Sixty-nine containers of garbage which a Canadian company exported to the Philippines in 2013 and 2014 are now back in Canada, ending a diplomatic row between Canada and the Philippines.
The shipment had been mislabeled as recyclable plastics when it was sent to the Philippines. It actually contained household wastes, including diapers and kitchen trash, electronics, paper, and plastics. The containers of Canadian trash were stored in Philippine ports for 16 years, with some finding their way to a landfill in Tarlac.
For years, no company or government office would assume responsibility for the Canadian garbage, until President Duterte took it upon himself to act on the problem. He threatened to declare war on Canada unless it got back the garbage that had been exported by a Canadian company. The Canadian government took it upon itself to act on the problem and had the garbage shipped back at its own expense.
The garbage issue led to our discovery that many industrial countries, notably the United States, Japan, Britain, and Germany had long been dumping their garbage by exporting it to China and other countries in Asia, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.
The idea of using these countries as dumping grounds for garbage stirred national protests. The finding that much of the garbage was composed of plastics that is non-biodegradable and is bound to pollute the environment for hundreds of years led to a worldwide movement against the mounting danger of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
The campaign against plastic pollution is now well underway, with many nations pioneering in devising ways to recycle plastics into construction materials for roads and buildings. We have a factory
in Las Piñas recycling soft plastics such as food wrappers into chairs that are then donated to public schools.
The ultimate solution to non-biodegradable plastics would be research to find means to make plastics just like wood, leather, cloth, and paper, so they would decompose at the end of their useful days. Researchers at the University of the Philippines Baguio have reportedly discovered strains of bacteria found in Zambales capable of biodegrading some plastics.
Our diplomatic scrap with Canada is over with the return of the 69 container vans of garbage which will now be incinerated in a waste-to-energy facility in Vancouver. Many other countries have now also taken steps to stop the old practice of shipping garbage to other countries. China, which had long been receiving the bulk of scrap plastics from around the world, decided last year to close its doors to all foreign refuse. Since 2015, Canada has amended its regulations so it no longer allows the practice of exporting plastics and other trash.
It has been an acrimonious situation all around, but it has ended well, not just in our relations with Canada but also in efforts around the world to step up research and recycling to end the worldwide danger that plastics have come to pose for the entire world.
Tags: Roni Santiago