EcoWaste Coalition Calls on the Public Not to Trash the Cemeteries

Quezon City. A waste and pollution watchdog has called on the public to observe the upcoming All Saints’/All Souls’Days in a manner that will truly honor the dead by keeping the cemeteries and surrounding communities trash-free.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of more than 100 groups, made the timely appeal as Catholic Filipinos make ready to visit the cemeteries in huge numbers to pay respect to departed relatives and friends.

“The beautiful tradition of remembering the dead has become a huge garbage challenge with the supposedly hallowed burial sites instantly turning into dumpsites by insensitive visitors,” observed Roy Alvarez, President of the EcoWaste Coalition.

“Let us respect the dead and not desecrate the cemeteries with trash,” he pleaded.

“The fragile state of the earth’s climate should rouse us into simplifying our rituals and make do with less candles, flowers, meals and definitely less plastic disposables,” he added.

“Through a waste-free ‘Undas,’ we also curb the climate impact of our memorial day for the dead, increase the recovery and recycling of resources and lessen the amount of trash going into the dumpsites,” he added.

The drive for an eco-friendly “Undas” has earned the backing of a Catholic Church leader.

“We join the EcoWaste Coalition in exhorting the faithful to think about the environment of the living when remembering our dearly departed,” stated Caloocan Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr.

“Please cut back on garbage, noise and air pollution for a healthier environment for all,” Bishop Iñiguez, who also heads the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said.

To guide the public in observing an eco-friendly “Undas,” the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with practical suggestions for cemetery administrators, entrepreneurs and the general public.

Among those who provided suggestions were Bishop Deogracias S. Iñiguez, Jr., Franciscan priest Father Pete Montallana, statesman ex-Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. and environmental leaders from Buklod Tao, Citizens Concerned with Advocating Philippine Environmental Sustainability, Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, Mother Earth Foundation, Sagip Sierra Madre Environmental Society and the EcoWaste Coalition Secretariat.

I. For cemetery administrators, the Ecowaste Coalition suggests the following:

1. Carry out a recycling program within their sites, including the possibility of engaging the service of waste pickers in adjacent neighborhoods.

2. Put up “recycling stations” (at the minimum two separate bins for biodegradable and non-biodegradable discards), especially in high traffic areas (entrances, exits, toilets, vendor areas etc.).

3. Hang cloth banners in strategic spots to announce that the cemetery is a “waste-free zone” and that everyone is enjoined not to litter, dump or set discards, including grass clippings, ablaze.

4. Integrate the ecological management of discards in catering and vendor rules and regulations, including essential waste prevention and reduction requisites.

5. Orient and require other potential waste generators such as the accredited volunteer support groups to abide by the cemetery waste policy.

6. Make use of the public address system to politely inform and persuade all to support the cemetery’s effort to avoid and cut trash.

II. For ambulant merchants, fastfood stalls and other business shops, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes the following:

1. Refrain from giving away plastic disposables such as bags, straws, cups and other single-use plastic items. Hand them out only upon request.

2. Serve food and beverage in reusable glasses and mugs, plates and cutlery.

3. Courteously show your customers where to put their discards for recycling or disposal.

4. Bring your own trash bags or bins, avoid them from overflowing, and keep your areas clean at all times.

5. Make a final sweep of your assigned spaces, ensuring that all trash has been properly removed.

III. For the general public, the Ecowaste Coalition makes the following suggestions:

1. Clean the tombs of your departed ones without causing pollution, for example, from the burning of grass and plant cuttings and garbage piles.

2. Walk, bike, carpool or take the public transportation to the cemeteries.

3. Select clean-burning candles that do not yield black fumes or ash. Lit a reasonable number only to minimize heat and pollution. Do not let candles’ plastic receptacles or holders to burn.

4. Offer local fresh flowers, not plastic ones, or consider bringing potted plants and flowers instead. Simple, inexpensive flowers will do. Avoid wrapping floral or plant offerings in plastic, which will sooner or later end up as trash.

5. Don’t play loud music, tone down noise in the cemetery and help make the place conducive for prayers and for family bonding, too.

6. Bring your own water jug to avoid purchasing bottled water. Please watch “The Story of Bottled Water” to find out why: http://storyofstuff.org/bottledwater/

7. Go for waste-free meals. YES to reusable carriers, containers and utensils such as lunchboxes and thermos, cloth napkins and silverwares. NO to throw-away bags, wraps, foil or Styrofoam, paper napkins, and forks and spoons. Also, refrain from patronizing junkfood and go for simple yet nutritious home-prepared “baon.”

8. Buy less or only as much as you know you will consume for items such as food and beverage. Bring “bayong” or other reusable bags to carry your stuff and purchases, and refuse plastic bags and wrappers from vendors.

9. Cut your waste size by not creating trash in the first place such as by purchasing products with the least amount of packaging and avoiding single-use plastic disposables.

10. Take full responsibility for your discards. Put them into the recycling bins and never litter. Better still, bring your own discards bags and bring them home for sorting, reusing, recycling or composting. Remember to leave the resting places of your loved ones litter-free.

Buklod Tao, a member group of the EcoWaste Coalition, has kindly offered to receive used Undas flowers and leaves for shredding in their facility. They will also accept discarded fruit juice doi packs that community members will recycle into bags and other functional items. Buklod Tao is located at 7 Dama de Noche, Barangay Banaba, San Mateo, Rizal.