Valentine appeal to candidates: Don’t express love on tarpaulins

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star
Valentine appeal to candidates: Don�t express love on tarpaulins
In this photo, members of Task Force Baklas take down campaign tarpaulins and posters illegally posted along San Andres Street in Malate, Manila.
The STAR / Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines — Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition has urged candidates in the May 9 elections to do away with tarpaulins, including those with “Happy Valentine’s Day” greetings and instead just present their platforms to the people during the campaign.

“Happy Valentine’s tarpaulins, especially during the campaign season, hardly mean anything to the electorate and can be completely avoided,” EcoWaste’s zero waste campaigner Jove Benosa said in a press statement yesterday.

“Politicians can better express their ‘love’ for their constituents by coming up with a responsive public service platform that will truly advance the well-being of the people and, not to be forgotten, Mother Earth,” Benosa added.

EcoWaste pointed out that cutting back on tarpaulins would trim down campaign expenses, noting that the bulk production price for such type of campaign paraphernalia is about P5 to P10 per square foot.

More importantly, the group said the reduced production of campaign tarpaulins would translate to lesser volume of plastic waste laden with harmful chemicals.

The group explained that tarpaulins, which are often made of polyvinyl chloride plastic, contain toxic chemical additives such as cadmium-bearing stabilizers that are used to slow down degradation when PVC materials are exposed to sunlight.

“These chemical additives will be released into the environment as the tarpaulins are removed and subsequently disposed of,” EcoWaste’s chemical safety campaigner Thony Dizon said.

Dizon recalled that cadmium concentration of up to 1,279 parts per million was detected in all 200 campaign tarpaulins screened using X-ray fluorescence analyzer during the 2013 elections.

Cadmium of up to 1,704 ppm was also found in all the 300 campaign tarpaulins screened during 2016 elections, he said.

EcoWaste cited a finding by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) that “products containing cadmium are not typically collected separately from the general waste stream in developing countries.”

“Therefore, cadmium discards will end up in municipal waste and disposed of in landfills, incineration, open burning or indiscriminate dumping,” EcoWaste said.

“Some of the cadmium in these products will be released to the environment, the extent of which depends on disposal method, control technologies applied and other factors,” it added, quoting the UNEP.

EcoWaste also warned that burning chlorinated materials, like PVC-based tarpaulins, in the open or in incinerators would generate dangerous by-product contaminants called dioxins, which are targeted for global reduction, if not elimination, under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants of which the Philippines is a party.

Dioxins are “highly toxic” and “can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer,” according to the World Health Organization.

Meanwhile, EcoWaste appealed to the public to do away with single-use plastics (SUPs), especially this Valentine’s Day.

“We can live without SUPs, but we cannot live sans clean oceans where a big chunk of these disposable plastics, along with their chemical additives, gets dumped every minute,” the group said.

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