The multitudes who packed the cemeteries in Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR) on All Saints’ Day did not leave only prayers, flowers and candles. They also left behind 834 tons of styro containers, plastic cups and bottles, paper discards, junk food wrappers and other waste materials that needed 139 trucks to haul away.
The volume of garbage in the cemeteries this year was double that from last year, Francis Martinez, head of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA) Metro Parkway Clearing Group (MPCG), said on Sunday.
Martinez added that the trash was collected from 21 cemeteries in the cities of Pasay, Valenzuela, San Juan, Quezon, Parañaque, Taguig, Marikina, Manila, Pasig and Mandaluyong and the town of Pateros.
In Manila North Cemetery alone, one of the biggest cemeteries in the NCR, the MMDA collected 17 tons of waste materials.
Fifteen tons came from the Manila South Cemetery, 12 tons from the San Juan public cemetery and 11 tons from Manila Memorial Park, a private cemetery.
“We collected styro, papers, plastic cups, basket for flowers, dried flowers, among others,” Martinez said.
For the EcoWaste Coaltion, the big volume of trash meant that the cemetery goers did not observe “cemetiquette” or cemetery etiquette on environmental responsibility and commonsensical good manners in commemorating All Saints’ Day.
The local zero-waste advocacy network denounced the “Zombasura” attitude of cemetery-goers.
It coined the term “Zombasura” to describe the wasteful and non-environment friendly attitude of cemetery visitors during All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
“We mourn the apparent disregard [for]the dead of many who visited their departed loved ones, as the abode of the deceased was strewn with litter on Undas, the day Filipinos as a nation traditionally remember their beloved dead, said Christina Vergara, Zero Waste Program officer of EcoWaste Coalition.
On Sunday, the EcoWaste’s secretariat and volunteers from the Malikhaing Landas na Magpapayabong sa Sining at Kultura (Malaya-Cavite) took part in the cleaning up the trash left by some two million visitors to the Manila North Cemetery.
“The garbage before us is a living testament to the rampant disregard, not only for the dead, but also to the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000 or Republic Act 9003, which explicitly prohibits littering, open dumping and open burning of garbage in public places,” Vergara said.
The coalition’s Basura Patrollers monitored the waste situation in the Angono Municipal Cemetery in Angono, Rizal; Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City; Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City; Manila North Cemetery in Manila; Manila South Cemetery in Makati City; Obando Municipal Cemetery in Obando, Bulacan; Paraiso Memorial Park in San Mateo, Rizal; Pasay City Cemetery in Pasay City; Pasig City Cemetery in Pasig City; Santo Rosario Cemetery in Taytay, Rizal; and Indang Municipal, Himlayang Paraiso, Roman Catholic and Seven Angels Cemeteries, all in Indang, Cavite.
The Basura Patrollers noted that cemetery discards comprised mostly of food waste, single-use disposable plastic packaging and containers, plastic flower wraps, plastic bottles, soiled brown bags, newspapers, commercial leaflets, pizza boxes, cigarette butts and barbecue sticks.
The prevalent use of tarpaulins was also a major concern to the coalition.
It acknowledged the role of informal waste pickers and recyclers, as well as concerned organizations like the Tzu Chi Foundation, in cleaning garbage in cemeteries.
Neomie Recio, head of MMDA’s Traffic Engineering Center (TEC), said no untoward incident was reported on All Saints’ Day.
Recio said the MMDA traffic enforcers were concentrated in areas near the Manila North Cemetery, Manila South Cemetery, Loyola in Marikina and Manila Memorial Park.
“We encountered a slight problem in Manila North and South cemeteries because of the influx of people,” she said.