Cannabis And Waste: Another “Green” Opportunity

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Written by Holly SherlockTalia GordnerRalph Cuervo-Lorens, McMillan LLP

While the rapid growth of the cannabis industry in Canada has created new and exciting opportunities, this breakneck pace raises questions regarding the management of cannabis-related waste.

Cannabis production generates a significant amount of waste in the form of almost all of the by-products of production, including plant discards, air emissions, wastewater and other solid waste. Some estimates have found that Canada’s cannabis industry will generate up to 6,000 tonnes of cannabis waste in 2020.1

However, despite the general emphasis of regulators on the importance of proper waste management, there is little guidance from either the federal or the provincial governments on this issue specific to the cannabis industry.

Federal Regulation

Generally, the production of cannabis is regulated by the federal government under the Cannabis Act2 and Cannabis Regulations.3 Cannabis producers are subject to strict requirements regarding licensing, security, production standards and product quality.

The Cannabis Act provides for a comprehensive definition of “cannabis”, which in effect includes any part of the cannabis plant, any substance or mixture that contains or has on it any part of the plant, and any substance that is identical to any phytocannabinoid (e.g. THC or CBD) produced by or found in such a plant.4 Schedule 2 excludes certain parts of the plant, including non-viable seeds, mature stalks without leaves, flowers, seeds or branches, fibres derived from any items listed in Schedule 2 and the root or any part of the root of the plant.5

The federal Cannabis Regulations provide that any unused cannabis must be “destroyed”. The method of destruction, however, is not set out. Nevertheless, cannabis may only be destroyed by methods that comply with otherwise applicable federal, provincial and municipal laws. For example, destruction must not result in anyone being exposed to cannabis or cannabis vapour, must take place in the presence of two witnesses and producers are to record every instance of destruction and keep these records for a minimum of two years.6

With the exception of destruction of unused cannabis, the Cannabis Act and Regulations do not address the management of the waste resulting from the production of cannabis.

Provincial and Territorial Regulation

Given the limited guidance of federal law, the regulation of cannabis waste falls to the provinces and territories, all of which have pre-existing waste management regimes.

In Ontario, for example, a well-established and comprehensive regulatory scheme comprised primarily of the Environmental Protection Act7 (“EPA”) and the Ontario Water Resources Act8 (“OWRA”) regulates every aspect of waste. In addition, the Pesticides Act9 and the Nutrient Management Act10 deal with waste issues specific to agricultural operations. Other provinces have similar schemes.

The EPA is the principal environmental framework in Ontario governing waste. The purpose of the Act is to conserve the environment by regulating activities that discharge contaminants into the natural environment. Various regulations have been enacted under the EPA to regulate waste related activities such as soil management, greenhouse gas emissions, waste disposal and landfill sites. Generally, a party is required to obtain an Environmental Compliance Approval (“ECA”) prior to undertaking any activity that will result in the discharge, emission or disposal of contaminants. If a company or producer obtains an ECA, they are only entitled to emit a specified amount and type of emission into the environment for a limited period of time. The EPA imposes various penalties, including substantial fines, for failure to comply.

The OWRA protects and governs the quality of water resources in the province by controlling the discharge of contaminants into local water bodies. Generally, an ECA must be obtained under the OWRA prior to any discharge occurring. Approval must also be obtained for the taking of surface or groundwater at a rate above 50,000 litres per day.

The Pesticides Act and the Nutrient Management Act regulate the use of pesticides, fertilizers and the application of soil nutrient material to land. Users of these materials are subject to licensing requirements and nutrient-management plan approvals.

It remains unclear just how Ontario’s regulatory scheme governing waste will be applied to waste generated from the production of cannabis. The answer will likely depend on how cannabis operations are ultimately characterized for the purposes of regulation. For example, certain emissions from agricultural operations are exempt from large portions of the EPA, including the requirement under section 9.1 to obtain ECAs prior to discharging a contaminant into the natural environment. As a result, if cannabis growers are considered agricultural operations as opposed to industrial operations they may be exempt from a large portion of Ontario’s waste framework. However, if they are not exempt in this way, they will face strict waste compliance and reporting obligations.

The Future

Cannabis producers are properly focused on destroying cannabis so as not to run afoul of federal law. However, this can lead to cannabis being mixed with other waste, potentially making it unrecognizable as well as unusable and creating complications when it comes to composting and disposal.

While some commentators point to a missed opportunity to repurpose cannabis waste, including the unused portions of the plant into other products such as hemp items and construction materials, as the law currently stands, cannabis producers are largely unable to reuse or repurpose cannabis parts. This leads to unnecessary waste and expense.

