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British Columbia Canadian garbage en route from Philippines to be incinerated in Vancouver area

Environmentalists carry a mock container of garbage from Canada as they protest at the Philippine Senate on May 24, 2019 in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines.

Bullit Marquez/The Associated Press

Tonnes of festering garbage sent from Canada to the Philippines more than five years ago will be incinerated in a waste-to-energy facility in Burnaby, B.C., marking the end for cargo that became a sore point between the two countries.

The facility was chosen for its proximity to the Port of Vancouver – the planned Canadian entry point for the repatriated trash – and because it is authorized to receive international waste, said Jack Froese, chair of Metro Vancouver’s zero waste committee.

Even though the garbage originated in Canada, he said it is classified as international waste because it left the country and so has to be handled under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s International Waste Directive.

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About 1,500 tonnes of trash are to be disposed of in the Burnaby facility. That is equivalent to about two days’ worth of garbage, based on the facility’s regular operations, although the material is likely to be handled over 10 or 12 days. It will not be mixed with other waste, Mr. Froese said on Friday. The Burnaby facility has operated since 1988 and handles about a quarter of the region’s trash while generating electricity.

Talks took place over the past few days over where the garbage would go, Mr. Froese said. The federal government had announced, on Wednesday, that it had awarded a contract to Bollore Logistics Canada to bring it back to Canada.

Before that, the Philippines had recalled its ambassador and consulate heads when Ottawa failed to meet a May 15 deadline imposed by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to remove the garbage.

The dispute began when a Canadian company sent 103 mislabelled containers, which were supposed to contain recyclable plastic, to the Manila International Container Terminal more than five years ago. Filipino authorities discovered mixed waste in the containers, including household garbage and used adult diapers, and Manila has since demanded Canada take the waste back.

The contents of 34 of the containers were eventually disposed of by the Philippines, but 69 remain in Manila. Those are the containers that will be coming back to Canada.

In a statement Friday, Federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said Canada is taking “all necessary measures for the prompt, safe, and environmentally sound disposal of the waste that was left in the Philippines by a Canadian company.”

Metro Vancouver rates for the waste are $250 a tonne and the federal government will be paying those costs, Metro Vancouver said in a statement.

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The Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation, a legal non-profit group, recently produced a legal opinion saying Canada violated the Basel Convention, which controls the international trade and disposal of hazardous goods, by failing to take back the garbage.

Earlier this month, Canada and 186 other countries agreed to amend the Basel Convention to reduce the amount of plastic in the oceans and force developed countries to deal with their own waste instead of exporting it.

With reports from the Associated Press

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