AT THE outset, the EcoWaste Coalition through this column takes this opportunity to commiserate with the communities and families affected by the successive typhoons that have battered our country in a very short space of time. Our deepest sympathies go out to the victims of typhoons Ulysses and Rolly and wish them all the strength and healing during this challenging time.

We too join the chorus of thanks to everyone who provided the disaster survivors with unconditional and timely support, especially those who welcomed flood survivors into the safety of their homes, those who risked their lives rescuing stranded residents and animals, those who provided emergency relief assistance to the needy, those managing the evacuation centers where people who fled their homes took refuge, those working to restore electricity and water supply in affected areas, and those taking part in daunting cleanup operations, including the firefighters, waste and sanitation workers, and volunteers.

As the flood-stricken communities from Tuguegarao City to Marikina City come to terms with the devastation caused by typhoon Ulysses, the EcoWaste Coalition, an advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has come up with a timely set of tips on how to clean up safely following the devastating floods.

According to the group, the post-disaster cleanup should not lead to an all-out disposal of flood-soaked materials as some of them can still be washed, dried, repaired, reused, recycled, or composted. As we are often reminded, waste is not waste until it is wasted.

If properly observed, the following tips can help in decreasing the volume of debris and trash requiring disposal. These tips can likewise help in conserving resources, reducing expenses, and, more importantly, protecting human health from hazardous chemicals and wastes.

1. Put on protective gloves and boots or safety shoes as protection against animal bites, bruises, cuts, chemical burns, leptospirosis, and other flood-borne diseases.

2. Segregate as much as possible post-disaster discards to set apart those that can be repaired, refurbished, reused, recycled, composted, or disposed of.

3. Separate ordinary trash from special waste like busted fluorescent lamps, flood-soaked TVs, and other e-wastes laden with hazardous substances such as lead, mercury, and toxic flame retardant chemicals.

4. Do not dump garbage in streets, storm drains, rivers, and vacant lots, nor engage in open burning to prevent further environmental degradation and pollution.

5. Remove discards that can collect and hold water, which can serve as a breeding site for Aedes aegypti mosquitoes whose bites can cause dengue fever.

6. Make use of rainwater and greywater from the washing of clothes and dishes and from bathing to remove silt from flooding, scrub with soap and water, and then rinse thoroughly.

7. As much as possible, use non-toxic cleaning products such as vinegar, baking soda, and soap.

8. Wipe glass windows clean using a moist newspaper that can be shredded after use for composting.

9. Clean furniture and other stuff submerged in floodwater with hot soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and dry under the sun.

10. Salvage, clean, fix, and reuse mud-soaked furnishings.

11. Mix equal amounts of vinegar and water to disinfect things contaminated by floodwater.

12. If using a commercially sold disinfectant, carefully read the product label and follow the usage instructions.

13. Do not mix chlorine-based products such as bleach with acids, ammonia, and other compounds, and always use alcohol and bleach in a well-ventilated area.

14. Wash flood-drenched clothes and linens separately from uncontaminated ones.

15. If needed, give damaged walls, appliances, furniture, and fixtures a fresh coat of duly certified lead-safe paint.

In addition, we also need to emphasize flood-affected households, and those helping them should be extra mindful of the preCovid-19.

Wherever you are, keep safe and lend a helping hand in any way you can. (Manny Calonzo)


Manny Calonzo is the former president of the EcoWaste Coalition.