New companies are cropping up to deal with cannabis waste opportunities, including start-ups developing technology to dispose of cannabis through a process that results in compostable biomass solids while extracting water clean enough to be reintroduced into the municipal water system.11

Given the absence of clear rules provided by the federal, provincial or territorial governments, cannabis producers should seek legal advice when contemplating what to do with their waste and to help them devise appropriate waste management, disposal and recycling protocols that dovetail with the applicable provincial and territorial regulations. McMillan has the expertise to navigate these regulations and assist cannabis industry members in weighing all of their options.

Ultimately, we should expect higher levels of regulation as the environmental impacts of the cannabis industry become better understood and the industry itself matures. Hopefully, future regulation will provide clarity on cannabis waste management options as well as appropriately incentivizing producers who prioritize environmentally sound practices and sustainability.

Footnotes

1 Senate of Canada, Standing Committee on Agricultural and Forestry Evidence,  (Published 27 March 2018).

2 Cannabis Act, SC 2018, c 16 (Cannabis Act).

3 Cannabis Regulations, SOR/2018-144 (Cannabis Regulations).

4 Schedule 1, Cannabis Act.

5 Schedule 2, Cannabis Act.

6 Cannabis Regulations, s. 146(7).

7 Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E19.

8 Ontario Water Resources Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. O.40.

9 Pesticides Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. P.11.

10 Nutrient Management Act, 2002, S.O. 2002, c. 4.

11 Vancouver Sun, “ Vancouver startup high on technology to process cannabis plant waste”,  (Published 4 April 2018).

Originally Published by McMillan, November 2020

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

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About the Authors

Holly Sherlock is an associate in the firm’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution Group. She is building a broad practice in complex civil and commercial litigation. She has experience in a range of areas, including contractual disputes, regulatory compliance and environmental litigation. Holly has appeared before the Ontario Court of Justice, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Talia Gordner is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Group. Her advocacy practice covers a broad range of corporate and commercial matters with an emphasis in the management and resolution of complex environmental and regulatory disputes. Talia represents clients from a wide range of industries dealing with matters ranging from common commercial disputes such as breach of contract, fraud and negligence to environmental matters involving recent, ongoing and historical contamination.

Ralph Cuervo-Lorens is a partner in the firm’s Regulatory Group. His regulatory practice has a focus on CSR standards, social license to operate and environmental risk-management and compliance for clients with “high impact” businesses. Ralph’s work in this area includes traditional regulatory matters (such as impact assessment, disclosure and reporting, decommissioning, Aboriginal consultation and accommodation, audits, risk management, emergency response and remedial and clean-up plans) and also extends into due diligence, risk management and disclosure issues in corporate securities, financing and mergers and acquisition transactions.

Doing less, with more – Why the environmental performance of the Blue Box is decreasing over time

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Co-Investigator: “The Waste Wiki” – Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

Can recycling be bad for the environment? This is a question that I have posed to students in the past – almost universally, the answer has been a resounding no. For decades, Ontarians have been inundated with the message that “recycling is good” and that it is our collective responsibility to recycle in order to preserve resources for future generation. In fact, Ontario’s Blue Box program is expected to play a critical role in helping the province achieve its carbon reduction and zero waste goals, and remains as the centerpiece of the Waste Free Ontario Act. With all of this in mind, recycling must surely be a good idea, right?

I would be disingenuous if I told that recycling was bad for the environment. However, I do feel that not all recycling is created equal. What we recycle, when we recycle and why we should recycle is very much contingent on a number of site and situation specific circumstances. When evaluated in isolation and all things being equal (cetterus paribus), recycling will yield a positive environmental outcome. However, the situation becomes much less clear once we begin to include other factors (economics, social equity etc,) and the “opportunity cost” of recycling activity (where opportunity cost is the forgone benefit that would have been derived by an option not chosen.).

Looking at the performance of Ontario’s Blue Box program, we observe a troubling trend – the environmental performance of the Blue Box (measured in terms of GHGs abated) has decreased every year since 2015. In that same period, the net cost per tonne to recycle all Blue Box materials has increased by 21%, while overall tonnes diverted has fallen by more than 80,000 tonnes. In short, the province is doing “less with more”, as the cost of the Blue Box program continues to increase by double digits year over year, while recycling less material and abating fewer tonnes of carbon.

