Wanted: ‘Clean’ elections
CONSUMERLINE - Ching M. Alano (The Philippine Star) - March 7, 2016 - 9:00am

You know it’s election time again when you see every single electric post in your neighborhood covered in candidates’ campaign posters/tarpaulins vying for your vote. Well, we unanimously vote that these eyesores blighting our cityscape be removed. If we may repeat a popular campaign slogan when Cory Aquino ran for president: “Tama na, sobra na!” And if we may add, “Tanggalin na!”

Read this: Our collective cry has not been in vain. Since Feb. 9, some eight tons of illegally placed election campaign tarpaulins have been removed by Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and donated to the EcoWaste Coalition for recycling. You heard that right — recycling!

“Those given to the EcoWaste last Feb. 18 in a ceremonial turnover ceremony, presided by MMDA general manager Corazon Jimenez, were among those tarps taken down from bridges, cables, lamp posts and trees, which are outside the Comelec-permitted poster areas,” says our good friend Manny Calonzo.

Who’d think that these tarps could be turned into functional items (which we can probably find more use for than a lot of these candidates)? Even single parent Leticia Calusayan, who earns a living by making bags and doing odd jobs, didn’t think she could make something beautiful out of discarded tarps — such amazing, promising items from campaign tarpaulins that are full of empty promises! Lolit is now even busier working from her home at Barangay Krus in Ligas, Quezon City. In her skilled hands, these tarps have found new life — and new purpose — as pretty purses, mini carry bags, tote bags, multi-purpose organizers, aprons, tool belts, etc. If you want to know more about Lolit’s designs, email her at leticiacalusayan@yahoo.com.

We asked Manny: Are these items for sale? Where and how much?

He tells us, “It was not really the intent of the EcoWaste Coalition to sell these repurposed tarpaulins. What it did was to produce prototypes that would demonstrate the many practical uses of tarps.” 

He adds, “Hopefully, enterprising community women and youth would be encouraged to create functional crafts from tarp materials to prevent them from turning into garbage. If sold, these sturdy products should sell from as low as P50 to probably P200 or more depending on the size and complexity of the design.” 

“With an ounce of creativity, we can make a variety of practical crafts out of politicians’ tarpaulins, which we can find all over the place as the campaign goes full blast,” notes Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition coordinator. “Repurposing the campaign tarps will help keep these plastics out of dumpsites that are bursting at the seams as the country’s garbage continues to swell.”

The message is loud and clear: “Tarps: Dump not, burn not.” Instead of these tarps ending up in the landfills, EcoWaste unveiled an array of beautiful items: shopping bags in various sizes, petite carry bags, shoe bags, magazine organizers, receptacles for office and household recyclables such as paper, newspapers, glass and plastic bottles, aluminum and tin cans.

These tarps can also be used as sun and rain shields for pedicabs, tricycles and jeepneys, as well as improvised awnings for homes and shops.

Repurposing or recycling these campaign tarps for non-food purposes, says EcoWaste, will help cut the volume, as well as the toxicity, of discards that are disposed of in dumpsites. 

 Lucero warns, “Dumping these tarps will lead to their chemical ingredients leaching into the soil, as well as to surface and ground waters. Burning these tarps, which are mostly made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic, will create and discharge extremely toxic pollutants, namely dioxins and furans, that can contaminate the food supply chain and harm human health.”

As these tarps contain undisclosed chemicals of concern, the public is cautioned not to use them in applications that may contaminate food or expose young children to these hazardous substances. 

Is EcoWaste not thinking of selling these items to the politicians?

Manny quickly replies, “It will be wonderful if politicians could buy back the recycled products as a token for the environmental service provided by those who repurposed their tarps.  But we hope that well-meaning politicians will, first of all, abide by the Fair Elections Act and desist from putting campaign materials outside the authorized areas. We further hope that they will take the initiative of removing materials that are illegally displayed and dismantling them after the campaign season is over.”

But of course, who doesn’t want “clean” — and honest — elections?

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