Watchdog Cautions the Public against Open Burning

Quezon City. As the summer season sizzles and urbanites flee to Holy Week destinations outside Metro Manila, a waste and pollution watchdog rings the alarm bells after receiving reports on open burning in the provinces.

“Urban residents who are heading off for the countryside this Holy Week will find no respite from the onslaught of air pollution if the rampant burning of agricultural and other discards in rural areas does not stop,” warned Neneng Jocson of the Krusada sa Kalikasan, a member of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force Ecological Agriculture.

Text messages sent to the EcoWaste Coalition by concerned citizens show numerous incidents of open burning of dayami (rice straws), cogon grass, fallen leaves, plastics and other typical household trash in the provinces.

One texter from Pangasinan, for instance, complained about farmers torching rice paddies and the ensuing pollution. There were also reports of open burning in Bataan (Pilar), Batangas (San Juan), Cavite (Carmona, Dasmarinas, General Trias, GMA, Naic, Silang, Tanza, Trece Martirez), Laguna (Siniluan), Pampanga (Magalang), Nueva Ecija (Gapan, San Leonardo, Santa Rosa), and Rizal (Antipolo, Morong, Tanay).

“Open burning is a destructive practice that razes valuable materials which should have been recycled back to nature or commerce. Apart from ending the resource cycle, open burning releases lots of toxins such as cancer-causing and climate-warming chemicals,” explained Roy Alvarez of the Earth Renewal Project, another partner group of the Coalition.

Incinerating discards is so detrimental to public health, environment and economy that our lawmakers have to ban it under the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act to protect the public health and the environment, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

To draw public attention on this burning issue, the EcoWaste Coalition has published a thought-provoking poster entitled “Nawawala nga ba? that stresses the failure of open burning in truly eliminating trash with the formation of chemical residues.

The poster comes with an accompanying fact sheet on dioxins and furans, the most notorious toxic byproducts of open burning.

The EcoWaste Coalition plans to disseminate the information widely through its partner groups, the mass media and the leagues of barangays, municipalities, cities and provinces.

The smoke and ash from open burning, warned the EcoWaste Coalition, can contain dangerous fine particles that can accelerate global warming and trigger respiratory diseases, and a host of carcinogenic or cancer-promoting substances.

Some of the known carcinogens or cancer-promoting substances emitted from open burning include dioxins, furans, arsenic, benzene, cadmium, chromium, lead and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Dioxins and furans, the EcoWaste Coalition fact sheet says, can cause cancer of several types in humans, including cancers of the lungs, stomach, liver and soft and connective tissues, and non-Hodgkins lymphoma. These chemicals have already been implicated in the increased incidence of breast cancer.

Chronic exposure to dioxins and furans can also result to adverse reproductive effects. For men, exposure to dioxins and furans can lead to reduced size of genitals, reduced sperm counts, abnormal testis, lower testosterone levels, and fewer male births. And decreased fertility, ovarian dysfunction, endometriosis and hormone disruption for women.

“Ecological alternatives to burning rice straws and other discards exist. If implemented, we’ll dramatically cut CO2 emissions, while conserving our country’s diminishing resources and ensuring food security and public health,” organic farmer Ed Guevarra of the Geo Farm said.

To help the public move away from open burning and reduce the risk of cancer and other serious ailments, the EcoWaste Coalition is promoting creative reuse and recycling ideas for discards that often get burned.

RICE STRAWS. Turn the “dayami” into organic compost fertilizer or them as fodder for livestock, as substrates for cultivating mushrooms or as raw material for special papers.

GRASS CUTTINGS. Grasscyle by leaving grass clippings on the lawn where they will break down naturally and, in the process, feed the soil with valuable nutrients.

LEAVES. Compost fallen leaves into organic soil amendment or chop the leaves and turn them into leaf mulch for your garden.

WOOD SCRAPS. Create alternative toys, furniture or fixtures out of discarded lumber or wood scraps.

BOTTLE AND TIN CONTAINERS. Reuse clean bottles and tin cans into flower vases, pen and pencil holders and containers for office and kitchen stuff.

PLASTIC BAGS. Cut clean used plastic carry bags into strips and weave them into functional bags.

NEWSPAPERS. Use old newspapers to cover books and wrap gifts. Shred or crumple newspapers as an alternative to plastic bubble wrap, or turn them into paper carry bags.

USED PAPER. Sew, glue or fasten used school or office paper into a drawing, memo or note pad.

CANDY WRAPPERS. Turn candy wrappers into colorful party lei. Keep the candy foil (palara) for school art projects or turn wrappers into children’s clutch or wallet.

JUICE PACKS. Make bags, purses, folders, trays and storage boxes from doy packs.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846