The Philippines is returning huge amounts of waste which it says was illegally shipped by Canada, mislabelled as recyclable plastics.
Manila has also criticised other western countries for dumping their rubbish there.
Countries in Southeast Asia who have long been the recipients of large consignments of Western rubbish are taking a stand and sending tons of the stuff back to where it came from.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte is spearheading the revolt. He’s returning 69 containers full of waste to Canada which he says were shipped illegally to the Philippines as long ago as 2013.
Last week, the issue led to Manila recalling its ambassador when Ottawa missed the May 15 deadline to collect the waste.
Recyclable plastics can be exported legally, but sometimes the waste is illegally mixed with low grade dirty plastics and other refuse.
When the lower grade plastics are incinerated for example, toxic fumes are released causing respiratory illnesses and water-contamination issues.
Manila-based journalist Lorela Sandoval told Euronews:
“The waste from Canada included adult diapers, newspapers and other items which the Philippines Health Department has labelled as hazardous.”
From 1988 to 2016, China took in 168 million tonnes of plastic waste from the top ten exporters (including the US, Japan and the UK) .
But Beijing banned the imports and western countries went looking for other options
Malaysia was one; dozens of recycling factories set up business, many without operating licenses. The government says the country is being used as a dumping ground and are sending back 3,000 tonnes of waste .
Yeo Been Yin, Malaysia’s Minister of Energy Technology, Science, Climate Change and Environment said the situation needed to change:
“What the citizens of the UK believe that they sent for recycling is actually dumped in our country.
“This is something that’s very serious and we found this with several companies – and from different countries.”
The Philippines dispute with Canada has galvanised environmentalists. Activists are calling for the ratification of the UN-led Basel Convention which prohibits plastic waste imports.
Others say the fundamental problem is with the countries producing the rubbish in the first place.