Environmental health groups renew call for proper PPE disposal
CEBU CITY, Philippines — Environmental health groups renewed calls for local government units to take swift action and ensure that face masks and other COVID-19 personal protective equipment do not end up polluting the environment.
EcoWaste Coalition made the call ahead of the observance of the World Environmental Health Day (WEHD) on Saturday, September 26, 2020.
“As the WEHD is observed locally, we appeal to our LGUs to enact new ordinances or reinforce existing ones that will deter users of disposable face masks and other items for infection control from simply throwing them on the ground,” EcoWaste policy and advocacy office Pat Nicdao said.
WEHD has been adopted by the Philippine government through Proclamation no. 595 in 2018. This year’s observance of WEHD in the Philippines is centered on the theme: “Sa Panahon ng Pandemya Malusog na Kapaligiran ang Bida.
In a statement, the groups cited the urgency of adopting new local policies or strengthening existing ones to ensure against the impropoer disposal of soiled disposable masks, face shields, gloves, wipes, and tissues, as well as hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol containers.
“The speedy enactment and genuine enforcement of such ordinances, along with effective public information and outreach, will surely help in reducing the volume of COVID-related plastic waste polluting our streets, beaches, and seas,” she said.
In Cebu province, an ordinance seeking to impose penalty on persons violating the mandatory wearing of face masks and the improper disposal of the protective equipment has been filed before the Cebu Provincial Board early this month.
The proposed ordinance details proper ways of disposing a used face mask including the cutting of the mask into two to make sure it will no longer be reused by others and having separate garbage bins or receptacles specifically for the used face masks.
Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon has also proposed an ordinance to the city council to determine the regulations on the proper disposal of face masks and other PPEs.
The proposed ordinance shall prohibit the littering of face mask in public and providing penalties thereof.
It also mandates the putting up of information posters in public places including government offices on how face masks should be disposed.
Cebu-based Lito Vasquez of the Break Free From Plastic (BFFP) movement, in the EcoWaste statement, also urged LGUs to take their cue from Lapu-Lapu City, which enacted an ordinance last September 17, 2020, prohibiting and penalizing the improper disposal of soiled masks.
Another eco-campaigner, Chinkie Peliño-Golle of the Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) based in Davao, said “the passage of local measures to check the unsafe disposal of throw-away masks is essential to promote environmental health given the unhampered supply of cheap single-use non-medical grade masks in the market.”
“Local authorities should expand information, education and communication efforts on the proper use and management of protective masks, including the ecological benefits of reusable or washable cloth masks over disposable plastic ones,”Piliño-Golle added.
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