Now that Election Day is over, what do we do with the campaign materials that we still have at home – the tarps, comics, ballers, fans, t-shirts – or hanging in public places?
The easiest would be to put them in a bag and then pass on the responsibility of disposing them to the garbage collectors who pass by our houses at least three times a week.
That action would just add to the mountains of solid waste that we now have. According to the DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB), 59,846 tons of solid waste per day is generated around the country. The figure was taken before the election campaign season so we can expect a huge increase in our solid waste per day, a simple observation of all the campaign posters and leaflets show.
In a 2019 report, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) disclosed that it had collected 29 truckloads equivalent to 200.37 tons or 705.34 cubic meters of campaign-generated waste from the May 13 midterm elections campaign season (from March 1 to May 16, 2019).
Then MMDA Chairman Danilo Lim said that the agency did not throw the discarded campaign materials in landfills. Instead, these materials were converted to reusable bags, placemats, baskets, and school supplies.
Aside from causing pollution, experts from the environmental group EWC said that they found campaign tarpaulins contain cadmium from the 2013 and 2016 elections — a highly toxic and cancer-causing chemical.
What to do with discarded campaign materials
In a May 10 press statement, EWC shared ways to repurpose campaign materials. EWC National Coordinator Aileen Lucero said that reusing campaign-generated trash will lessen the country’s solid waste.
“While reusing and repurposing is surely not a perfect solution, especially for campaign materials laden with harmful chemicals, it will undoubtedly lessen the volume of trash collected and hauled to disposal facilities or spilled into the natural environment, including water bodies,” Lucero said.
She added that this alternative would reduce disposal costs, prevent releases of chemical pollutants into the environment, conserve resources and instill environmental awareness and responsibility among our people, the EWC said.
Lucero suggested alternatives and shared that the group has repurposed sample ballots into notepads by using binding glue, fastener, ribbon, or string. At the same time, cardboard posters were created into bookmarks, envelopes, folders, nameplates, and other school supplies.
She said that polyethylene plastic posters were reused as book and notebook covers. On the other hand, sturdier polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic tarpaulin posters were sewn into carry bags of various sizes. The group also turned the materials into other items like laundry and toiletry bags, aprons, and tool organizers.
However, EWC advised “to only reuse or repurpose tarps for non-food and non-child applications as tarps may contain hazardous chemicals, particularly cadmium and phthalates, which can contaminate food or expose children to chemical risks.”
Solid waste in the country
According to DENR-Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) Assistant Director Vizminda Osorio, the country generates 59,846 tons of solid waste per day this year.
To address this issue, the department closed 335 open and illegal dumpsites in 2021 for violating the environment and health standards stated in Republic Act (RA) 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
The DENR-EMB data also showed that from eight sanitary landfills (SLFs) in 2006, the country now has 245 SLFs serving 478 local government units (LGUs), only 29 percent of the nation’s cities and municipalities.
Solid waste initiatives
In line with its goal to address all issues surrounding solid waste, the DENR vowed to strengthen the implementation of its solid waste management plans in line with the 21st anniversary RA 9003 this year.
RA 9003 covers proper segregation, collection, transport, treatment, and disposal of solid waste to protect public health and the environment. In line with this, the agency will coordinate with LGUs nationwide to ensure the rehabilitation of 335 closed dumpsites.
Leones explained that the department continuously helps LGUs implement proper waste disposal by monitoring them.
“The barangays collect the waste and put them in a temporary transfer station. The municipality will then collect and bring the wastes to treatment facilities to sanitize them before throwing them to final disposal sites,” Leones said in Pilipino.
Aside from monitoring LGUs, the DENR, through EMB, had also initiated the hiring of geologists and civil and sanitary engineers to assist LGUs in finding suitable areas for SLFs in line with the implementation of 1,171 ongoing solid waste management plans, which was approved last year Dec. 7.
The agency and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) have also partnered to install yellow bins or bags in all public utility vehicles nationwide to ensure the proper segregation of health care waste and other solid waste.