Open Burning Endangers Public Health and the Environment

1 March 2007, Quezon City. “Don’t play with fire. Burning trash is dangerous to public health and the environment.”

This is the appeal of the EcoWaste Coalition as the country once again marks the Fire Prevention Month in March.

“We join the Bureau of Fire Protection in raising public awareness and action to prevent fires. Being an environmental group, we would like draw attention to the hazards of open burning and the availability of ecological alternatives to burning trash,” said Merci Ferrer of the Coalition’s Task Force on Open Burning and Incineration.

Despite being prohibited by Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, open burning remains a serious public health and environmental threat in both urban and rural communities, observed the EcoWaste Coalition.

“We appeal to local governments officials, specially at the barangay level, to implement R.A. 9003, conduct information and education campaigns on the hazards of open burning and strictly monitor compliance,” said Ferrer.

Open burning goes unchecked in dumpsites, farmlands, backyards and even in streets and parks. Unknown to many, the deliberate or spontaneous burning of discards is like a “silent killer,” discharging minuscule pollutants that can trigger headaches, irritate the eyes, throat and skin, impair respiratory functions and even cause cancers.

The EcoWaste Coalition identified some of the toxins discharged from burning commonly discarded household items. Burning plastics and chlorinated papers, for instance, releases dioxins, halogenated carbons and volatile organic compounds. Burning batteries discharges heavy metals like cadmium, lead and mercury, while burning leaves emits carbon monoxide and benzopyrene.

The waste and pollution campaign network cited five key reasons why the public should not burn their discards.

1) OPEN BURNING IS UNLAWFUL. R.A. 9003 prohibits the open burning of waste and requires the ecological management of discards that will not harm the environment. Violators can be fined from P300 to P1,000, or imprisoned from 1 to 15 days, or both. Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act of 1999 likewise bans and penalizes the incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous wastes.

2) OPEN BURNING IS TOXIC. Burning trash releases a cocktail of toxic chemicals some of which are targeted for global elimination under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) such as dioxins and furans. Burning plastics can be very problematic, with PVC plastic specifically contributing to high emissions of dioxin, a proven
human carcinogen according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). By-product smoke, filth and ash from open burning are known to contain particulate matters and other harmful substances.

3) OPEN BURNING POLLUTES THE FOOD SUPPLY. Dioxins and other chemicals released when trash is burned are deposited on leafy plants that are eaten by farm animals and ingested by fish. Studies show that dioxin accumulates in fatty tissue and is passed to humans through our consumption of dairy products, eggs, meat and fish.

4) OPEN BURNING WASTES RESOURCES. By setting discards ablaze, we squander valuable resources that could have been repaired, reused, recycled or composted. Fallen leaves and yard trimmings, for instance, could be turned into compost to nourish depleted soils.

5) OPEN BURNING CAUSES FIRES. Open burning can cause residential, forest and brush fires, especially during the scorching summer days.

The EcoWaste Coalition has come up with ten alternatives to the harmful practice of burning trash, emphasizing the need to consume responsibly, waste less and recycle even more.

1.) Reduce your waste and prevent noxious odors and keep flies, roaches and
rodents under control by not mixing discards.
2.) Reuse and recycle non-biodegradable discards such as papers, bottles and cans as many times as you can.
3.) Turn your biodegradable discards such as kitchen and garden trimmings into compost that can enhance soil fertility and health.
4.) Use second-hand, repaired and recycled products whenever available.
5.) Check for things that can be repaired or reused before deciding to
purchase new ones.
6.) Bring bayong or other reusable carry bags when you shop; refuse plastic bags.
7.) Reduce unnecessary packaging by buying in bulk or choosing items with the least packaging.
8.) Avoid throw-away items. Choose products that can be washed, stored and used again.
9.) Repair rather than throw or replace broken things.
10.) Give away unwanted stuff to neighbors or charities instead of putting them into the waste bins.

“For healthier neighborhoods, let us not litter, burn or dump our trash. Let us rekindle the bayanihan (communal spirit) to build Zero Waste communities,” appealed the EcoWaste Coalition.

For more information, please contact the Ecowaste Coalition at (02) 9290376 or ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com.


  • Hi. Is there a specific law banning the open burning of garden wastes or leaves (pagsisiga)? If there is, could you direct me to a specific line the law or a link stating it?

    We have a neighbor who regularly burn garden waste (everyday or every other day). Sometimes they even have three bonfires going at the same time. I want to write to our barangay about this but I have to back it up with an attachment of the specified law. I was told by our barangay kasi that burning of garden waste is allowed but I know that this has been prohibited already. Our neighbor isn't very friendly and simply doesn't care.

    Please help me. I have written to many agencies but none have replied. I live in Quezon City by the way, near PNoy's house.

  • We have the same problem in our subdivision's park (North Olympus Subdivision in QC). Settlers in our park(who are not homeowners) burn trash, mostly dried, fallen leaves and other litters, almost everyday and very, very close to base trunks of trees. The soil in their open burning areas already turned black.

    A week ago, a very big tree (maybe 40 years old above) fell not because of typhoon but because more than half the tree's base trunk width was already chipped away by constant exposure and so it broke and fell. Just three months ago, another big tree fell because of the same reason.

    Many trees, big and small, are already dying because of this "kaingin" mentality of park settlers. It seems, for these park settlers, that their notion of "cleanliness" is to burn everything they see on the ground — every leaf, plastic, branch and so on — and turn the soil black. They treat leaves as trash that's why when dried leaves piled up around tree trunks as a result of sweeping by a park sweeper, the "clean"-minded settlers or the ignorant tambay will set them ablaze.

    This park is just within the shouting distance to our clubhouse where our Homeowners' Association holds office. Sadly nothing is done whenever this bonfire burning-happy people starts this stupid habit.

    There is very, very little or no information at all about the important provisions of the Clean Air Act of 1999 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 which are applicable to our daily living. That;s is why many of our people are act and behave like incinerators.

    It would be a big help if the Ecowaste Coalition could conduct info drive or seminars in various subdivisions in Metro Manila, especially Quezon City.

  • ​I am from BF Homes, Paranaque, and our house is adjacent to Alabang Hills. ​The people at #73 Angeles St., Alabang Hills Village have been making ​charcoal​ for the past 2 weeks. We keep asking them to stop and they do not listen. Please help us make them stop. It is a fire hazard, not to mention the asthma, coughing, teary eyes, and air pollution that the smoke causes.

    Here are photos​ (posted on Facebook)​ documenting their illegal acts:

    Here is a video ​(also posted on Facebook) that ​I took​ just​ this morning:

    Please help stop them. Thank you.