Green Groups Say Visit of Pope Francis Should be Waste-Free, Include Informal Recyclers

Photo: Pope Francis greets Sergio Sanchez, “cartonero” from Argentina
church authorities have yet to issue an official announcement about the
reported plan of Pope Francis to visit the Philippines in January next year,
environmental groups were excitedly quick to propose that organizers should plan
early on how to prevent and reduce trash during the papal visit.

“If his visit pushes through in January 2015 as reported by the media, Pope
Francis will be here as the entire nation observes the first ever ‘Zero Waste Month’
as proclaimed by President Aquino,” said Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite
Green Coalition.  

“The splendid coincidence offers an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our
people’s admiration and respect for Pope Francis, acknowledged as  a ‘green pope,’ by taking preventive steps to
ensure a waste-free itinerary, most especially during outdoor public assemblies,”
she stated.  

Proclamation No. 760 signed last May 5, the President declared
every January as “Zero Waste Month.”

The Proclamation states that “zero
waste  is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary to
guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable
natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources
for others to use.”

“As a well-known champion of the informal recyclers in his home country
Argentina, Pope Francis will surely be delighted to see the active
participation of our waste pickers in any effort to make his visit waste-free,”
added Rey Palacio, Informal Waste Sector Liaison, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Not only that, it will be good to use the next six months prior to his visit
to scale up national and local efforts to uplift the living and working conditions
of the waste pickers, including their integration in formal ecological waste
management programs and services,” he suggested.

According to reports, Pope Francis has kept a warm relationship with the “cartoneros”
(literally “cardboard people” as the informal recyclers of Argentina are called),
saying that “their work is dignified and good for the environment.”

In a video
recorded last December 2013 while meeting with his Argentinian compatriots from
the “Excluded Workers’ Movement” Pope Francis said:  “We cannot afford the luxury of looking down
on leftovers. We are living in a throw-away culture where we easily throw out
not only things, but people too.”