It is important to note that this “decrease” in performance cannot be attributed to any particular cause – the rapidly changing nature of what packaging is made up of, uncertainty regarding the scope and timeframe of proposed legislation, volatility in end markets and realized revenues etc. are all exogenous factors that affect what is being recycled and the costs of doing so. The Blue Box of today is fundamentally different than it was even as little as a decade ago. Over the past 5 years, the program has seen overall paper recycling drop by more than 159,000 tonnes annually (an approximately 38% reduction). Steel packaging and glass cullet have also seen their overall recovered tonnages decrease, while aluminum, PET and HDPE have remained flat. Of particular interest, is that the share of plastics #3-7 (LDPE Film, Polystyrene, Plastic Laminates and Other Plastics) of all tonnes generated and recycled has increased significantly during this same period. This change in the mix of materials generated into the market and recovered tells a story of a system that is increasingly being made up of expensive, difficult to recycle materials.

In light of these challenges, the province now finds itself at a crossroads of sorts, and faces questions that are fundamental to the very nature of the program.  1) Does Ontario continue to promote recycling policy in the hope that a producer operated system will realize operational and economic efficiencies that overcome these problems? 2) Does the province explore  alternative modes and methods of waste diversion that are no longer rooted in recycling, and 3) What is the goal of the program, and what are we willing to spend to achieve it?

For me, this last question is probably the most important one. In many ways, we have a decoupling of environmental and diversion goals. For decades, we have been taught that ‘more’ recycling is better for the environment – but conspicuously absent from this feel good message is what should be recycled. Is the decision to recycling everything (everywhere), economically feasible or environmentally desirable?

As noted earlier, a message that cannot be stressed enough is that not all recycling is made equal – while counterintuitive, a higher recycling rate does not necessarily result in a superior environmental outcome – a system which prioritizes recovery of materials such as aluminum, newsprint etc. (low cost, high impact) can achieve greater carbon reduction, even in a scenario where overall recycled tonnes decreases. In 2016, the university published a study titled “Optimizing emissions targets for residential recycling programs: Why more is not necessarily better with respect to diversion” (Lakhan, 2016 doi: 10.1177/0734242X16659923). The following is an excerpt taken from the paper abstract:

This study demonstrated targeting specific materials for recovery could result in a scenario where the province could improve both overall diversion and emissions offsets while reducing material management costs. Under the modelled scenario, as the tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHGs) avoided increases, the system cost per tonne of GHG avoided initially declines. However, after avoiding 2.05 million tonnes of GHGs, the system cost/tonne GHG avoided increases. To achieve an emissions target in excess of 2.05 million tonnes, the province will have to start recycling higher cost non-core materials (composite materials, other plastics, etc.).

While the paper itself goes into much greater detail surrounding the methodology and findings, the key take away was that what is being recycled, is often more important than how much is being recycled. Much of the current dialogue surrounding waste management revolves around increasing recycling rates and waste minimization, but we must take a step back and ask whether a higher recycling rate should be the focal point of policy objectives. Are there metrics beyond recycling rates and emission impacts that need to be considered when evaluating the long-term sustainability of waste management systems?

While movements towards more sustainable waste management options should certainly be promoted, we must recognize that the most sustainable system is not necessarily the one that recycles the most material. Although recycling is a central component of developing sustainable waste management systems, its adoption must be weighed against budgetary, social and environmental considerations. For every one dollar we spend on one activity, is one dollar less to spend on another – in a resource constrained world, how we chose to prioritize our goals and allocate these resources is of paramount importance. The careful balancing act between continuous improvement in diversion, GHG abatement and cost containment is a topic that requires more attention now more than ever.

Note: For the purposes of this editorial, I have defined carbon abatement/reduction as being a barometer for environmental performance. I recognize that carbon/GHG reduction is only one component of a much larger environmental footprint, and a true life cycle analysis should consider things like water consumption/acidification/eutrophication/toxicity etc.

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About the Author

Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior.

Circular economy approach at Emerald Energy from Waste

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Written by John Nicholson, Navdeep Randev, and Anastasia Jagdeo

Circular Economy

There has been much discussion on the term “circular economy” and the need for individuals, organizations, and governments to think in terms of circular economy.  In essence, a circular economy is one in which waste is essentially eliminated.  Prior to the modern age, humans were part of the circular economy that exists in nature.

As we may have learned in high school science class, there are cycles in nature including those for carbon, water, and nitrogen.  The industrial revolution broke away from natural cycles and created a linear approach to materials and energy management – products were manufactured, served their useful purpose, and then disposed of in a landfill.  The circular economy approach attempts to create a circle again through the 3Rs and the 4th R.

In Europe and in other forward-thinking jurisdictions around the world, energy-from-waste is considered the Fourth “R” after the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).  The fourth “R” represents the recovery of energy from waste.

