Green groups: Prioritize zero-waste strategies to arrest release of persistent organic pollutants

( – May 16, 2021 – 12:22pm

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental health groups on Sunday urged national and local authorities to give priority to zero waste strategies that prevent and reduce the generation of persistent organic pollutants or POPs, a class of highly hazardous synthetic chemicals.

This came on the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the entry into force of the Stockholm Convention on POPs on May 17, 2004. The treaty, of which the Philippines is a state party, seeks to protect human health and the environment from POPs through a range of measures aimed at reducing and eventually eliminating their release.

In a statement, the EcoWaste Coalition, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability, and Mother Earth Foundation said that promoting zero waste strategies must be among the nation’s priority efforts to recover from the dire impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s health and livelihoods.

They added that the mere repeal of the incineration ban under the Clean Air Act or Republic Act No. 8749 and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act No. 9003 was not enough. 

“We call upon the Philippines as a party to this treaty addressing global chemical pollution to prioritize zero waste strategies that are proven effective in preventing the formation and release of unintentional POPs, as well as greenhouse gas and mercury emissions,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner at the EcoWaste Coalition.  

“While lauding the concerted multisectoral efforts dealing with POPs polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), we also would like to find out where we are in terms of updating and putting our National Implementation Plan on all POPs into operation as part of the country’s strategy toward sustainable development.” 

National priority efforts urged

According to the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN), which includes the EcoWaste Coalition, IDIS and MEF among its members, “POPs are recognized as a serious, global threat to human health and to ecosystems.”  

“Zero waste strategies, including waste avoidance and reduction, segregation at source, recycling of non-biodegradable discards, composting or digesting of organic materials, reuse and repair, extended producer responsibility, product redesign and  clean production, effectively reduce pollution, while conserving energy and resources, creating jobs, and advancing community development,” stated Sonia Mendoza, Chairman, MEF.

“In lieu of waste-to-energy incineration that is disturbingly being pushed in both houses of the 18th Congress and in some localities, we appeal to decision makers to divert their attention to mainstreaming zero waste strategies and action plans, with adequate budget support, to counter proposals to construct costly landfills and incinerators for burying or burning wastes,” said Atty. Mark Peñalver, Executive Director, IDIS.

Among these POPs are unintentionally produced pollutants such as:

  • dioxins and furans resulting from combustion and industrial processes, 
  • open burning of trash,
  • the incineration of municipal, medical and hazardous wastes,
  • cement kilns firing hazardous waste.

According to the groups, POPs can remain intact in the environment for long periods of time, can travel great distances through air and water, can bio-accumulate in the food chain, and have adverse effects on human health and the environment.   

Exposure to POPs, which are highly toxic to both humans and wildlife, has been linked to the disruption of the immune system, neurological disorders, reproductive abnormalities, cancers and other diseases.

A living treaty where new POPs are added following rigorous review procedures, the Stockholm Convention started with an initial list of “dirty dozen” POPs. Currently, there are 30 POPs listed.

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