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Justin Trudeau Steps Off a Plane in the Philippines and Into a Pile of Canadian Garbage

When he landed in Manila Tuesday, a red carpet was waiting for Justin Trudeau along with fresh pressure from local activists to clean up at least 50 containers of garbage a Canadian company shipped to the Philippines in 2013.

by Hilary Beaumont
Nov 17 2015, 9:20pm

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

When he landed in Manila Tuesday for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings, a red carpet was waiting for Justin Trudeau along with fresh pressure from local activists to clean up at least 50 containers of garbage a Canadian company shipped to the Philippines in 2013.

Local activists with the group BAN Toxics are planning a candle lighting ceremony to bring attention to the rotting rubbish, and Greenpeace has called on the Canadian prime minister to "take a stand and have the heart to make a decision on this ugly issue."

To make matters messier for the new leader, Trudeau told press on the plane to Manila that his country was "a positive actor on the environment." Trudeau, who will attend APEC meetings alongside the US president, said he had casually mentioned to Barack Obama that Canada has "a very different approach right now to environmental responsibilities."

Chronic Plastics reportedly shipped 50 containers of garbage mislabeled as recyclables from Vancouver to the Philippines in 2013, although the head of the company has denied this, telling The Toronto Star, "It's the stupidest thing I've ever heard of in my entire life."

Activists now allege that another 48 containers of garbage arrived in 2014 and were discovered earlier this year. A Change.org petition says the containers are leaking and pose "extreme health hazards."

Image via Facebook

The Philippine Bureau of Customs said the garbage shipped in 2013 is of a household nature. The Canadian Press has reported the containers included used adult diapers.

Those calling on Canada to clean up the mess point to the Basel Convention, which states developed countries can't send hazardous waste to developing countries. Activists have said the company broke the law by sending non-recyclable materials.

Since the garbage arrived, local politicians, citizens and activists have called on Canada to take it back, including Leah Paquiz, a member of the Philippine House of Representatives, who said, "My motherland is not a garbage bin for Canada."

Under former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canada turned up its nose at the waste, saying it was not a government issue, but Trudeau may have to clean it up.

The new leader recently ended an election campaign that featured pro-environment messaging, and ahead of the Paris climate talks in less than two weeks, Trudeau is attempting to present an environmentally responsible image for Canada.

"I know that Canada has to start demonstrating real action and not just words in order for the world to understand that we are serious and committed to developing our resources in a responsible and sustainable way," Trudeau told reporters on the plane.

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter: @hilarybeaumont