EcoWaste Coalition Urges Enforcement of Ban against Open Burning to Improve Air Quality

A waste and pollution watchdog has appealed to the government to vigorously implement the ban on open burning to reduce human exposure to environmental toxicants.

“We call upon concerned national and local authorities to resolutely enforce the ban on open burning to eliminate hazardous emissions from the combustion of discards. This will reduce smoke pollution and improve the air quality, while conserving resources that can be put to good use,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Section 48 of R.A. 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000,prohibits and penalizes the open burning of discards with a fine of P300 to P1,000 or imprisonment of 1 to 15 days, or both.

The group made the appeal prior to a government-sponsored “Clean Air Summit for Metro Manila” on February 29 to be led by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Health and other agencies.

Instead of open burning that results to climate and chemical pollution, the EcoWaste Coalition urges households, institutions, factories and farms to reduce, reuse and recycle their discards and turn food scraps, garden trimmings and farm residues into compost or mulch.

Data from the 2006 National Emission Inventory by the DENR indicate that pollutants from mobile sources such as buses, cars, jeeps, motorcycles, tricycles and trucks contribute 65% to air pollution, while stationary sources such as factories,heavy industries and power plants discharge 21 % and area sources such as agricultural and solid waste burning, construction and related activities emit 14%.

“The smoke from the open burning of discards is laden with health-damaging gases and particles that can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, trigger asthma attacks and cause or aggravate other diseases,” Alvarez said.

“Babies, young children, the elderly and persons suffering from allergies and respiratory ailments are most vulnerable to smoke pollution,” he emphasized.

Studies have shown that open burning of waste emits greenhouse gases (GHGs) such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane.

Aside from GHGs, the smoke from open burning contains many other harmful substances such as acrolein, formaldehyde, particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds and persistent organic pollutants such as dioxins.

Dioxins, in particular, have been linked to increased risk of cancer,decreased sperm levels and other reproductive defects, immune system injuries,heart disease, diabetes, chloracne, skin discoloration and rashes.

Citing a definition by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the EcoWaste Coalition said that open burning refers to “the combustion of unwanted combustible materials such as paper, wood, plastics,textiles, rubber, waste oils and other debris in open-air or in open dumps,where smoke and other emissions are released directly into the air without passing through a chimney or stack.”

According to the IPCC, “open burning can also include incineration devices that do not control the combustion air to maintain an adequate temperature and do not provide sufficient residence time for complete combustion.”