Near-zero waste has marked the observance of the Feast of Santo Nino in Pandacan and Tondo in Manila, reported EcoWaste Coalition. The zero-waste advocacy group said that there were hardly any wasteful plastic banderitas in the streets of Pandacan and Tondo during this year’s celebration of the popular feast of Santo Niño on January 16 and 17. “Nothing like years past, the lively streets of Pandacan and Tondo are not bedecked with thousands of single-use plastic banderitas that go straight to the dump after the feast in honor of the Child Jesus,” said Jove Benosa, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. Based on the group’s monitoring conducted on January 13 to 15, Pandacan and Tondo streets are generally clear of the usual banderitas often made of new plastic “labo” bags and packaging scraps, as well as “happy fiesta” tarpaulins. “This year’s austere and simple celebration of the Santo Niño feast amid the COVID-19 pandemic, we hope, will be the beginning of a more environmentally-responsible observance of this faith-inspired occasion,” he said. In a bid to prevent COVID-19 transmission, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno had earlier issued Executive Order No. 2 prohibiting street parties, stage shows, dance and singing contests, street games and similar crowd-drawing events during the feast of Santo Niño in Pandacan and Tondo. The waste and pollution watchdog group has been critical of the “plastic banderitas overkill” in community activities as if the Philippines and the entire planet are not yet suffering from the adverse impacts of warming climate and mounting plastic and chemical pollution. “These single-use plastic buntings only add to the street clutter and to the volume of residual waste that has to be disposed of. These synthetic decorations are seldom reused and never recycled,” said Benosa. Far from being safe, these banderitas can pose health and environmental risks, especially when these petroleum-based materials are littered, dumped, burned or get spilled into water bodies, the EcoWaste Coalition warned. The group insisted that “the unrestrained use of fiesta banderitas to decorate streets and alleys has no connection whatsoever to the time-honored devotion of Catholic Filipinos to the Holy Child.” “As wasteful plastic banderitas play no role in the successful conduct of any religious activity, we appeal to our community and church leaders to junk the outmoded practice of hanging fiesta buntings in the streets and plazas,” said Benosa. “The true essence of our faith-stirred celebrations is not measured by the length and color of plastic buntings crisscrossing our streets, but on how we care for one another and for our Mother Earth, especially in times of difficulties such as during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he concluded.