Watchdog Calls for Full Enforcement of Ban on Open Burning

Quezon City. Out of sight, out of mind. This has been the waste predicament facing our nation for the longest time, particularly when it comes to conveniently burning away the evidence of wasteful lifestyle. But is open burning the real solution to our mountainous garbage problem?

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watchdog, warns that burning our garbage gravely endangers the health of our nation and the planet by turning a solid waste problem into a complex problem involving toxic chemicals. As the Fire Prevention Month is observed this March, the eco-group reminds the public to think not only of accidental fires but also fires that we intentionally set ourselves that destroy resources, damage ecosystems and disperse toxins. The EcoWaste Coalition particularly urged the National Solid Waste Management Commission and the local authorities to enforce the ban on open burning under Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act. “In our communities it is still customary for people to sweep their surroundings, gather the mix of organic and inorganic trash into a pile, and set fire to it despite the explicit ban on open burning,” said Manny Calonzo, President, EcoWaste Coalition. Aside from the open burning of domestic waste, the EcoWaste Coalition scored the unchecked open burning that occurs in dumpsites and even in junkshops where used tires and cables are usually burned by informal recyclers to retrieve metal parts.

The EcoWaste Coalition also drew attention to biomass burning in the countryside, particularly rice straw or dayami burning and the slash-and-burn farming or kaingin, which causes massive pollution and ecological destruction. “The truth of the matter is that burning garbage does much more harm than good,” Calonzo said.
“Done with absolutely no pollution control, open burning produces toxic fumes and ashes that contain extremely harmful health and environmental pollutants.”

These toxic pollutants are linked to health problems including asthma and other respiratory illnesses, damage to the nervous system, kidney and liver, and reproductive and developmental disorders. Even the simple burning of seemingly harmless organic wastes such as leaves and other plant matter releases millions of spores into the air, which can be a big problem for people with allergies. A particular concern for public health activists in the cocktail of chemicals released from open burning is dioxin, a persistent organic pollutant (POP) that has been described as the most toxic man-made substance known to science. The Department of Science and Technology has identified open burning as primary source of dioxin pollution in the country. Dioxins are known to cause cancers and other serious disorders in the reproductive, developmental, neurological and immune systems. To protect the public health and the environment, its elimination has become a global priority under the Stockholm Convention on POPs, which our Senate ratified in 2004. Last month, the Zero Waste Mercury Group, Ban Toxics and the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives released a report implicating the burning of mercury-containing product wastes in dumps and incinerators as a major source of mercury pollution in the environment. Mercury contaminates the waste stream in the form of discarded products containing the heavy metal such as batteries, compact-fluorescent lamps, electrical switches or relays, dental amalgam, thermometers, blood pressure devices and other medical products and chemicals. As neither the incineration of discards nor the creation of more dumpsites will make waste disappears, the EcoWaste Coalition calls for the honest-to-goodness implementation of R.A. 9003, which focuses on waste prevention, minimization, segregation at source, recycling and composting. Here are some creative reuse ideas for usual materials that people commonly set on fire:
GRASS CUTTINGS. Grasscyle by leaving grass clippings on the lawn where they will break down naturally and, in the process, feed the soil with valuable nutrients. FALLEN LEAVES. Compost fallen leaves into organic soil amendment or chop the leaves and turn them into leaf mulch for your garden.

WOOD DISCARDS. Create alternative toys and even furnitures or fixtures out of discarded lumber or wood scraps.

PLASTIC BAGS. Cut clean used plastic carry bags into strips and weave them into functional bags. BOTTLE AND TIN CONTAINERS. Reuse clean bottles and tin cans into flower vases, pen and pencil holders and containers for office and kitchen stuff. NEWSPAPERS. Use old newspapers to cover books and wrap gifts. Shred or crumple newspapers as an alternative to plastic bubble wrap, or turn them into paper carry bags.

USED PAPER. Sew, glue or fasten used school or office paper into a drawing, memo or note pad.

CANDY WRAPPERS. Turn candy wrappers into colorful party lei. Keep the candy foil (palara) for school art projects or turn wrappers into children’s clutch or wallet.

JUICE PACKS. Make bags, purses, folders, trays and storage boxes from doy packs.

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 320, Eagle Court Condominium, Matalino St.
Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 9290376