- The Philippines shipped 1,500 tons of trash back to Canada on Friday after a diplomatic dispute over garbage escalated dramatically.
- The Philippines’ foreign minister tweeted “Baaaaaaaaa bye” to the trash and sarcastically said: “I’m crying. I’m gonna miss it so.”
- The trash had been in the Philippines since about 2013, when Canada sent containers of household waste there that had been mislabeled as recyclables.
- The wider phenomenon of Western nations sending trash to Asia is decades old and has seen millions of tons of waste sent vast distances.
- The Canadian government agreed on a May 30 deadline to take back the garbage after the Philippines recalled its ambassador in Canada.
- Malaysia also said it refused to become an international dumping ground and would return 3,300 tons of waste to Western countries.
The Philippines on Friday said farewell to 1,500 tons of trash, which it sent back to Canada on a container ship.
The move is the latest in a simmering rebellion by Asian nations tired of accepting boatloads of garbage from wealthier nations in the West.
Canada agreed to take back the shipments after a concerted push by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who had threatened to sail to Canada personally and leave the trash there, BBC News reported.
The cargo vessel embarked on a 20-day journey to Canada’s port in Vancouver on Friday, a Philippine port administrator, Wilma Eisma, told The Guardian. It is carrying 69 containers filled with trash.
Canada paid the full cost for the shipment, according to the BBC.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted an image of the container ship making its way to Vancouver, with the words “Baaaaaaaaa bye.”
“I’m crying. I’m gonna miss it so. Never mind,” he joked in another tweet with a video of the vessel.
I’m crying. I’m gonna miss it so. Never mind. Another Filipino will find a way to import another batch. Boohoohoo. pic.twitter.com/RkdmhHPSdC
— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) May 31, 2019
Environmental activists also celebrated around the Subic Bay port, from which the ship departed west of Manila. They carried streamers reading “Philippines: not a garbage dumping ground,” The Guardian reported.
The waste shipments had been in the Philippines since 2013 and 2014, according to The Guardian. Tensions arose when Filipino officials discovered that Canada had mislabeled the garbage, sending tons of household waste instead of recyclable plastics.
The Philippines recalled its ambassador in Canada after Canadian authorities did not meet a May 15 deadline to reclaim the waste, the Filipino news site Rappler reported. The two countries then negotiated a May 30 deadline.
“This is a demonstration that we’re going to comply with our international obligations to deal with waste that originates in Canada,” Sean Fraser, the parliamentary secretary to Canada’s environment minister, told the BBC.
Western nations have been sending their garbage to Asian countries for more than 25 years.
China served as the largest international dumping ground until it banned imported plastic waste last year. That pushed much of the foreign trash onto other developing nations like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.
These countries have more lax environmental regulations, which means recipients of the waste find it easier to dispose of it by dumping it or burning it, enabling them to charge far less for its disposal.
Officials in affected countries also often complain that the waste is mislabeled, as in this case.
Now Asian countries are starting to resist. Malaysia has said it already returned five containers of trash to Spain and plans to follow up with 3,300 tons of nonrecyclable plastics bound for countries like Canada, the US, and the UK.
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