JANUARY is designated “Zero Waste Month” in the Philippines but the first month of the year ominously began with tons of foul smelling garbage strewn all over the streets of Metro Manila, the product of the New Year’s eve revelry.
According to environmentalists, this situation proves that their continuing pleas to the public to make the New Year’s eve celebration environment and health friendly generally fell on deaf ears.
In a statement released on the first day of 2017, the EcoWaste Coalition, an environment and public health watchdog, lamented the presence of mountains of holitrash (“holiday trash”) that again sullied the parks, streets and sidewalks of the metropolis after the lively celebrations.
“The post-revelry garbage situation is inexcusable,” stated Eileen Sison, EcoWaste Coalition president.
“Ironically, today is also the start of the Zero Waste Month that is meant to promote waste prevention and reduction for a cleaner and greener Philippines,” she said
On New Year’s Day, members of the EcoWaste Coalition again went to Divisoria, the Philippine capital city’s bargain district, to bear witness to the trashing of Manila’s streets and to assist the city personnel in removing rubbish off Recto Avenue and adjacent streets.
Armed with rakes and shovels, EcoWaste volunteers also held a placard that says “Ganito tayo noon, ganito pa din ba tayo ngayon? Basura everywhere!” and a banner with a clear message that sums up what should be done instead: “Go Zero Waste: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Huwag Mag-aksaya, Magtambak at Magsunog ng Basura.”
“The unchecked dumping of all types of trash on the streets is not only appalling and irresponsible, but outrightly illegal,” Sison said.
“Littering, throwing, dumping of waste matters in public places such as roads, sidewalks, canals,esteros or parks, and establishment, or causing or permitting the same,” is prohibited and punishable under Section 48 of Republic Act 2003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act.
“We must also point out that what we find being dumped on the streets are mixed discards, including recyclable items that should have been returned to factories and compostable materials that should have been returned to Mother Earth through composting,” Sison said.
Discarded food containers, especially those made of polystyrene plastic, food leftovers, plastic and paper packaging, firecracker residues and other residuals are among the typical waste materials spotted.
“The plastics in garbage heaps are most conspicuous even in cities like Manila that supposedly passed a plastic use reduction ordinance way back in 2012,” Sison said.
With the onset of 2017, the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its commitment to work with the government and the citizenry in pursuing socially just and sustainable solutions to the nation’s garbage and toxic woes.
In particular, the group pledged to continue with its drive to push for the genuine enforcement of R.A. 9003, as well as R.A. 8749, or the Clean Air Act and other related environmental laws.
“As we commemorate the Zero Waste Month, we would like to assure the public of our steadfast conviction to pursue real solutions to our waste and toxic problems in an environmentally-sound way that will apply the principles of precaution, prevention and public participation,” the group said.