Circular Economics applied in Waste Management

Since 1992, the Emerald Energy-from-Waste (EFW) facility has quietly and unassumingly been part of the 4th R – recovering the energy from municipal solid waste.  The facility, originally knowns as Peel Resource Recovery Inc. is situated in an industrial area in north Mississauga, Ontario.  In all of its years of operation, there has been nary an odour, noise, or other nuisance complaint formerly brought against the facility.  Visitors tend to be amazed when they tour the facility which ends at the emissions stack.  Their preconceived notion is that they would see smoke from the stack.  In fact, the emissions are invisible on a warm day.  On cold days, the visible emissions are water vapour.

For the first twenty years of its operation, the facility’s main source of waste was from the Region of Peel.  More recently, it has received waste from several municipalities as well as U-Pak Disposal Ltd., a related company.  The facility also specializes in disposing of special waste including contraband seized by various police departments and Canadian Border Services at nearby Pearson Airport.

The facility runs 24-hours a day, 7 day per week.  It has a total of five two-unit gasifiers/combustion modules that work in parallel to process 500 tonnes per day of solid waste.

The heat generated from the combustion of waste at the facility is used to turn water into steam.  Some the steam is piped to a neighbouring cardboard recycling facility to meet their process needs.  The remaining steam is used to generate about 10 MW of electricity.  The facility itself consumes about 2 MW and its sells the remainder to the local power utility.

Unfortunately, the electricity generated from the Emerald EFW is not considered renewable under Ontario rules and hence does not receive the premium pricing other forms of the renewable energy receive.  There are jurisdictions around the world where EFW is considered a renewable energy source and is priced at a premium.

The volume of waste coming into the facility is reduced by 90 percent through the EFW process and is in the form of either bottom ash or fly ash.  The bottom ash is disposed of in a landfill, although the facility has been and continues to look for other uses for it such as an additive to asphalt or in building materials.  The facility is working with McMaster University researchers on developing a high-value use for the bottom ash.

The fly ash, by regulation, is considered hazardous and is managed at a hazardous waste landfill.

Expansion Plans

The facility is currently in the planning stages of an expansion which would involve the addition of more combustion units and an upgrade of its air pollution control system.  The plans also include an alternative use of the energy recovered from the waste – the production of hydrogen fuel for the trucks that bring waste to the facility.

The facility is working with researchers at the University of Waterloo and a partner in the automotive industry to work out the details of hydrogen generation and use as a fuel for the trucks the off-load waste at the facility on a daily basis.  Preliminary economics and environmental analysis indicate that this is a much more effective use of the heat obtained from the EFW facility.

The Emerald EFW is a shining example of EFW done right in Canada.  It has been an underappreciated harbinger what can be accomplished at municipalities throughout the country.

Why expanding the list of acceptable Blue Box materials hurts more than it helps

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Co-Investigator: “The Waste Wiki” – Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

Preface: For readers outside of Ontario, the Blue Box refers to the province’s residential recycling program for printed paper and packaging.

What is being proposed?

On October 19, 2020, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks released a proposed regulation to govern the Ontario Blue Box program under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (the RRCEA). The regulation will transition Ontario’s blue box recycling program for printed paper and packaging to full extended producer responsibility (EPR).

The proposed regulation expands the list of acceptable Blue Box materials to include “packaging-like products” and certain single-use items. Examples of packaging like products include: aluminum pie plates, tin foil, plastic wraps and food trays, plastic cutlery/plates and single use drink containers.

The intent of this change is three fold: 1) By including packaging-like products, the regulation targets items that so far have been free riders in Ontario’s Blue Box system. 2) Reduce public confusion regarding what is considered an acceptable Blue Box material in their jurisdiction. The proposed change will standardize accepted Blue Box materials, with the same set of materials being collected throughout the province 3) Move towards harmonizing approaches to managing packaging waste at a national level – British Columbia has announced plans to include single-use and packaging-like products in its list of obligated materials by 2023

What is the issue?

The MOECP’s decision to expand the list of acceptable Blue Box materials to include “packaging like products” is inconsistent with previous direction from the province and contradicts the messaging surrounding the federal single use plastics ban.

Prior to the transition plan, municipalities actively discouraged accepting packaging like products in the Blue Box. The primary concern expressed by municipalities was that it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to recycle many of these materials. The costs associated with attempting to collect and recover packaging like products was prohibitive, and could not be rationalized given that these materials were often treated as contamination (both at the material recycling facility, and downstream re-processors), and subsequently disposed of.

Under a full EPR system, wherein packaging producers assume 100% of the physical and financial responsibility for managing packaging waste at end of life, the messaging surrounding packaging like products has now changed. While the infrastructural and technical barriers to recycling these materials remains unchanged, who pays for it has. The potential costs to producers is significant, as none of the pre-requistes for effectively recycling packaging like products are in place – there is limited infrastructure, no viable end markets and no end use applications for these materials.

