The environmental watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition gave the Commission on Elections (Comelec) two thumbs up for not burning over 933,000 defective and roadshow ballots.
“Comelec deserves two thumbs up for reversing its plan to burn these unwanted ballots as it previously announced in March 2022,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “We’re pleased that the poll body chose a non-polluting way to have these ballots destroyed while conserving paper, a valuable resource that comes from trees.”
The planned destruction of defective ballots via burning drew immediate objection from the group, stating “burning paper waste when the same can be recycled is not an environmentally sound option at all in the face of the global climate crisis.”
Yesterday, May 7, the Comelec started the destruction of 933,311 unwanted ballots consisting of 586,988 defective official ballots and 346,323 roadshow ballots, or ballots used in vote counting machine demonstration events held across the country.
Instead of turning them into ash, the unwanted ballots were mechanically cut using an industrial cutting machine at the National Printing Office. The shredded paper will then be sent to paper mills for melting and recycling.
Acting Comelec Spokesperson John Rex Lautiangco said the unwanted ballots were not burned as “the Comelec aims for “sustainability” (paper can be recycled) and that it has “to be fully compliant with all environmental laws.”
The group earlier reminded the poll body that open burning is banned under Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, while incineration of municipal, biomedical and hazardous waste, which process emits poisonous and toxic fumes, is prohibited under Republic Act 8749, or the Clean Air Act (paper waste is classified as municipal waste).
Also, on the eve of a historic election held amid a global health crisis due to COVID-19, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its call on all stakeholders, particularly the voters, to keep the polling centers litter-free.
“We call on the Filipino people to exercise their constitutional right to vote without defiling the environment with litter such as sample ballots, the most notorious litter on election day,” said Lucero.
“It is our shared responsibility to look after the cleanliness, health and safety of our surroundings. It’s irresponsible to litter and burden others to pick up after us,” she said.
Aside from littered sample ballots, food and beverage containers, and candy and snack wrappers and cigarette butts, the group is also concerned with the reckless disposal of used masks in polling areas, stressing the need for correct handling and disposal of used face masks, a healthcare waste.
Littering, she reminded, is a prohibited act under R.A. 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, which provides for a punishment of P300 to P1,000 fine or one to 15-day community service, or both.
“Our tobacco prevention laws also prohibit smoking in schools, which are used as polling stations,” she added. “Please ensure that our schools are safe from tobacco, second-hand smoke and cigarette butt litter.”