Tensions have been piling up in the Philippines over containers of illegal household waste from Canada, and activists are angry the trash is being disposed of in local landfills.
Chronic Inc., a plastics exporter based in Whitby, Ont., shipped more than 50 containers to the Philippines in the spring and summer of 2013, according to the Canadian Press. The company said the containers were full of plastic recyclables, but customs officials discovered they were filled with various household waste, like used adult diapers.
Local officials say the Philippine government has certified that the material is not toxic or hazardous. But Angelica Carballo of the Manila-based environmental watchdog Ban Toxics insists that the rubbish contains "electronic waste" that the landfill is not allowed to process, according to Agence France-Presse.
The country's environment department and Canadian embassy completed an assessment of the containers, but only examined three of 55 containers. The three were not chosen randomly, and were selected by customs officials.
The study also only evaluated the physical composition of the trash, and not not their chemical properties and possible health and environmental hazards, according to the Philippine news site Rappler.
Disposal teams are set to finish transporting the rest of the waste soon, the Customs Bureau and landfill operator told AFP.
Philippine officials have been trading blame over which who is responsible. The customs bureau and environmental offices are facing allegations of corruption and negligence, according to Al Jazeera.
Charles Jose, a spokesman for the country's foreign affairs department, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer because customs officials allowed the containers to enter the country, the issue is a domestic one.
Canada and the Philippines are both signatories on the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal, aimed at preventing the transfer of hazardous materials from developed countries into less developed ones.
Jose said it would be up to the environment department whether a case would be filed against Canada at the Basel Convention secretariat. The Philippine environmental department is also the lead agency in the inter-agency group that would tackle the issue.
Charges have been filed against the local importer in the Philippines, but no charges have been laid in Canada. More than 36,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking the Canadian government to take back the garbage.
"Canada, pick up your garbage!" the petition reads. "Philippines is not your trash can!!!"
Lawmakers have also filed a resolution in the House of Representatives to investigate.
Environmentalists say it is unfair to make the Phillipines carry the burden of more developed nation's garbage.
"It is not only an environmental problem, it will set a precedent for developed countries to dump their illegal waste in the Philippines," said Aileen Lucero of the Eco Waste Coalition
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