Green Group Encourages Households to Reduce Waste during the COVID-19 Lockdown

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has appealed to all households to cut down on trash produced and disposed of during the novel coronavirus contagion.

While the volume of commercial waste has declined as expected due to the closure of most establishments in a bid to keep the contagion in check, the amount of household waste may increase with more people staying at home, consuming more perishables, or ordering ready-to-eat food wrapped in single-use packaging, the group said.

“As we need to reduce what we throw away in normal and even in abnormal times, we appeal to each and every household to take concrete steps to avoid the production of garbage,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

According to the group, preventing and reducing the generation of household garbage during the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak will yield a number of benefits for human health and the environment such as the following:

1. Protecting residents and waste workers from being exposed to disease-causing germs.
2. Depriving disease-carrying pests such as mosquitoes and rats of places to breed and live.
3. Avoiding the disposal of useful resources that can be repaired, reused, recycled or composted.
4. Minimizing single-use plastic packaging waste.
5. Reducing greenhouse gases formed in disposal sites, such as methane from food and yard waste, that contributes to climate change.
6. Preventing the leakage of waste and chemical pollutants into the marine ecosystems that can threaten aquatic life.

The group also emphasized the importance of separating discards as a key measure to control potential coronavirus infection of formal and informal waste workers who often handle waste with minimal protective masks, gloves, and garments.

“While the coronavirus is transmitted mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets, it is also possible for a person to get infected by touching contaminated surfaces or objects and then touching his mouth, nose or eyes. This is why we need to be extra careful on how used face masks, tissues and wipes are disposed of, which are often mixed with other trash and collected by unprotected waste workers,” he said.

To curb wasteful and unhealthy practices, as well as to keep trash safe for waste workers to handle, the EcoWaste Coalition has come up with these 25-point ecofriendly suggestions in the time of coronavirus:

1. Prepare a list of things you need before heading out to the grocery, supermarket or public market to avoid frequent trips outside, as well as the long queues due to the physical distancing being enforced.

2. Plan ahead, write out your daily and weekly meal plan and stick to your chosen menu as much as possible.

3. Shun single-use plastic bags; bring reusable bags for dry goods and reusable containers for wet purchases.

4. Ask the cashier or bagger to put your purchases in a box if you forgot to bring reusable bags and containers with you.

5. Refrain from buying products wrapped in wasteful single-use packaging.

6. Check the “best before,” “use by” or expiration date on the product label and pick items with a longer shelf life.

7. Buy healthy food for snacks like saba banana, cassava, sweet potato, fruits and vegetables, the peels of which can also be composted.

8. Eat more real foods, and cut back on overly processed foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar.

9. To reduce packaging waste that comes with food delivery, opt not to receive single-use utensils, straws and stirrers.

10. Shun throw-away cups, plates and cutlery; wash reusable items thoroughly in between uses.

11. Strictly observe “zero food waste” at home; only cook or prepare food that can be consumed.

12. Create just enough home-cooked meals based on your weekly meal plan.

13. Make use of your freezer to extend the life of perishable foods.

14. Store food and leftovers properly in clean and labeled containers in the fridge or freezer.

15. Safely recycle food scraps and leftovers; turn excess vegetables into broth or stock.

16. Give leftovers to pets or stray animals; mind the chicken bones.

17. Sort and shred fruit and vegetable discards for home-based composting and gardening.

18. Collect and dry seeds for planting or giveaways; reuse empty containers for seedlings.

19. Combine vinegar and citrus peels into a homemade cleaning agent.

20. Use reusable rags to clean up rather than paper towels.

21. Conserve water; collect water from hand washing and use it for flushing the toilet.

22. Reuse water for washing rice, fruits and vegetables to water the plants.

23. Do not mix household waste; separate discards into different bins, repair, reuse or recycle the non-biodegradables, compost the biodegradables, safely store and dispose of hazardous waste.

24. Put soiled masks, tissues, wipes and other potentially infectious waste on a separate bag and keep them segregated from other discards.

25. Do not leave garbage bags or cans outside the door or gate; wait for the waste collection truck to arrive.