A platform for the planet: Start by banning toxic election campaign materials

Published September 28, 2021, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


Election watchers are now predicting that this upcoming campaign for national elective posts will not only be one of the most divisive in our history, but may also become one of the most wasteful. In the absence of crowd-drawing rallies or mammoth miting-de-avance near election day, candidates may flood the streets, roads, alleys – even trees! – with campaign materials that are toxic to the environment.

To garner maximum exposure, campaign posters and tarpaulins are made of sturdier materials such as plastic or cloth. Recycled properly, these would find new life and new purpose. However, this is not the case as campaign paraphernalia are easily discarded and find their way to clog the waterways, rivers, and even the ocean. They are easily forgotten like the promises made during the campaign.

This wasteful practice of using toxic election campaign materials must stop. The world is at a precarious state as tons of pandemic-related waste continue to pile up and governments are clueless how to properly recycle the face masks, PPEs, syringes, and medical waste. Adding campaign-related waste would choke this already weary planet.

As the majority of the citizenry are focused on personalities who have or have not announced their candidacy, environmental groups have called on the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to implement reforms in the conduct of elections next year to avoid a repeat of previous approaches that supposedly violated the laws and harmed the environment.

In a letter submitted to COMELEC chairman Sheriff M. Abas, groups such as EcoWaste Coalition, Greenpeace Philippines, Mother Earth Foundation, and Zero Waste Philippines appealed to the poll body “to proactively integrate waste and toxic prevention in the conduct of the upcoming elections.”

In the news, the groups said their appeal “stemmed from the consistent violation of political candidates every election season during their campaign, from the unrestrained plastering of campaign posters outside COMELEC-designated areas, such as on trees, electric posts, and walls, to the unbridled display of ‘indirect’ political propaganda such as graduation and fiesta banners and tarpaulins.”

“We have also observed the rampant use of campaign materials that are hardly reused or recycled, particularly plastic tarpaulins, posters and buntings, as well as the confetti thrown,” the groups said in their letter. “We urge the COMELEC to champion much needed policies and practices that will protect our fragile environment from being further degraded by the avalanche of partisan political activities leading to the 2022 elections.”

Their call for the environment is not just lip service as they have also detailed doable ways on how to make this election season “green” and sustainable for the planet. Part of their suggestions include adopting a resolution declaring a zero-waste policy, requiring all individuals and groups running for election to abide by the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, making it mandatory for parties and candidates to make use of recyclable and reusable materials free of hazardous chemical substances, incorporating environmental awareness and responsibility in the COMELEC’s public information drive, among others.

The campaign season is upon us and the journey is far ahead. The groups’ call for the environment must not be taken lightly as what’s at stake is the survival of the planet. Filipino voters must become wiser not to be swayed by the political circus in front of them, but must look beyond and decipher the candidates’ environmental agenda – where does he or she stand on single-use plastics? What about their understanding of climate change? Is he or she ready to run a “green” campaign?

Failing to ask the hard questions or accepting their fairytale answers would not only condemn us to experience environmental horrors in the next six years, but would inflict irreparable damage to the earth that will be inherited by the next generation.