2 November 2023. For millions of Filipinos, Undas means that it is time to visit and pay respects to their departed loved ones in the cemeteries. In recent years, these are bad days for the environment with the unashamed trashing of cemeteries, but remarkable improvements were observed this Undas 2023.
Last 2022, the EcoWaste Coalition (EWC), a zero waste and toxic watchdog group, decried the massive littering and lack of proper waste disposal areas in cemeteries. In fact, 78 truckloads of trash were hauled from Metro Manila cemeteries last Undas.
This year, the environmental group saw improvements in terms of decreased littering and improved waste management in some cemeteries across Luzon. A comparison of EcoWaste Coalition’s monitoring for Undas 2023 and past years revealed reduced instances of littering in cemeteries this year, which may be attributed to the deployment of more waste and sanitation workers by local government units (LGUs), “no vendors policy,” the provision of garbage bins and the installation of visible anti-littering signages in cemeteries.
Another factor the Coalition observed to have contributed to reduced littering was the lesser number of visitors compared to last year’s Undas season. This may be due to the intermittent rain and the “long weekend” which may have dispersed the number of visitors throughout the week. Some cemeteries have also limited visiting hours, instead of opening their gates for the usual 24 hours pre-pandemic.
Cemeteries like Cainta Public Cemetery in Rizal have installed multiple trash bins around the place, including a dedicated bin for plastic bottles. Navotas Public Cemetery required vendors within their premises to have their own trash bags and also deployed members of their “Brigada ng Kalikasan,” resulting in a generally litter-free environment.
Found to be generally clean at the time of monitoring were Himlayang Palanyag and Loyola Memorial Park in Parañaque, Pasay City Cemetery and the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Pasay City; the Garden of Life, Mandaluyong City Cemetery, and the Roman Catholic Cemetery of San Felipe Neri in Mandaluyong City; San Juan City Cemetery and St. John Memorial Park in San Juan City; Pasig Catholic Cemetery in Pasig City; Sta. Martha Catholic Cemetery and the Garden of Memories Memorial Park in the municipality of Pateros; St. Anne Catholic Cemetery in Taguig City; Tugatog Public Cemetery in Malabon City; and Pyramid Memorial Park in Benguet.
On the other hand, the waste bins at Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque were found overflowing with unsegregated trash. The same problem was observed in the Sangandaan Cemetery in Caloocan City; Bagbag Public Cemetery in Quezon City; Manila South Cemetery in Makati City; Buyagan Public Cemetery in Benguet; and The Good Shepherd Memorial Park in Pampanga. Meanwhile, trash bins installed in Hagonoy Public Cemetery in Bulacan were little to none, with visitors littering and discarding their trash in random areas around the cemetery.
Among the items found scattered on the ground or in the overflowing mixed waste bins include food and beverage containers (paper and plastic), food leftovers, plastic bottles, plastic straws, disposable utensils, pizza boxes, plastic bags, etc.
An obvious solution to this problem moving forward is for visitors to limit what they bring in cemeteries and for the “Basura mo, Bitbit mo” policy to be strictly enforced. Cemeteries should also be declared as “zero waste zones” where all forms of littering is not allowed. The sufficient number of properly labeled bins should be installed, and an adequate number of waste and sanitation workers should also be deployed. As segregated bins often end up as mixed waste bins, cemeteries can tap and benefit from the services of informal waste recyclers who can assist visitors with the proper segregation of discards. They can also help in retrieving recyclables in and around the cemeteries.
Overall, the Coalition notes the efforts being made to reduce cemetery trash and littering, but vehemently points toward the many other improvements that could be made to slowly attain a waste-free Undas season and hopes that LGUs and various cemetery administrations implement these measures immediately.