Greenpeace Southeast Asia


Greenpeace Water Patrol Braves Stink and Grime on International Coastal Cleanup Day by Chuck Baclagon

Every 3rd Saturday of September, the world celebrates International Coastal Cleanup Day. It was our second clean up event with the Youth Development Affairs Office of the Province of Laguna. While we limited the participants to about 200 youths since the venue was smaller, we were able to mobilize at least 350 Laguna youths and 58 Greenpeace Water Patrol volunteers, members of EcoWaste Coalition, Haribon UPLB, Earth UST, and St. Scholastica’s College.

As is fast becoming a tradition with the Water Patrol, we started from Manila before sunrise so that by 7AM we would be in Brgy. Pinagbayanan, Pila, Laguna. We got there early and immediately set up our sorting and audit stations for the waste that we would collect that day.

After a short programme, the Water Patrol volunteers and the Laguna youth marched through rice paddies to the Binulusukan River, a tributary of the Laguna de Bay, to start garbage collection on land along the water’s edge. Other members of the Water Patrol were in inflatable boats, kayaks and local boats picking out garbage from the water.

Click on the thumbnail to see the larger image

Stink and grime was the menu for the day! The water itself had the stench of garbage. The volunteers were sure there were loads of wastes at the river bottom but couldn’t reach them since the water was too deep after long bouts of rain. In certain water-logged canals leading to the river, plenty of used diapers, plastic bags, sachets, plastic food containers, sanitary pads, were the usual items found.

I would giggle whenever someone would pick out a diaper and the young kids would scream, “YUCK!!!” and get into fits of laughter. They would then cover their mouths and their noses. According to our audit team, close to 9% the wastes were considered hazardous/medical wastes which included mostly diapers.

The story was the same at the sorting stations. Most of us who did the sorting and auditing had to step away once in a while to allow us to breathe stench-free air. Thankfully, we were able to develop a better system for conducting the waste audit so we were able to complete it much faster. The tough job of collecting, sorting and auditing the waste also didn’t seem that much of a burden because we were treated to live indigenous music played by Lakbay Lahi while we were sorting the waste.

Plastic bags: 560 liters (25.21%)

Composites: 290 liters (13.21%)

Rubber: 100 liters (4.56%)

Biodegradables: 185 liters (8.43%)

Recyclables: 370 liters (16.86%)

Hazardous/medical wastes: 190 liters (8.66%)

Others: 500 liters (22.78%)

Total volume: 2,195 liters

By midday, the job was completed. Despite all of us now dirty and smelly, we were all happy with the results of our efforts.

Cleanups are only stopgap, end-of-pipe initiatives and do not contribute much to the effort of really cleaning up our environment. It serves only as a reminder of the state of our environment especially of our water bodies. What should be done is for our political and industry leaders to institute clean production mechanisms and strictly enforce pollution laws in order to effectively curb pollution.

Beau Baconguis
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