With respect to the federal directive to ban single use plastics, Ontario’s decision to try and include these items as part of the Blue Bin program is perplexing. Allowing households to place single use packaging in the Blue Bin erroneously suggests that these materials are going to be recycled. As a result, the public receives two conflicting messages – the federal government is saying that single plastics should be banned due to their lack of recyclability and impact on the environment, while the provincial government is saying to include these materials as part of the residential recycling program.

Consumers already struggle with differentiating between what products can be recycled, and what cannot. Consumers have also expressed skepticism as to whether the materials that are collected are actually recycled at all. With this in mind, the decision to include packaging like materials as part of the Blue Box program is likely to exacerbate uncertainty, and serve to undermine the efficacy and credibility of the federal single use plastics ban.

It is the university’s assertion that expanding the list of acceptable materials will result in adverse economic, environmental and social outcomes for Ontarians and lead to consumer confusion regarding what materials are actually recyclable.

What will this cost?

Quantifying the economic impact of expanding the list of acceptable Blue Box materials is enormously challenging, largely because the vast majority of packaging like products cannot be recycled in our existing system. Further complicating matters is that we don’t have a clear understanding of the quantities of packaging like products that are being generated in the province – in short, there is not enough data at this time to make informed policy decisions.

With that in mind, this section attempts to model a scenario using best available data that is intended to provide directional guidance as to what this change will cost. Additional research needs to be done in this area as better data becomes available.

Note: The data used in this section is based on the Stewardship Ontario Pay in Model (used as an analog to estimate net costs per tonne for packaging like products) and 55 waste audits conducted throughout Ontario, between the periods of 2015 and 2020. Audit data is used to estimate the quantities of packaging like products that are being generated by households each year.

Based on the waste audit data, Ontarians, on average, generate approximately 567kg of waste per household every year (Note: Estimates range from as little as 411kg/hh to more than 740kg/hh depending on where the audit was conducted). Overall residential waste generation in Ontario, based on a population of 5,169,175 households, is 2,933,196.66 Tonnes.

Of this, packaging like products makes up approximately 4.01% of all waste generated. Table 1 below provides a detailed breakdown of waste composition, as well as net cost per tonne to manage these materials as part of the Blue Box.

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Weighted Average Net Cost Per Tonne: $2002.52/T

% of Packaging like products of overall waste: 4.01%

Based on our aggregated audit data, 39% of packaging like products are found in the recycling stream (Blue Box), 8% in the Organics Stream (Green Bin) and 53% in the garbage stream (Trash)

Using the above data, we can now estimate what the potential cost would be if Ontario were to move forward with the decision to include packaging like products as part of the Blue Bin. To reiterate, these numbers should be interpreted with caution due to the paucity of available data. This modeling assumes that the material analogs we have taken from the PIM model, accurately reflect packaging like products. We also assume that packaging like products are being recycled, as opposed to being screened as contamination and subsequently discarded. The results of this analysis are shown in Table 2 below:

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Are there environmental benefits?

In light of the enormous costs attributable to expanding the list of acceptable Blue Box materials, it seems prudent that we evaluate the environmental benefits of this decision. The increase in costs could potentially be rationalized if it yields a more sustainable outcome (in this context, we refer to environmental sustainability)

Unfortunately, the inclusion of packaging like products in the Blue Bin does not mean that these materials will be recycled. Based on available infrastructure, processing technology and end markets, there is a very strong likelihood that these materials will be treated as contamination (either at the MRF, or at the processor) and subsequently discarded.

If the landfill is the likely outcome for these materials, it begs the question, “What are we trying to achieve?” At this juncture, it’s not entirely clear what expanding the list of Blue Box materials achieves other than a higher cost for producers (and subsequently, a higher cost for households).

While proponents of this legislative change will cite that packaging producers will have the ability to innovate and develop new end markets and end use applications for these materials, there is very little evidence (if any) of that occurring. Policy makers often erroneously assume that packaging producers have a significant degree of autonomy and control regarding what happens with their products at end of life. The reality is that the vast majority of CPG companies are “market takers”, subject to macro-economic conditions that ultimately determine the value and recyclability of a particular material. In short, if a material had inherent value at its end of life when recycled, then markets would already exist for these materials. Forcing packaging producers who operate in Ontario to invest and develop the infrastructure to recycle packaging like products places them at a distinct disadvantage, as they are incurring an additional cost to manage and recycle materials that would not be recovered if left to a free market.

