Filipinos turn volcano’s ash, plastic trash into bricks

BINAN: Ash spewed by a Philippine volcano is being mixed with plastic waste to make bricks in an inventive response to the country’s persistent problems of pollution and frequent natural disasters.
The Taal volcano burst into life nearly a week ago, sending towering dust columns into the sky and leaving nearby Binan city coated in fine grey powder.
Environment officials did not just clean up the mess but decided to combine the ash with sand, cement and discarded plastic to form about 5,000 bricks per day for local building projects.
“Instead of just piling up the ash fall somewhere, we are able to turn it into something useful. And it includes plastics, too,” said city environmental officer Rodelio Lee.
The Philippines faces a waste crisis, with a report last year saying it uses a “shocking” amount of single-use plastic, including nearly 60 billion throwaway sachets per year.
It is also plagued by some 20 major storms annually and regular, powerful earthquakes which together kill hundreds of people each year.
Due to its position on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” zone of seismic activity, it also has periodic volcanic eruptions.
Taal’s jets of lava and 15-kilometre walls of ash have sent more than 70,000 people into evacuation centres and prompted warnings that a far bigger eruption could happen at any time.
With volcanic ash and plastic both in plentiful supply, the officials in Binan see their project as a silver lining.
“During these times, our creativity becomes apparent,” said the mayor of Binan, Arman Dimaguila.
Meanwhile, more than 162,000 residents have been displaced by an erupting volcano in the Philippines as state scientists on Saturday warned that the threat of a hazardous explosive eruption remained despite an apparent lull in activity on the surface.
The number of evacuees rose as police stepped up patrols to clear towns located within a 14-kilometre-radius danger zone around Taal volcano in Batangas province, 66 kilometres south of Manila.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said “steady steam emission and infrequent weak explosions” were monitored in the past 24 hours at Taal volcano, which is located in the middle of a lake.
The explosions generated “white to dirty white ash plumes 50 metres to 600 metres tall,” it added. Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum said continuing earthquakes were also monitored at Taal volcano, indicating that magma was continuing to rise to the top.
“What we see on the surface is different from what is happening underneath,” Solidum told a press conference. “We still see magma rising and that can result in more dangerous activity of the volcano.” “Alert level four remains because there is still threat of a hazardous explosive eruption,” he added. — Agencies