Erasing the Traces: Waste Management of Political Campaign Materials

by Redjie Myr Florendo

Photo from Sysil Rubio/Facebook.

Proper disposal of campaign paraphernalia has always been a problem during elections. After the high stakes 2022 Philippine General Elections were over, countless tarpaulins, flyers, and other campaign materials ended in piles of waste.

According to a recent article, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said that the election campaign materials can amount to 6.68 to 8.90 million tons of waste. This is expected  to increase the country’s projected waste by 30-40% this year.

In Tiaong, Quezon, Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Officer (MENRO) Lani Limbo led the conduct of waste management. Together with different groups and Barangay Officials, they started with the “Oplan Baklas”.

The Oplan Baklas is a nationwide project following the directives of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG). It was first launched in February to remove all oversized posters/tarpaulins and those outside the designated common posting area. Right after the election, on May 13, 2022, it was implemented again targeting to remove all the posters/tarpaulins in the country.

“Ang ginawa natin, in-encourage natin ang mga Barangay Officials na sila iyong magsagawa ng sari-sarili nilang baklas ng campaign materials sa bawat barangay,” Limbo said.

“Ininvite rin natin ang Citizen Crime Watch (CCW) at kasama din natin ang Community Anti-Crime Group (CACG) at saka ‘yung GUARDIAN Anti-Crime – Tiaong Chapter. Nakatuwang din natin ang mga job order natin dito sa munisipyo tsaka iyong mga school guards,” she added.

Oplan Baklas was conducted in all the barangays in Tiaong, Quezon. In Limbo’s estimate, around 50%-60% of the tarpaulins were already removed around the town.

“Tayo dito sa Tiaong, may 31 barangays. Lahat naman nag-participate…. kaya lang ang naging focus nila para alsan ng mga tarpaulins ay yung mga major thoroughfares lang. Iyong mga inner, barangay road, ‘yung papasok medyo naiwan nila plus yung mga nasa private area.” Limbo said.

Limbo encourages Tiaongins to participate in this activity by voluntarily removing tarpaulins, especially in inner places, barangay roads, and private properties. This will help to achieve the goal of removing all tarpaulins in the town.

Aside from the Oplan Baklas, the municipality of Tiaong has its own ordinance, the  Pambayang Kautusan 99-04A. This ordinance aims to prohibit Tiaongins from littering. Also, monthly Operation Linis is required in every barangay.

Those orders are said to be beneficial to the management of political campaign materials, like flyers and merchandise, that were distributed to people during the campaign period.

Limbo also expressed her interest in coordinating again with other organizations or volunteer groups as they would really contribute to the success of these activities.

“Madaming group ang iniinvite namin [dati] kaya lang nag-pandemic medyo limitado. Kung sino lang talagang pumupunta sa office at nag-ooffer ng kanilang tulong, ‘yun lang iyong madalas nating nai-invite,” she said. “Interesado tayo na i-tap ulit sila para sa mga ganoong activities.”

Repurposing Election Waste

Limbo said that all collected tarpaulins from the Oplan Baklas were brought to the final disposal site in Tiaong, Quezon. Those will be repurposed in different ways.

One plan she mentioned is to transport it to cement plants or factories.

“Ang plano natin, dalhin iyon sa isang cement factory, iyong CEMEX, Solid Cement Plant Corporation sa Antipolo City at nakaplano [rin] tayong magdala sa Republic Cement sa Taisan, Batangas.,” Limbo said.

These factories will then co-process – subjecting all the tarpaulins to high degree heat to turn them into ash. These are mixed to be fillers into cement.

In a related news article, the DENR supported doing so to help in reducing solid waste by at least 40%. DENR spokesperson Jonas Leones said that plastic campaign materials used in the election may be recycled by cement plants like the ones mentioned above.

Limbo also mentioned a barangay in Tiaong, Barangay Lumingon, that makes tote bags out of recycled tarpaulins.

A resident of Barangay Lumingon confirmed this: “I have already seen some individuals recycling campaign posters like what I have seen in our barangay. If I were not mistaken, they are transforming the tarpaulins into bags.”

The said Kapitana is Sysil Rubio. She is also the adviser of Kalipunan ng Liping Pilipina (KALIPI) in Brgy. Lumingon, Tiaong, Quezon. KALIPI is a women’s organization that trained her about sewing.

Rubio is known for sewing tote bags in her Barangay. Some of her ka-barangay women sewed with her. In an interview, she said that since making tote bags is one of their livelihoods, they also thought of making bags out of tarpaulins.

“Naisip ko na kami’y nagtatahi eh di nagtry kami gumawa ng mga bag… Magpapagawa nga si Mayor iyon gang mga tarpaulin na hindi [pa] nagagawa, dadalhin dito. Tapos ayon, ipagagawa din sa amin,” said Rubio.

Whenever Rubio and her ka-barangay are done making ordinary tote bags, they will shift to the tarpaulin tote bags. This gives them extra income as their Mayor avails all the bags they will produce.

Rubio also used the plastic tarpaulins in making banderitas on their barangay fiesta last May 29, 2022. She said that she encouraged her ka-barangays to make these recycled banderitas. 

Filipino towards Waste Management of Political Campaign Materials

One resident of Tiaong believes that the waste management of political campaign materials can help reduce the waste in the surroundings and also help the environment.

Youth Advocates for Climate Action Philippines (YACAP) member Crisel Dicen also said that it is important, especially now in the campaign Let the Earth Breathe.

 Let the Earth Breathe is a known campaign that went viral on social media. Several scientists led this campaign to tell and inform people about the climate crisis we are facing. They claim that we only have four (4) to five (5) years left in the world.

In an interview, Dicen gave some tips to effectively participate in this action. She said that one must be conscious of environmental problems and his/her actions.

“Just look around your surroundings tapos tingnan mo if okay ba sayo if madami kang nakikitang campaign materials. Tanungin mo lang sarili mo anong magagawa ko sa sitwasyong ito,” she said.

She also encourages everyone to follow environmental advocates or organizations to be guided and informed.

Meanwhile, Limbo said that people also need to change.

“Generally speaking, when it comes to solid waste talagang ang kampanya namin ay maging responsable sana lahat ng tao. Pag nag-lelecture nga kami [sa mga households sa iba’t ibang lugar], na-chachange natin iyong climate, why change attitude? Kaso medyo suntok sa buwan.”

Limbo is also planning to submit an ordinance about the management of campaign materials in Sangguniang Bayan. Particularly, all the political groups, parties, and candidates should be responsible for removing their own campaign materials.

She also promotes campaigns on social media platforms. This will reduce the consumption of campaign materials that can potentially be a waste.

Now that the Barangay Elections are nearing, it is great to have plans and preparations for the possibilities of the same scenario. Candidates, political organizations, and ordinary citizens are encouraged to look into the problem and responsibly do their parts. Collectively, this will contribute to the success of a cleaner election.

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