An argument could even be made that the decision to include packaging like products as part of the Blue Box yields an inferior environmental outcome relative to landfilling. Based on the modeling shown in Table 2, we estimate that the decision to include packaging like products would result in an additional 45,872.26 tonnes being managed as part of the Blue Box system. These are materials that would ultimately have to be collected, transported and sorted – all of which have a carbon impact associated with each activity. For context, GHG impacts of recyclable collection and sorting (at the MRF) makes up approximately 19% of the total carbon footprint of recycling activity. If packaging like materials are ultimately sent to disposal due to a lack of adequate infrastructure or end market demand, then the province’s decision would have actually added GHGs to the environment, not prevented it.

Whatever environmental benefit that may result from including packaging like materials in the Blue Bin is predicated on these materials actually being recycled. Both the public and policy makers need to understand that diversion/recycling is not based on the quantities of collected material inbound to a MRF – at present, recycling is defined as baled and marketed material. In the absence of end markets for packaging like materials, what does the province think is going to happen to the material that is collected?

Caveats to this analysis and key considerations

To reiterate, the estimates used in this analysis use the costs associated with attempting to actually recycle packaging like products. Given that these materials are not actually recyclable in the given system, we have used cost analogs taken from the Stewardship Ontario Pay in Model. Numerous parties (including the university) have expressed concern regarding the accuracy and validity of the data found within the PIM model, but at this juncture, there is no alternative source that can be publicly referenced.

If packaging like products were to be included as part of the Blue Bin, the most likely scenario is that the vast majority of the material is going to be screened and end up in landfill. Even in this scenario, producers would be obligated to pay for the costs of collecting, sorting and disposal – while significant, the only credible way to estimate what this would cost would be to conduct an activity based costing study.

In a review of the proposed changes being put forward by the MECP, there are two key takeaways are: 1) What are we trying to do? If these materials can’t be recycled and ultimately be discarded, why bother including them to begin with? The decision to do so would result in industry spending millions of dollars to achieve an outcome that is no different than what is happening today.

2) At this juncture, there is insufficient data regarding how much of these materials are being generated, where it ends up, and what it costs to manage them. Given the degree of uncertainty surrounding the credibility of the data, it would be in the best interest of all stakeholders for the government to defer the decision to include packaging like materials in the Blue Box (until the potential impacts are better understood).

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About the Author

Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior.

City of Hamilton charged for Odour Issues from Composting Facility

The City Hamilton, Ontario along with several contractors was recently charged under the Ontario Environmental Protection Act in connection with odour issues at its Central Composting Facility.  The specific charges are that the City, along with contractors for the composting facility, discharged or permitted the discharge of a contaminate (odour) contrary to the Environment Protection Act.

The charge relates to issues at the composting facility back in 2018.  At that time, there were numerous odour complaints from residents living near the facility.  The odour issues resulted in the facility be ordered to shut down at the time.

After modifications to better control odour issues, the facility reopened in 2019.  It ran a one-third capacity and only accepted grass and leaf & yard waste.  A third-party was also hired to patrol the area surrounding facility to monitor for air quality impacts, though that effort is now over.

The city-owned facility opened in 2006 and is operated by Aim Environmental Group. It initially handled compost generated by Hamilton, Halton and Simcoe County — the equivalent of 60,000 tonnes per year, from roughly 1,668,000 people.

The city says it received a summons from the Ministry of Environment on Nov. 25 and is required to appear before the Ontario Court of Justice on Feb. 3.  The Environment Ministry launched an investigation following complaints about the odour and the city says it has fully cooperated.

StormFisher to Open Source Separated Organics Processing Centre in Southwestern Ontario

StormFisher Biogas, headquartered in London, Ontario, recently opened a new Resource Recovery Centre in southwestern Ontario.  The new facility, located in the Village of Drumbo, receives and processes municipal source separated organics and packaged food waste.  The incoming material is processed and is then supplied to either StormFisher’s anaerobic digesters in London or is sent to third party digesters.

The facility also provides witnessed destruction through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and certificates of destruction are available upon request.

The materials accepted at the new facility include municipal source separated organics (SSO), industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) waste, packaged food waste, liquid food waste, and solid food waste

The site is 4.29 hectares in area. The facility processes solid organic waste to produce products used in the agricultural industry. The facility receives up to 816 tonnes per day from an Ontario-wide service area. All waste is received, stored and processed indoors. The processing will include sorting, shredding, grinding and screening. The facility will process waste up to 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

Giant ‘vacuum cleaner’ leaves beaches microplastic-free

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Conservationist group #SeaTheBiggerPicture Ocean Initiative (#STBP) and engineers from Matriarch Generic Engineering have developed a giant vacuum cleaner that picks up trash and sieves out microplastics from the beaches of Cape Town in South Africa.

