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Transboundary Haze In Southeast Asia: Challenges and Pathways

Transboundary haze has had wide-ranging impacts in Southeast Asia, on public health, tourism, biodiversity and national economies. In tackling this problem, important questions exist about the trajectory of haze trends in the context of a changing climate and of shifting conditions on the ground in Indonesia. This NTS Alert reviews leading knowledge on these points, and explores pathways for tackling the haze issue in the face of the seeming ineffectiveness of ASEAN level mechanisms.

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Africa's Electronic Waste Problem

Nearly a third of used electronics imported into five West African countries were already broken -- and should have been classified as electronic waste -- according to a new United Nations report. If these countries had the infrastructure to recycle electronics sustainably and safely, the electronic waste would not be as big an issue. But that's not the case, which is bad news for the environment and people's health.

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Recycled Plastic Bottles: Building New Classrooms for Filipino Schools

Building a new classroom in a deprived area like Patayas, Philippines is really difficult – unless you use discarded plastic bottles in place of concrete or bricks. By Jeremy Torr.  

Payatas, Philippines. 29 January 2012. On the doorstep of the notorious Payatas dumpsite – the place where thousands of tonnes of Manila garbage is dumped every day – the local people are planning for a green future for their children. They have built a classroom from old plastic bottles scrounged from the dump, helping solve two problems at once. First a refuse problem – too much plastic rubbish; and second, not enough room to educate the next generation of local children.

Illac Diaz of the MyShelter Foundation stands proudly inside the classroom built by local volunteers - out of rubbishThe bottle classroom at Payatas Elementary School was dreamed up by Illac Diaz of the local MyShelter Foundation. He decided to try turning the millions of trashed plastic bottles into a place for children to get an education. So, together with MyShelter volunteers, he organised a bottle collection and gathered hundreds of bottles to build the classroom walls – on a site was donated by the local government of San Pablo.

“It’s very empowering because what used to be a problem is now a solution,” says Diaz about the project. Previously, more than 70 students were crammed into a single classroom. "Some of them were not listening because of so many pupils. They're very noisy, so the teachers were facing problems," said Mr Romeo Tatad, vice-principal at Payatas Elementary.

Previously, schools were only built of cement, steel and glass. But, says Diaz, the alternative, especially for poor regions, should be to look at all available solutions, cheaper solutions, local solutions. “That is why this plastic bottle is a good start. It's a pioneering way to look at how a simple plastic bottle can be used as a brick," he pointed out.

The thousands of bottles are held in place by adobe and reinforced with steel bars to give strength with ease of construction. The classrooms at Payatas are even better than normal concrete at resisting powerful storms

The other advantage, apart from cost and availability, is the ease of building in holes for ventilation and the fitting of large “solar bulbs” for lighting. Eight classrooms will be eventually built, mostly made out of glass and plastic bottles, all about twice the size of standard teaching rooms – yet only a third of the cost of conventional ones.

The other plus is being much lighter and less rigid, they are expected to better withstand the typhoons that hit the region. "Normal classrooms are becoming, you know, cheaper and cheaper and less durable,” said Diaz. And as climate change has become more pronounced, with more unusual and more severe weather episodes,  schools are  where people run to as a place of last resort, he notes.

And with a perfect resource in the form of millions of bottle building bricks arriving at the dump every week, it looks like Patayas has a great recycling and education future for its schools. “We have to look for new ways where cheaper doesn't mean that it's less safe," says Diaz.

Photos © Kristel Marie Fuentes Gonzales




Air Pollution: Major Health Risk and Killer in Many Cities

The bad old days of grimy, disease-ridden and choked industrial cities are mostly behind us. But in developing countries many places are still suffering from life threatening air pollution so we need to try and help.

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Apple Criticised for Lack of Transparency: Environmental and Social Responsibility Rating Last of 29 MNCs 

Top global electronics and consumer supplier Apple has come under severe criticism from a group of Chinese environmentalists who claim the company is being secretive about its pollution and social responsibility record.

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Singapore to Accelerate Energy Recovery, Material Recovery and Special Waste Treatment

An SGD15 million programme on environment technology research or ETRP was launched on World Environment Day by the Singapore Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. This capability-building initiative is meant to support on-going R&D in clean environment in the form of grants in three main areas: energy recovery, material recovery and special waste treatment.

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Singapore 3R Fund to Boost Recycling and Waste Management

The National Environment Agency of Singapore (NEA) has launched a generous fund to raise the bar on recycling initiatives and projects to the tune of SGD8 million (about USD6 million).

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Singapore F&B Firms Cut Packaging Waste and Win 3R Award

Over the months since June 2007, Singapore’s food & beverage (F&B) companies have been busy looking into a whole new practice – cutting packaging waste – even as they continue to crank up the same line of products. They had signed a voluntary pact – the Singapore Packaging Agreement – with the National Environment Agency to review their environmental impacts and got down to action.

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Pulau Semakau Landfill To Turn Into An Eco-Park

Pulau Semakau - the one and only landfill designated area on an island off Singapore - will soon be turned into an eco-park, the government revealed at a media briefing today. The eco-park will be a hub for the testbedding of renewable energy technologies and will house recreational and educational facilities.

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Waste Management Congress to Focus on Carbon Credits, New Technologies, Emerging Diseases

Carbon credits from waste management, viability of landfills, new technologies transforming waste into renewable energy, emerging disease and antibiotic resistance related to livestock waste in Asia, and the reduction and recycling of packaging waste - these will be the hot topics of discussions at the upcoming International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) Congress 2008 to be held in Singapore's Suntec City.

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