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Philippines ships 1,500 tons of trash back to Canada

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The Philippines said farewell to 1,500 tons of trash on Friday, which it sent back to Canada on a container ship.

The move is the latest in a simmering rebellion by Asian nations tired of accepting boatloads of garbage from wealthier nations in the West.

Canada agreed to take back the shipments after a concerted push by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who had threatened to sail to Canada personally and leave the trash there, BBC News reported.

The cargo vessel embarked on a 20-day journey to Canada’s port in Vancouver on Friday, port administrator Wilma Eisma told the Guardian. It is carrying 69 containers filled with trash, which weigh around 1,500 tons together.

Canada paid the full cost for the shipment, according to the BBC.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin tweeted an image of the container ship making its way to Vancouver, with the words “Baaaaaaaaa bye.”

“I’m crying. I’m gonna miss it so. Never mind,” he joked in another tweet with a video of the vessel.

Environmental activists also celebrated around Subic Bay port, from which the ship departed. The carried streamers reading “Philippines: not a garbage dumping ground,” The Guardian reported.

The waste shipments had been in the Philippines since 2013 and 2014, according to the Guardian. Tensions arose when Filipino officials discovered that Canada had mislabelled the garbage, sending tons of household waste instead of recyclable plastics.

The Philippines recalled its ambassador in Canada after Canadian authorities did not meet a May 15 deadline to reclaim the waste Filipino news site Rappler reported. Both countries then negotiated a new May 30 deadline.

Sean Fraser, parliamentary secretary to Canada’s environment minister, told the BBC: “This is a demonstration that we’re going to comply with our international obligations to deal with waste that originates in Canada.”

A protesters holding a poster of the shipping container in the port of Manila in May, 2015.
J Gerard Seguia/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Western nations have been sending their garbage to Asian countries for more than 25 years.

China served as the largest international dumping ground until it banned imported plastic waste last year. That pushed much of the foreign trash onto other developing nations like Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

These countries have more lax environmental regulations, which means recipients of the waste find it easier to dispose of it by dumping it or burning it, enabling them to charge far less for its disposal.

Officials in affected countries also often complain that the waste is mislabelled, as in this case.

Read more: The West has been dumping tens of millions of tons of trash in Southeast Asian countries for more than 25 years — now they want to send it back

Now Asian countries are starting to resist. Malaysia said it already returned five containers of trash to Spain, and plans to follow up with 3,300 tons of non-recyclable plastics bound for countries like Canada, the US, and UK.

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