Waste-to-energy plant in B.C. to handle disputed garbage from Philippines
Environmentalists display placards as they picket the Philippine Senate to demand the Canadian government to speed up its removal of several containers of garbage that were shipped to the country six years ago Friday, May 24, 2019 in suburban Pasay city, south of Manila, Philippines. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
VANCOUVER -- About 1,500 tonnes of garbage that is being sent back to Canada from the Philippines will be taken to a facility in Burnaby, B.C., that turns waste into electricity.
The regional district of Metro Vancouver says it has been selected as the preferred site for the disposal of the waste by Environment and Climate Change Canada partly because of its proximity to the Port of Vancouver, where the garbage is scheduled to arrive.
The regional district's website says its mass-burn facility in Burnaby has been in operation since 1998 and handles about 260,000 tonnes of garbage a year.
Earlier this week, the Philippines rejected Canada's late-June timeline for repatriating its garbage and was moving forward with plans to ship it back to Canada itself.
Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo told a media briefing in Manila on Thursday that Canada's timeline isn't good enough and that the Philippine government will have 69 containers of mislabelled Canadian trash shipped across the Pacific no later than next week.
Ottawa has contracted the Canadian office of the French shipping giant Bollore Logistics to treat the waste and then bring it back to Canada before the end of June.
Environment officials say the containers must be fumigated in the Philippines before being loaded onto a ship. The contract with Bollore is worth $1.14 million.
In a news release on Friday, Metro Vancouver Board Chair Sav Dhaliwal said the facility in Burnaby has been handling waste from the international airline and shipping industries, as well as other materials designate for secure disposal by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
"We have the technology and capacity to safely and efficiently handle this type of material," Dhaliwal said.
Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the containers dumped in Canadian waters after Canada missed Duterte's May 15 deadline to deal with the nearly six-year-old dispute.
They are the remainder of 103 shipping containers sent to the Philippines by a now-defunct Canadian company in 2013 and 2014, falsely labelled as plastics for recycling. Philippine authorities were alarmed that the amount of material was more than the Philippine importer could process, and ordered an inspection, finding the containers to be filled mostly with regular garbage rather than any material that could be recycled.
Canada and the Philippines have battled since 2014 about what to do with the contents. The Philippines has recently recalled its ambassador and consuls general until Canada deals with the waste.
As a result of this case, Canada changed its regulations to prevent this kind of situation from recurring by requiring exporters to obtain permits to ship waste if either Canada or the importing nation deems it to be hazardous.
Jack Froese, chairman of Metro Vancouver's zero waste committee, said waste-to-energy is the best option to deal with the garbage "because there is no potential for contact with wildlife, and no potential for waste to leave the facility following disposal."
The garbage coming from the Philippines is the equivalent of about two days' worth of processing capacity at the plant in Burnaby, Metro Vancouver said.
The federal government is paying the municipality $250 per tonne to dispose of the garbage under its bylaw covering the special handling of waste, which works out to about $375,000.