Ship full of garbage from the Philippines returning to Canada this weekend

Jun 26 2019, 9:36 pm

After the president of the Philippines engaged in some serious trash-talk with Canada and threatened to “declare war” over a garbage shipment earlier this spring, the Trudeau government announced it would be bringing the garbage back to Canada.

Now, after setting sail at the end of May, the ship – Anna Maersk – is scheduled to arrive in the Port of Vancouver, this Saturday, June 29 at 10 am.

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The material being sent back –1,500 tonnes of it in total – mostly consists of paper and mixed plastics with “low levels of contaminants,” such as electronics and household waste, according to officials.

It was initially shipped from the Port of Vancouver to the Philippines by a private business for recycling in 2013 and 2014.

The arrival of the ship is the culmination of a situation between the two countries which began this past April, when Philippines president, Rodrigo Duterte, made the threat during a briefing following a large earthquake in Luzon.

“I want a boat prepared. I’ll give a warning to Canada maybe next week that they better pull that thing out or I will set sail doon sa Canada, ibuhos ko ‘yang basura nila doon (I’ll pour their garbage there),” Duterte was quoted as saying at the time. “We’ll declare war against them.”

Once the boat arrives in Canada, the trash will be sent to the Waste-to-Energy Facility in Burnaby, which will be  responsible for “securely” disposing of the 1,500 tonnes of waste.

The facility has operated for over 25 years and produces enough electricity to power approximately 16,000 homes. The amount of waste is equivalent to about two days worth of processing capacity for the Waste-to-Energy Facility.

During a visit to Vancouver last month, Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna spoke to Daily Hive about the situation.

“I got involved in the decision because there was a decision to bring the waste back to Canada, and we need to do it in a way that protects our environment and our health,” she said, noting that the whole situation began before the current government took power.

Canada’s Environment Minister Catherine McKenna (Eric Zimmer / Daily Hive)

“It was 2015, it predates our government, it was a private company, and we have now made sure that this won’t happen again by passing legislation,” she said. “We’re looking at how to hold the company accountable, because the government can’t be accountable for these situations.”

In light of these events, McKenna said she also believes there’s also a bigger issue at play.

“I think the reality is that you’re seeing the developing countries no longer want to take our recyclables, they no longer want to take our waste and that is reasonable,” she said. “So we’re going to have to figure this out in Canada, and that’s why the government has said we need to have a zero-plastic pollution strategy so that we actually tackle this.”

In a 2017 visit to the Philippines, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he “discussed the garbage issue ” with Duterte, according to the report. “I am happy to commit to you all now that Canada is very much engaged in finding a solution on that.”