DILG urged to direct LGUs to ensure proper disposal of face masks, PPEs

In a bid to deter irresponsible disposal of used face masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE), a waste and pollution watchdog group has appealed to the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to issue a directive to protect public health and the environment from littered masks and PPE.

The EcoWaste Coalition has proposed the issuance of a new directive that will instruct local government units (LGUs) to craft ordinances that will prohibit and penalize the improper disposal of used masks and other PPE.

“This new directive should build on DILG Memorandum Circular No. 2020-071 issued last April 9 requiring mandatory use of face masks or other protective equipment in public areas to avoid further transmission of COVID-19,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition, who noted that major cities have adopted corresponding ordinances but fell short of mobilizing the public to safely dispose of used masks and related discards.  

This latest policy proposal came on the heels of the group’s discovery of littered face masks in some cities in Metro Manila and in the Baseco Beach, Port Area, Manila and in the shoreline of Barangay Muzon, Rosario, Cavite.

“The careless disposal of used COVID-19 protective gears and products endangers public health and the environment and violates existing laws and regulations on ecological waste management,” said Benosa.

“Enacting and enforcing local ordinances banning the arbitrary disposal of used masks and other PPE should deter citizens from simply throwing potentially infectious discards onto the streets, which may end up contaminating our oceans and the food supply chain with microplastic particles,” he said.

“Concerned LGUs should take their cue from the City Councils of Davao and Manila Cities that have started deliberations on proposed ordinances to counter the improper disposal of soiled masks and related items,” he added.

Davao City Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte and Manila City Councilor Numero Lim have filed ordinances addressing the problem with reckless disposal of used masks and PPE last July 14 and August 6, respectively, the group noted.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, local ordinances should aim to:

a. Stop the unsafe disposal of used face masks and related protective gears and products; 

b. Ensure the ecological management of COVID-19 waste and to promote waste workers’ health and safety; and

c. Promote health awareness and environmental responsibility among the citizens.

The group added that the ordinances should apply to the disposal of all types of face masks, face shields, hand gloves and other PPE, as well as disinfectant and hygiene products such as wipes, tissues, rubbing alcohol and hand sanitizers, in public places such as  streets, sidewalks, parks, canals, esteros and other water bodies in line with RA 9003, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act and other laws.

To be effective, the ordinances should further promote compliance to waste separation at source and the segregated disposal of healthcare wastes such as used masks and PPE.

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