For two years, 50 shipping containers of Canadian garbage have
been expensively rotting in the Philippines, at the expense of
Filipinos. The containers were shipped as recyclable plastic
scrap in 2013, but reportedly contained a
mixture of plastics with other household wastes, including
adult diapers. It is contrary to Philippines law to import mixed
wastes, so the government impounded the shipment.
Filipino environmental groups argue that Canada should take the
waste back under the Basel Convention. Canada has
refused, as the
Basel Convention only applies to hazardous wastes, and
Philippine shipment, while disgusting, is not "hazardous"
under the Convention.
Ontario-based Chronic Inc. reportedly shipped the
"recyclables" to Manila for processing by its
Valenzuela-based consignee, Chronic Plastics. Chronic Inc. no
longer seems to be in business. Canada says the matter
is a private contractual dispute between the two
According to the environmental group Ban Toxics, the Philippines
government has spend millions of dollars storing this garbage,
most of it in demurrage payments to the owners of the ship where
the containers have been sitting. Now, more than two years after
the "recyclables" were seized, the Philippine
government has abandoned its campaign to send the garbage back to
Canada, and will put it into a local landfill.
The entire episode has given Canada's environmental
reputation another avoidable black eye. While there are excellent
legal and business reasons to treat recyclable materials
differently from waste, these reasons disappear if Canadian
authorities don't enforce the requirements that recyclable
materials be just that: clean, separated recyclables, not mixed
waste. And why didn't Canada do the right thing and take the
garbage back long ago?
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