Called the Enviro Buggy, it sieve out microplastics, pieces of plastic that have broken down and now are smaller than 5mm, from ordinary beach sand. It would take humans days to do the same using manual methods.

“The Enviro Buggy was born out of a necessity. We were fed up with trying to pick up so many tiny degraded particles of plastic. It was near impossible by hand, even with a large-scale crew,” said Tash Krauss, a conservationist at STBP.

Expansion Plans for Twin Creeks Landfill in Southwestern Ontario

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Waste Management Canada is planning on seeking the approval of the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) to expand its landfill operation in southwestern Ontario.  The existing landfill, which opened in 1972 is expected to reach capacity in 2032.  If the MECP grants the company the right to expand, it will be possible to keep the landfill in operation until 2044.

As reported in the Sarnia Observer, the Mayor Jackie Rombouts of Watford Township (the municipality in which the landfill is located) stated the announcement of the expansion plans by Waste Management Canada was not welcome news.  “Obviously, it’s not something that our community wants,” she said in an interview with the Sarnia Observer. “We were looking forward to the end of this.”

The township receives landfill royalties, based on the amount of waste entering the site, that totalled about $4.4 million in 2019.  The initial concerns expressed by the municipality was the potential of 12 more years of truck traffic in the area and nuisance issues (i.e., odour and noise).

The company has started the long process of getting approval for the expansion by initiating an environmental assessment (EA).  An EA sets out a planning and decision-making process so that potential environmental effects are considered before a project begins.  It requires that the company seek input in the planning process from a variety of stakeholders including the local government, neighbours, indigenous groups, and others.

As reported in the the Sarnia Observer, Wayne Jenken, area landfill manager for Waste Management, said the environment assessment process is expected to take about five years and cost more than $35 million.  The typical timeline for an EA landfill expansion, from start to finish, is typically between three to five years.

The Notice of Commencement for the Terms of Reference was published on November 17, 2020. It seeks input from interested parties.

The proposed expansion will not involve an expansion in the existing landfill’s footprint.  Instead, the proposal calls for modifying the side slopes of the landfill as well as increasing its existing height.  Currently, the landfill site takes up approximately 300 hectares.  Of that, about 100 hectares are currently approved for landfilling.  If the expansion is granted, the maximum increase in the final height of the landfill could be 40 metres.

The remaining capacity of the existing landfill is Approximately 15 Million cubic metres.  The proposed expansion would provide additional airspace of up to approximately 14M m³.

One of the factors working in favour of the proposal getting approved is that fact that it is very difficult to get EA approval for a new landfill in the province, especially with new requirements that allows municipalities more say in the approval of a new landfill in their boundaries.  Also, study after study has shown that there is a dearth of landfill capacity in the province.

 

 

 

Canada Business Opportunity for Waste Management Entrepreneurs

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The Canadian government, through Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, recently issued a Food Waste Reduction Challenge to entrepreneurs that have concepts and demonstration projects to reduce the food waste, fight climate change, and strengthen food systems.  The prizes range from $100,000 to $1.5 million.  The Food Waste Reduction Challenge is currently accepting applications for Streams A and B. The deadline to apply is January 18, 2021.

Food Waste

Food Waste refers to all food that is grown, harvested, processed, manufactured or prepared for human consumption, but never eaten by people. It occurs at all stages of the food supply chain, from farm to plate.

In Canada and around the world, food waste continues to increase, resulting in an overuse of our natural resources such as water, soil and land, while contributing excess greenhouse gas emissions to our atmosphere. Meanwhile, a growing number of Canadians are facing food insecurity.

Over half of all food in Canada is wasted every year

Globally, food waste accounts for 8% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions

1 in 7 Canadians suffer from food insecurity

In response, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), under the Food Policy for Canada, is launching the $20M Food Waste Reduction Challenge.

By encouraging more solutions to food waste in Canada, we can increase food availability, save consumers and businesses money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen our food systems.

Challenge Streams

Food waste is a complex issue, and there is no single solution. That is why the Food Waste Reduction Challenge will include four complementary innovation streams. We know there are many great innovators out there who have high-impact solutions to tackle food waste throughout our food systems. Through the Challenge, we want to support innovators to establish and grow their solution in Canada.

Try our interactive tool to help you identify which stream is the best fit for your solution.

We are accepting applications for Challenge Streams A and B until January 18, 2021:

  • Challenge Stream A: Business models that prevent food waste
  • Challenge Stream B: Business models that divert food waste, food by-products and/or surplus food

The most promising solutions will be selected by an external committee of subject-matter experts. Innovators will receive grant funding as well as other benefits to help them succeed.

Streams A and B – Stages

Applicants will move through three stages to compete for the grand prize.

