not entirely hopeless.  We can curb what we throw away by applying the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) and by keeping Christ in the manger, an utmost reminder of the simplicity of Christmas, at the heart of the festive celebration,” he pointed out.

QES students, applying the 3Rs, flaunted a creatively made lantern adorned with used spoons and bottle lids, a Belen made of juice packs, and a Christmas tree from PET bottles.

The EcoWaste Coalition also showed assorted Christmas decorations fashioned out of typical household discards such as snack packs, soda cans, textile scraps, fabric conditioner containers, plastic bottles, etc.   
To further reduce the generation of garbage, the EcoWaste Coalition reminded holiday shoppers to bring a stash of reusable bags and containers and to shun both paper and plastic bags to cut on bag waste. 

Gift givers can opt not to wrap Christmas presents to minimize the use of wrappers.  If wrapping is desired, reuse old bandannas, handkerchiefs, fabric remnants, jars, shoe boxes, newspapers and magazines, the group suggested. 

The group reminded those hosting or organizing Christmas parties to opt for washable and reusable tableware and party supplies in lieu of disposable ones, which may be “convenient,” but certainly wasteful.

As garbage is produced by putting discards together in one bin, the group stressed the need to keep discards properly segregated to facilitate their reusing, recycling or composting.

Non-biodegradable discards such as aluminum and tin cans, glass and plastic bottles, and other materials can be repurposed, reused or recycled, while biodegradable discards such as food waste can be fed to animals or turned into compost to enrich the soil, the group said.

The group emphasized that the open burning discards is not only unlawful but also detrimental to human health and the environment.  Open burning can lead to the formation and release of persistent organic pollutants and greenhouse gases that cause environmental pollution, global warming and climate change.

Finally, the group urged the public to opt for a quieter celebration without firecrackers and fireworks to prevent the generation of toxic smoke and waste, noting that firecracker and pyrotechnic residues are laden with hazardous chemicals and cannot be recycled.