Public Urged Not to Burn Trash as Nation Sizzles with Rising Mercury

Quezon City. As mercury rises due to the El Niño phenomenon, a waste and pollution watchdog appealed to the public not to burn trash that could only worsen the smoldering heat of summer.

The EcoWaste Coalition issued the eco-advisory against open burning in solidarity with the Bureau of Fire Protection, which is leading the country’s observance of the Fire Prevention Month this March.

The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate of “Zero Waste for Zero Warming,” appealed to both urban and rural residents to refrain from setting their discards on fire and causing damage to human and ecological health as well as to properties.

“Open burning of trash, even in small quantities, can get out of control and cause residential and brush fires, particularly during the long dry spell,” said Manny Calonzo of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives.

“Even the burning of grass, rice straws and other agricultural residues can pose hazards to motorists, especially for those travelling in the NLEX, SLEX and SCTEX expressways, because of impaired or reduced visibility caused by the smoke,” he added.

“Open burning further hurts the health of citizens, young and old, with the release of gas and particulate contaminants that can pollute the air quality and trigger or aggravate serious respiratory ailments and other health problems,” Calonzo said.

“The smoke from open burning can be most detrimental to the health of small children, pregnant women, the elderly, and people suffering from chemical sensitivities and respiratory conditions,” he pointed out.

A fact sheet prepared by the EcoWaste Coalition and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives says that dioxins, which are toxic byproducts of burning materials containing chlorine, can cause various types of cancer and other serious reproductive, developmental and other health problems.

Aside from cancer-causing dioxins, open burning releases other health-damaging gases and fine particles, including nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, formaldehyde, and particulate matter or PM.

PM, also known as particulate pollution, pertains to the microscopic particles in smoke that can be breathed deep into the lungs, cause coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath and exacerbate respiratory and heart diseases. These particles can also transport dangerous chemical substances such as dioxins.

In lieu of open burning, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends that citizens reduce their waste size to the minimum and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that is marked by active ecological concern and responsibility.

To prevent the noxious air pollution from open burning, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following waste reduction tips culled from the group’s “101 Green Tips to Beat Climate Change”:

– Segregate your discards at the point of generation, clean and dry them.

– Don’t bin your waste. Repair, reuse or recycle as many times as possible.

– Reuse bags, bottles, cans and other containers to extend their life span.

– Compost your kitchen waste, yard trimmings and other organic waste.

– Pick reusable products that can be cleaned and used time and again.

– Bring your own bayong or reusable carry bag when you shop.

– Say no to plastic bags.

Open burning is deemed illegal and punishable under Section 48 of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, a major environmental legislation that Congress enacted in 2000 to promote human and ecological health.

Upon conviction, violator shall be punished with a fine of not less than P300.00 but not exceeding P1,000.00 or imprisonment of one to 15 days, or both.