Canada should no longer make its garbage 'someone else's problem': advocate
A shipload of Canadian garbage arrives in Canada on Saturday after festering for years in the Philippines, but one environmental advocate says Canada still isn’t doing enough to manage its own waste.
Vito Buonsante, plastics program manager for the advocacy group Environmental Defence, said it was a “disgrace that we need to send our garbage to the developing countries.”
He said he’s glad Canada is taking 69 containers of garbage back but stressed it needs to better address both the large amounts of garbage Canadian residents create and the fact trash is shipped halfway across the world to “make it someone else’s problem.”
More than six years ago, Chronic Inc., a Canadian plastics exporter, sent more than 100 shipping containers of mostly garbage falsely labelled as plastics for recycling to the Philippines. The containers arrived in Manila in 2013 and 2014.
The trash consisted of used adult diapers, newspapers, plastic bottles and bags. Some experts have even said the garbage violates international law. The company that shipped the garbage is no longer operating.
The non-recyclable trash is scheduled to be incinerated because Buonsante argued “it’s difficult to do anything else.”
He stressed that plastic manufacturers need to step up and adhere to the principle of extended producer responsibility, which means “producers are given a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products,” according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Part of this idea is for manufacturers to develop more products that are recyclable which actually go on to be recycled and reused.
Canada only recycles about nine per cent of the plastic it produces. According to a recent report prepared for Environment Canada by Deloitte and ChemInfo Services, in 2016 Canadians threw out 3.3 million tonnes of plastic which is 12 times more than was recycled.
On Thursday, the federal government and the provinces announced plans to work on harmonizing recycling standards. But Buonsante criticized the action plan put out by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment calling it an “action plan with really no action, no sense of urgency and showing no leadership whatsoever.”
He argued the plan had no set targets and no clear outline for ways to reduce the amount of plastic waste Canada generates.
Dealing with plastic waste appears to be at the forefront for the Trudeau government. Earlier this month, the federal government also pledged to ban all single-use plastics as early as 2021. At the time, Trudeau called the issue a “problem we simply can’t afford to ignore.”
According to a statement from the federal government, less than 10 per cent of plastic used in Canada gets recycled and, without any change, Canadians will throw away an estimated $11 billion worth of plastic materials each year by 2030.
Each year, an estimated 150 million tons of discarded plastics – or one garbage truckload every minute -- is dumped into the world’s oceans, according to the federal government.
With files from The Canadian Press