AFTER the Canada waste fiasco ended in May last year, the issue on “imported” garbage went quiet. Unknown to many however, there were still foreign trash waiting to be shipped back to their country of origin, specifically from South Korea.

The Korean garbage arrived at the Mindanao Container Terminal in July, 2018. It was declared as “plastic synthetic flakes” but investigation showed that the shipment contained used dextrose tubes, used diapers, batteries, bulbs, and electronic equipment. About 1,400 tons of this waste was shipped back last year. Finally last Sunday, January 19, the remaining 5,177 metric tons of trash were shipped back to South Korea.

The Korean garbage did not create much noise unlike the Canadian waste which took almost six years to resolve. It sparked a diplomatic crisis when President Duterte recalled the Philippine Ambassador to Canada and threatened to dump the containers of garbage in Canadian waters. The issue on the 25,610 kilograms of plastic scraps and shredded gadgets and computers from Hong Kong was also settled quietly.

Meanwhile the Australian waste “intercepted” in Misamis Oriental was not shipped back. This waste, technically called processed engineered fuel (PEF) and used in cement production, was cleared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau (DENR-EMB). A cement plant here in Region 3 also uses segregated garbage in their kiln as alternative fuel.

I hope that there will be no more dumping of garbage from other countries in the future. The amendment to the Basel Convention will put an end to garbage dumping if it will be strictly enforced. In May last year, more than 180 nations agreed in Geneva to add mixed plastic scrap to the Basel Convention. Under the amended treaty, exporters must first obtain consent from the governments of receiving nations before shipping the most contaminated, mixed, or unrecyclable plastic waste.

Environmentalists are happy with the amendment but the recycling industry is not. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a recycling trade group, said in a statement that the amendments to the Convention “will hamper the world’s ability to recycle plastic material”. Overall, this move will force many nations, the Philippines included, to deal with their own waste in their own soil.

There were talks that our government might impose a total ban on imported waste, including recyclables. Recyclers are worried that this move will “kill” the industry. Local collection of recyclable materials such as paper and plastic is not enough to supply their needs so they import raw materials from other countries. The government can regulate importation of waste by limiting it to legitimate recycling mills.