  • Stage 1 – Concept Application: Challenge Streams A and B are launched, and application intake begins on November 19, 2020, lasting until January 18, 2021.
  • Stage 2 – Market Demonstration Results: Beginning in Spring 2021, Semi-Finalists selected in Stage 1 will move on to Stage 2, where they will need to demonstrate the success of their solutions with an implementation partner in Canada over an eight-month period.
  • Stage 3 – Grow and Scale in Market: At this stage, Finalists selected in Stage 2 will grow and scale up their solutions in Canada over a one-year period starting in Spring 2022 and will be competing to be one of the Grand Prize Winners of the Challenge.
  • The Grand Prize Winners for The Food Waste Reduction Challenge – Streams A and B will be announced in Summer 2023.

Who Can Apply to a Challenge Stream?

Are you an innovator with a great solution that prevents and/or diverts food waste? Or are you trying to advance a technology that can extend the shelf-life of food or transform food waste? If so, the Food Waste Reduction Challenge is for you!

We are inviting innovators of all types and sizes to apply to one of the four streams of the Food Waste Reduction Challenge. International applicants with a Canadian partner or an ability to register to do business in Canada are encouraged to apply. Ideas and concepts can originate from anywhere globally, but to receive funding under the Challenge, the solutions presented in the submissions must be developed, tested, piloted, demonstrated, and deployed in Canada.

We are currently accepting applications for Challenge Streams A and B. Application intake for these streams closes January 18, 2021. Please see the Applicant Guide for more eligibility details. Applications for Streams C and D will open in Spring 2021.

Up to 30 Prizes of $100,000

Open to all eligible innovators submitting a concept application at Stage 1.

Up to 12 Prizes of $400,000

Open to all Semi-Finalists who reach Stage 2.

Up to 2 Grand Prizes of $1,500,000

Open to all Finalists who reach Stage 3.

Note: The number of winners and prize amounts may vary depending on the applications received.

Challenge details: Streams A and B

Who can apply?

  • Businesses and social enterprises of any size
  • Not-for-profit and charitable organizations
  • Indigenous organizations and groups
  • Post-secondary/academic institutions
  • Individuals or group of individuals

International applicants with a Canadian partner or an ability to register to do business in Canada are encouraged to apply.

Key Dates

  • Stage 1 – Concept Application Deadline: January 18, 2021
  • Up to 30 Semi-Finalists Announced: Late Winter/Early Spring 2021
  • Stage 2 Ends – Up to 12 Finalists Announced: Late Winter/Early Spring 2022
  • Stage 3 Ends – Grand Prize Winners Announced: Summer 2023

Prizes

  • Up to 30 Semi-Finalists will be selected in Stage 1 and will receive approximately $100,000
  • Semi-Finalists will move into Stage 2 and compete for a chance to be a Finalist and receive approximately $400,000
  • Up to 12 Finalists will compete in Stage 3 to win one of two Grand Prizes of up to $1,500,000

Note: The number of winners and prize amounts may vary depending on the applications received.


COVID-19 Lockdown Measures in Ontario and the Impact on Waste Management

The Ontario government is moving Peel Region and Toronto into Lockdown effective Monday, November 23, 2020 at 12:01am. Durham Region and Region of Waterloo will move to “Red-Control” level (restrictions across multiple sectors).

Lockdown measures and restrictions will largely affect retail establishments, restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment facilities, post-secondary schools, and meeting and event spaces, among others.

Waste Management Services Exempt from Lockdown

Under Section 34(ii) of Ontario Regulation 82/20, services and businesses that include “Collecting, transporting, storing, processing, disposing or recycling of any type of waste” are considered essential and exempt from lockdown measures. Also exempt are other businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services within Ontario.

Regions will stay in their restriction level for 28 days (to Dec 21st), or two COVID-19 incubation periods, at which time, the government will assess the impact of public health measures to determine if the public health unit should stay where they are or be moved to a different level.

The following regions will be in the following restriction levels effective Monday, November 23, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.:
Lockdown (maximum measures) – GREY
• Peel Region*
• City of Toronto*

Control (stringent measures) – RED
• Durham Region*
• Region of Waterloo*
• City of Hamilton
• Halton Region
• York Region

Restrict (intermediate measures) – ORANGE
• Huron-Perth*
• Simcoe Muskoka District*
• Southwestern Public Health (Oxford, Elgin, St. Thomas)*
• Windsor-Essex County*
• Niagara Region
• Ottawa
• Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph

*NEW
Please read the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework for details on which regions and which services and businesses are at different restriction levels. If you have questions about temporary measures, including closures and essential workplaces during the coronavirus outbreak, call Ontario’s Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.