A spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland confirmed a report by the Canadian Press that the Canadian government has made a formal offer to the Philippines to bring back roughly six dozen containers of household trash incorrectly labelled as recycling almost six years ago.
They will be shipped back to the Port of Vancouver if the offer is accepted.
“Canada has made an offer to the Philippines with a view to quickly bring the garbage back to Canada for disposal,” said Adam Austen, press secretary for the minister, in an email. “We await their response.”
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Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte threatened in April to “declare war” if Canada did not take back the containers, which were shipped by a private firm in 2013 and 2014 and have been sitting at the port in Manila ever since.
Duterte later threatened to load the containers onto a ship and dump it on Canadian beaches if it was not retrieved.
His threat of war prompted Canadian officials to say for the first time that they were willing to bring it back after some negotiations took place.
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A press secretary for Environment Minister Catherine McKenna told Global News last week there is a strong commitment in Canada to address the problem.
“Canada is strongly committed to collaborating with the Philippines government to resolve this issue and is aware of the court decision ordering the importer to ship the material back to Canada,” press secretary Sabrina Kim said.
“Currently, a joint technical working group, consisting of officials from both countries, is examining the full spectrum of issues related to the removal of the waste with a view to a timely resolution.”
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At issue in the dispute is the practice of shipping recycling for processing in other countries.
While countries like Canada used to be able to sell their recycled materials to countries like Malaysia, China and the Philippines, those countries no longer want to buy the recyclables, which were previously converted into more valuable materials used in industrial processing.
Contamination of the recyclables has also emerged as a growing concern given the additional work required to sort and dispose of material labelled as recycling if it is not actually fit for processing either because it is dirty or the material is of a low quality.