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Hazardous Waste Returning to Canada


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September 16, 2016 by John Nicholson

Waste that had been illegally shipped to the Philippines three years ago is heading back to Canada.  Earlier this week, the Philippine Justice Department said it will file a motion for the execution of an earlier court ruling that waste originating in Canada be returned. 

In 2013, 50 containers of waste which included biohazardous and household hazardous waste were shipped to the Philippines for disposal.  Inspection of the containers by Philippine authorities discovered that the contents had been mislabeled and the shipment was illegal.  The contents had been labeled “scrap plastic materials for recycling”.

Customs agents in February 2014 investigate the Canadian Shipment (Photo Credit: Philippine Bureau of Customs)

Customs agents in February 2014 investigate the Canadian Shipment (Photo Credit: Philippine Bureau of Customs)

An Ontario-based company, Chronic Inc., shipped the containers to Manila through its Valenzuela-based consignee Chronic Plastics.  However, the containers remained unclaimed at the port in Manila. Chronic Inc. is a company that specializes in sending mixed plastics across the Pacific to be sorted in the Philippines and sold for recycling.

In a 2014 article in the Toronto Star, the President of Chronic Inc., Jim Makris stated, “Their story of this garbage thing is just driving me nuts.  Anybody who’s in plastic, who knows plastic, will tell you.  It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard of in my entire life.”  He said the contents, which he bought from a recycling firm in Vancouver, were “95 per cent plastic” but also contained some paper and aluminum that one would find in a standard household recycling bin.

In the Toronto Start interview, Mr. Makris defended his company stating that it is uneconomic to ship waste overseas.  He stated that “anyone with a brain” could see that it makes no sense to ship garbage overseas.  It costs $40 per tonne to dump garbage in Canada, but $80 per tonne to ship his recycling material to the Philippines, he said.

Under the Basel Convention, to which Canada and the Philippines are signatories, it is illegal to ship hazardous waste internationally, except in special circumstances.  The Canadian Embassy to the Philippines said in a statement in 2013 that the Basel Convention and Canadian domestic regulations allows Manila for the shipment to be returned “if they are found to be in contravention with the Convention or cannot be completed in an environmentally sound manner.”


John Nicholson

John Nicholson

John is a cleantech and environmental expert with over 25 years of experience. He is a registered professional engineer and has a Masters degree in environmental engineering.
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