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British Columbia B.C. facility prepares to incinerate controversial Canadian garbage returned from Philippines

Canadian garbage returned from the Philippines is driven to an incineration facility in Vancouver.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press

A B.C. facility was expected to begin incinerating Canadian waste returned home from the Philippines after it caused a furor between the two countries.

On Sunday, crews began to process 1,500 tonnes of waste destined for incinerators at Metro Vancouver’s Waste-to-Energy Facility to produce electricity for sale to BC Hydro.

The effort came a day after the waste arrived at a Vancouver region port.

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For five years, the waste has inadvertently been in the Philippines after 103 mislabeled containers, supposedly containing recyclable plastic, were sent to the Manila International Container Terminal.

When Philippine authorities discovered the cargo included mixed waste such as household garbage, electronic items and used adult diapers, they demanded Canada take it back.

Under the 1992 Basel Convention signed by Canada, informed consent is required before a developed country can export hazardous waste to a developing country.

In April, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to “go to war” with Canada if the garbage was not taken back.

“I cannot understand why they are making us a dump site,” Mr. Duterte told CNN, saying he would sail to Canada and dump the trash there himself. “The garbage is coming home.”

Although a portion of the garbage was removed, Mr. Duterte recalled the Philippines’ ambassador and consuls from Canada after Canada missed the President’s May 15 deadline to remove the rest of the garbage.

The contents of 34 of the containers of waste were eventually disposed of by the Philippines, but 69 containers were shipped back to Canada.

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Metro Vancouver charges $250 per tonne to deal with waste, and the municipal organization has confirmed that Ottawa is paying those costs.

The cost to Canada is $1.14-million for shipping and another $375,000 for the garbage to be burned in the Metro Vancouver incinerator.

The garbage left June 1 and was transferred on June 8 in Taiwan to another vessel for the trip across the Pacific Ocean. It arrived at a facility near the the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal, south of Vancouver, just after 7 a.m. on Saturday.

The trash was held at a terminal before being taken to an incineration facility in Burnaby, B.C.

Metro Vancouver declined to allow media on site, citing health and safety concerns.

The waste was expected to be mixed with local refuse to create a mix incinerated at temperatures of about 1,200 C, creating heat and gases that generate electricity to be sold to BC Hydro to power about 16,000 homes.

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Sabrina Kim, press secretary for federal Environment Minister Catherine McKenna, said in a statement the Canadian government had done the “right thing” to bring the garbage home and ensure its proper disposal despite it having been exported to the Philippines under the former government of prime minister Stephen Harper.

In the Sunday statement, Ms. Kim said ministry officials continue to explore ways to hold the responsible parties to account.

Efforts to secure comment from the federal Conservatives, given the criticism of the previous government, were unsuccessful.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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