Earlier this month, ports in Vancouver accepted a shipment of 1,500 tonnes of garbage back from the Philippines, after a lengthy dispute with the country about Canada’s trash. While it looked for a short while like Canada’s garbage wars were coming to an end, it seems they may have only just begun, as another country is now asking Canada to take back its trash.
Earlier this week, 83 shipping containers sitting in a Cambodian seaport were discovered to be filled with plastic waste believed to be from the United States and Canada. According to a Cambodian Environment Ministry spokesperson, Neth Pheaktra, the total weight of the garbage found in the containers in Sihanoukville, the country’s main port, was 1,600 tons.
Following the discovery of the trash, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, Hun Sen, took the opportunity to remind the world that Cambodia is not a dumping ground for the waste from other countries. Hun Sen also noted that Cambodia does not allow the import of any recyclables, including plastic waste.
Of the 83 containers filled with waste, it is believed that only 13 belong to Canada, while another 70 likely originated from the United States. Both countries are struggling to appropriately export waste after China, previously the main destination for such waste, banned all imports of foreign plastic waste in 2018.
Since then, Canada has been sending garbage to other foreign countries, including Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and The Philippines. However, these countries are beginning to fight back, and have started to reject shipments of trash from overseas.
Speaking about the matter, Neth Pheaktra said, “Cambodia is not a dustbin where foreign countries can dispose of out-of-date e-waste.” He added, “The government also opposes any import of plastic waste and lubricants to be recycled in this country.”
It is believed that the 83 containers, which arrived over a period beginning in October 2018, do not contain any dangerous or toxic materials or radioactive substances. However, they do contain a significant amount of plastic waste.
Cambodia already struggles with their own plastic waste domestically, with little public awareness of their plastic crisis and inadequate facilities and infrastructure to deal with it and recycle. Hence their refusal to accept Canada’s plastic, too.
In response to this latest news about Canada’s continued garbage wars, some people took to Twitter to express how they felt. Many users seemed to agree that sending Canada’s trash to another country was wrong and that the countries returning the garbage have absolutely every right to do so.
Hey @ec_minister Maybe we should be recycling plastics in Canada and not shipping our garbage to Asia - where the… https://t.co/XdVktmMxNr— MRT Life 🇨🇦 (@MRT Life 🇨🇦) 1563380056.0
Thanks @sfchronicle we can’t be the dumping ground for the rest of the world! SF based @BrightmarkE here to s… https://t.co/qLQY1hgQ5K— Bob Powell (@Bob Powell) 1563375533.0
According to Neth Pheaktra, Cambodia will begin the process of returning the garbage back to the country that it came from. A government committee has also been set-up to investigate how and why the trash ended up there in the first place. Pheaktra noted that whoever is found to be involved, would be fined and taken to court over the matter.
Disclaimer: Cover photo used for illustrative purposes only.