LGUs urged to ensure face masks, COVID protective gear won’t pollute eco-systems

Groups campaigning for the protection of human health and the environment on Wednesday appealed to local government units (LGUs) to adopt new or strengthening existing ordinances to ensure face masks and other coronavirus protective items do not end up polluting the ecosystems.


In a statement released ahead of the observance of World Environmental Health Day (WEHD) on September 26, various groups cited the urgency of having ordinances to prevent the arbitrary disposal of soiled disposable masks, face shields, gloves, wipes, and tissues, as well as hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol containers.

"As the WEHD is observed locally, we appeal to our LGUs to enact new ordinances or reinforce existing ones that will deter users of disposable face masks and other items for infection control from simply throwing them on the ground," EcoWaste Coalition policy and advocacy officer Pat Nicdao said.

"The speedy enactment and genuine enforcement of such ordinances, along with effective public information and outreach, will surely help in reducing the volume of COVID-related plastic waste polluting our streets, beaches and seas," she said.    

Lito Vasquez of the Break Free From Plastic movement expressed his hope that "more LGUs will take their cue from Lapu-Lapu City to curb the irresponsible disposal of soiled masks and instill environmental responsibility among the citizens in the face of the pandemic."

Cebu-based Vasquez cited that the Lapu-Lapu City Council last Sept. 17 enacted an ordinance that prohibits and penalizes the improper disposal of used face masks and related COVID-19 protective materials.

For Davao-based Chinkie Peliiño-Golle of the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS), "the passage of local measures to check the unsafe disposal of throw-away masks is essential to promote environmental health given the unhampered supply of cheap single-use non-medical grade masks in the market."

She added that "local authorities should expand information, education and communication efforts on the proper use and management of protective masks, including the ecological benefits of reusable or washable cloth masks over disposable plastic ones."

Similar local ordinances in various stages of the lawmaking process are being considered in a number of LGUs, including Manila, Navotas and Quezon Cities, Cebu City, and Davao City, the EcoWaste Coalition said. 

Spearheaded by the International Federation of Environmental Health, WEHD was adopted by the government of the Philippines through the issuance in 2018 of Proclamation 595 by President Rodrigo Duterte.