October 30, 2023. EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and toxic watchdog group, pointed out that littering and other violations were observed during the conduct of the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) 2023 despite the prohibitions of Republic Act 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
Upon visiting and monitoring several polling stations, the Coalition noted that aside from the littered sample ballots, there is reckless disposal of single-use food and beverage packaging materials in polling centers, especially plastic water bottles, styrofoam food packaging, and other campaign materials.
“While some polling centers, especially those outside Metro Manila, are clean, we found many places littered with sample ballots, plastic bottles, Styrofoam food containers and other single-use plastics,” said Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. “In most cases, food rations for poll watchers and other volunteers were left abandoned on the streets.”
“As the election campaign is over, we appeal to all the BSKE candidates, whether they won or not, to manage the accumulated waste that they produced during the campaign season by taking the lead in conducting a post-campaign cleanup. The cleanup should adhere to the requirements of RA 9003,” Tolentino emphasized. “This is to lessen the probability that the campaign materials, especially the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) tarpaulins, will not end up being thrown in landfills, burned in cement kilns and incinerators, or dumped in the oceans.”
Despite the current plastic waste crisis, most candidates still chose to produce a staggering amount of election-related materials during the campaign season despite the availability of eco-friendly alternatives. The most common campaign material used is the PVC tarpaulin which, if not properly disposed of, mostly ends up in landfills and bodies of water. This might lead to contamination and clogging since PVC may take 1,000 years to decompose. Laboratory tests commissioned by the Coalition found carcinogenic cadmium on campaign tarpaulins. Such pollutants violate the European Union’s Cadmium Directive and can harm both people and the environment. The incineration of PVC plastics also generates toxic by-products like dioxins and furans, adding to environmental concerns.
“We also suggest upcycling the election campaign materials gathered from the cleanup drives. For example, PVC tarpaulins can be upcycled as tote bags and other items not for food or children’s use. Upcycling can decrease garbage volume, lower disposal cost, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and conserve resources”. Tolentino adds.
The group also identified some of the more blatant offenses during polls that have directly or indirectly harmed the environment, including the plastering of campaign posters outside COMELEC-designated areas, most notoriously on trees, electric posts, and walls.
Out of 20 polling stations monitored by the Coalition, Matagbak Elementary School in Alfonso, Cavite; Marbel 7 Elementary School in Koronadal City, South Cotabato; and Benguet State University, La Trinidad, Benguet; Flora Ylagan High School, Quezon City were found to be litter free.
The other stations monitored by the group include Nicanor Garcia Elementary School, Jose Magsaysay Elementary School and Barangay Valenzuela Community Complex in Makati City; Fernando Ma. Guerrero Elementary School, M. Roxas de Ayala Elementary School and Ignacio Villamor High School in Manila City; Padre Burgos Elementary School, Epifanio delos Santos Elementary School and Padre Zamora Elementary School in Pasay City; Fort Bonifacio High School, Taguig City; Flora Ylagan High School and Pinyahan Elementary School in Quezon City; Northbay Boulevard North Elementary School and Navotas National High School in Navotas City; Tinajeros National High School, Epifanio delos Santos Elementary School and Catmon Elementary School in Malabon City;
Aside from the Republic Act 9003, littering is also prohibited in the Metro Manila Development Authority Resolution No. 96-009, or the anti-littering regulation as amended, as well as in related local government ordinances banning littering in public places. Violators upon conviction shall be fined between P300 to P1,000 or render community service from 1 to 15 days or both.
To reduce littering in future elections, the EcoWaste Coalition put forward the following proposed measures: 1) for the Department of Education to expedite the issuance of a directive banning single-use plastics in school premises, 2) for the Commision on Elections to enforce the ban on the distribution of sample ballots on election day, and 3) for local government units to ban single-use plastics used by food and beverage retailers and for them to deploy environmental law enforcers during the polling day.