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A Toxics-Free Future

Philippine environmentalists demand Canada takes back 200m kg of household waste

A coalition of Philippine environmentalists have demanded that Canada take its trash back six years after more than 200 million kg of household waste was dumped in the Southeast Asian nation.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a collection of more than 1000 community and environment groups, has written to Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, urging him to respect a promise made late last year to deal with the problem, reported the Toronto Star.

Between 2013 and 2014, a total of 103 shipping containers, supposedly carrying plastics for recycling, arrived from Canada to Philippine ports.

However, customs officials discovered that the containers were actually filled with mixed waste from household bins, including piles of adult diapers, soiled papers and electronic equipment, and the rubbish has been held in limbo ever since.

The contentious issue was raised with Mr Trudeau during his visit to the Philippine capital Manila in November 2017.

“I know it has been a long-standing irritant and I committed to him [Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte], and I’m happy to commit to all of you now that Canada is very much engaged in finding a solution on that,” he told a press conference.

“One of the early barriers was the Canadian legal regulations, which prevented us from receiving the waste back in Canada, even though it originally came from us,” he said, according to the Manila Bulletin.

“Those regulations and impediments have now been addressed but there are still a number of questions like who will pay for, what are the consequences,” he added.

The prime minister stressed that the shipment had been a private transaction that did not involve the Canadian government.

However, the Philippine environmental lobby has become frustrated with the lack of progress in disposing of the trash.

“The scandal has dragged on for five years without resolution, despite promises from the Canadian government to address the problem, including public statements made by yourself as prime minister,” wrote Aileen Lucero, co-ordinator for the EcoWaste Coalition, in her letter to Mr Trudeau.

The coalition claimed that the “stark contrast” between Canada’s foot-dragging and South Korea’s recent deal to take 50 containers of its own rubbish back was “stoking anger.”

South Korean waste, which was wrongly labelled “plastic synthetic flakes” despite containing styrofoams, textiles, electronic waste, spray cans and other toiletry products, set sail earlier this month to return home from the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.

“By saying ‘no’ to garbage dumping from Korea and other countries, we say ‘no’ to the derogation of our country’s dignity and sovereignty, ‘no’ to the disrespect for national and international laws, and ‘no’ to the harm they will bring to our communities,” Ms Lucero told a crowd assembled at the port.

“As a civil society group dedicated to promoting a zero waste and toxics-free Philippines, we promise to remain vigilant to ensure that our country does not become a dumpsite for any country’s garbage,” she said.