Burning trash

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Thursday, August 28, 2014


IN THE light of the current congestion at the Port of Manila, the environmental group Eco-waste coalition is calling on the government to send back to Canada the 50 containers loaded with garbage that were brought to the country last year. So andun pa pala sa pier ang basura? The unwanted cargo is eating up precious space at our heavily congested port.

What seems to be the problem? According to a news report, the Bureau of Customs had already done their part in intercepting the shipment. The disposal of the containers, or their content, is the responsibility of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and probably the Department of Foreign Affairs since it involves another country.

I wonder what’s keeping the concerned government agencies from disposing the waste. It cost a lot of money to keep the containers in the port. They are health hazards too.

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Republic Act 9003, or the Solid Waste Management Act of 2000, prohibits the burning of waste. This practice however continues to the present. This is due to the lack of knowledge on the law and the lack of enforcement from the regulators. This problem however is not unique to the Philippines. It is also a problem in other countries. It is a global environmental concern.

According to the news release of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), unregulated trash burning around the globe is pumping far more pollution into the atmosphere than shown by official records. UCAR is a consortium of more than 100 member colleges and universities focused on research and training in the atmospheric and related Earth system sciences

The new study estimates that more than 40 percent of the world's garbage is burned in such fires, emitting gases and particles that can substantially affect human health and climate change. Pollutants such as particulates, carbon monoxide, and mercury that are emitted by the fires have been linked to serious medical issues.

The countries that produce the most total waste, according to the study’s methods, are heavily populated countries with various levels of industrial development: China, the United States, India, Japan, Brazil, and Germany. But the study concluded that the nations with the greatest emissions from trash burning are populous developing countries: China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, and Turkey.

The study concluded that as much as 29 percent of human-related global emissions of small particulates (less than 2.5 microns in diameter) come from the fires, as well as 10 percent of mercury and 40 percent of a group of gases known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

These pollutants have been linked to such significant health impacts as decreased lung function, neurological disorders, cancer, and heart attacks.

Trash burning in some countries accounts for particularly high quantities of certain types of pollutants. In China, for example, 22 percent of larger particles (those up to 10 microns in diameter) come from burning garbage.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 29, 2014.

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