The Philippines, and other countries in Southeast Asia, rebel against Western garbage

The Philippines, and other countries in Southeast Asia, rebel against Western garbage

The Philippines has shipped 1,500 tons of waste back to Canada, just days after Malaysia announced it would return 450 tons of imported plastic waste


Environmental activists display a banner reading 'Philippines is not a dumpsite' next to a cargo ship loaded with waste from Canada.
Photo: EPA-EFE/Greenpeace

MANILA – The Philippines shipped 1,500 tons of waste back to Canada last week. The Southeast Asian country says the rubbish, which it received in 2014, was labelled as recycling, but turned out to be household waste. It has been urging Canada to take back their rubbish ever since.

After a long dispute between the two countries, the Philippines lost patience and sent the waste back to Canada last Friday.

Just a few days earlier, Malaysia said it was sending 450 tons of imported plastic waste back to the countries it came from, including Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Britain and the US. It said the waste was either rotting, contaminated, or had been falsely labelled as recycling so it could be smuggled into the country.

Many wealthy countries send their waste overseas to be recycled because it’s cheaper, and keeps their landfills from overflowing. Developing countries often take in this waste because it’s a good source of income. But sometimes, ordinary rubbish gets mixed in with recyclable waste, which means it cannot be processed.

For years, China took in most of the world’s plastic waste, but in January 2018, it announced that it would stop, in an effort to clean up its environment.

Environmentalists in Manila, Philippines, called last month for the Canadian government to remove waste that was sent to the country in 2014.
Photo: AP/Bullit Marquez

Since then, much of this waste has been redirected to countries in Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia.

Malaysia has picked up the bulk of the slack. Now, it seems it has had enough.

“It is grossly unfair for rich countries to send their waste to poor countries simply because poor countries have no choice and maybe it contributes a little to their economy,” Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said last week.

“You give us the waste then you are going to have us insist that we pollute the environment by getting rid of the waste,” Mahathir said. “But please remember that when you pollute one part of the world you pollute the rest of the world also.”

You might also like:

On Earth Day 2019, take inspiration from these Hong Kong students and make a difference to the environment

Talking Points: Should it be compulsory to recycle in HK?

Showcase: These Peak School students found out plastic pollution is worse than anticipated


To post comments please
register or