Environmental Regulatory Compliance in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec During COVID-19

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Written by Sabrina Spencer, Dufferin Harper, Jonathan W. Kahn, Charles Kazaz, and Sydney McLauchlan, Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP

In light of ongoing uncertainty of the duration of COVID-19 and its impact on industrial operations and despite the federal government only committing to the exercise of “enforcement discretion,” several provinces have recently acted to temporarily relax numerous environmental notice, reporting and compliance requirements. This bulletin provides an update on the changes introduced over the past several weeks by the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. For initial governmental actions pertaining to environmental regulatory compliance requirements during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and measures businesses can take to protect themselves, please refer to our March 2020 Blakes Bulletin: Environmental Regulatory Compliance During the COVID-19 Pandemic.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy (MOE) has issued a notice stating that authorization requirements under the Environmental Management Act (EMA) and the Integrated Pest Management Act (IPMA) remain in effect and all reasonable measures should be taken to comply. If an authorization holder is unable to meet its requirements due to the impact of orders, directives or guidance issued by B.C. in response to COVID-19, the MOE requires notice of the non-compliance, including a rationale as to how the compliance issue is related to COVID-19 and information on mitigative measures being taken. Notice regarding non-compliance pursuant to the EMA must be provided to environmentalcompliance@gov.bc.ca, while notice regarding non-compliance pursuant to the IPMA must be provided to ipmreporting@gov.bc.ca. The MOE will take into consideration directives and guidance from the public health officer when addressing non-compliances.

On March 27, 2020, the Chief Gold Commissioner issued a blanket order extending timelines in relation to all claims and licenses under the Mineral Tenure Act, as well as in relation to all coal licenses and leases under the Coal Act. The time to make cash in lieu or register work on claims that have expiry dates before December 31, 2021, is extended to December 31, 2021. Claims with expiry dates past this date are not subject to this order. For mining and placer leases, as well as coal leases and licenses, the time to register the annual rental payment, which is normally on the anniversary date, is extended to December 31, 2021.

Also on March 27, 2020, a notice was issued jointly by the Environmental Appeal Board, the Forest Appeals Tribunal and the Oil and Gas Appeal Tribunal suspending mandatory timeframes, effective March 18, 2020, for the filing of appeals at all three tribunals. The suspension of timeframes will remain in effect until further notice at the end of the COVID-19 public health crisis.

On April 1, 2020, OIC 158/2020 was approved to amend regulations made pursuant to the Greenhouse Gas Industrial Reporting and Control Act. OIC 158/2020 gives the director discretion to accept incomplete emission reports or compliance reports (i.e. either missing required information or a verification statement) for the reporting period ending December 31, 2019 (2019 GHG Reporting), and to provide up to six months for the missing information to be provided. The OIC also gives the director discretion to extend the submission deadline for 2019 GHG Reporting by up to six months. Finally, the OIC gives the director discretion to conduct any site visit required in relation to 2019 GHG Reporting virtually and in accordance with the director’s directions. Details on how this discretion will be exercised have not been provided.

On April 8, 2020, the Oil and Gas Commission (OGC) issued Industry Bulletin 2020-09, extending the payment deadline for the 2019/20 pipeline annual levy from 30 to 90 days. The OGC has also indicated that it will continue to undertake proactive inspections, with modified procedures to maintain social distancing which may include requesting site photographs from company representatives in lieu of site visits where possible. The OGC will also continue to take enforcement action where necessary. The OGC has also provided direction in relation to its modified operations, including new procedures related to core samples and drill cuttings, in its COVID-19 Response for Industry bulletin, which will be updated as operations continue to evolve in response to COVID-19.

ALBERTA

On March 30, 2020, the Minister of Environment and Parks, issued Order 15/2020 and Order 16/2020, which relaxed certain reporting requirements under the Technology Innovation and Emissions Reduction (TIER) Regulation and the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) Regulation, respectively. On March 31, 2020, the Minister issued Order 17/2020, which relaxed requirements under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (EPEA), the Water Act (WA) and the Public Lands Act (PLA). On the same day, the Director of Air Policy issued a temporary amendment to requirements under the Air Monitoring Directive (AMD). On April 6, 2020, the Minister of Energy issued Order 219/2020 which relaxed requirements under the Oil and Gas Conservation Act (OGCA), Coal Conservation Act (CCA) and Oil Sands Conservation Act (OSCA).

Order 15/2020 modifies the TIER Regulation by extending the deadline to submit 2019 compliance reports and emissions reduction plan reports, and Order 16/2020 modifies the RFS Regulation by extending the deadline for fuel suppliers, approved contributors, and renewable fuel providers to submit 2019 compliance reports, both from March 31, 2020, to June 30, 2020.

Order 17/2020 modifies the EPEA suspending all requirements to report information pursuant to provisions in approvals or registrations issued under EPEA. Similarly, reporting entities are no longer required to report information relating to provisions in licenses or approvals issued under the WA. Finally, all disposition requirements to submit returns or reports are suspended under the PLA. Drinking water facilities are not captured by these amendments however and must continue to follow all terms and conditions of the authorizations, including the required reporting.

Order 219/2020 modifies the CCA and the OSCA by suspending various reporting requirements, including annual reporting, exploration reporting and all plans within approval conditions, except conditions related to geotechnical reporting requirements. It also modifies the OGCA by suspending various reporting requirements. All initial suspension requirements for inactive wells that are not part of the Well Compliance Program and considered low and medium-risk type 6 are suspended, in addition to ongoing inspection requirements. For inactive wells in the Well Compliance program, the compliance deadline is suspended for the final program year.

The relaxation to requirements set out in Orders 15, 16, 17 and 219/2020 are in effect until August 14, 2020, or 60 days after the Order in Council 080/2020 is terminated (if done so before June 15, 2020), or when terminated by the Lieutenant Governor in Council, or by the Minister.

In addition, from March 31, 2020, to December 31, 2020, several AMD reporting requirements are relaxed including: reduced frequency of ambient continuous air monitoring station calibrations, station manifold and inlet cleaning; removal to report “calendar day” in AMD reporting forms; three-month extension for completion and submission of 2019 Annual Emissions Inventory Report; removal to immediately report exceedances of Ambient Air Quality Guidelines until August 31, 2020; and two-month extension for submission of airshed monthly air monitoring summary reports and ambient data.

ONTARIO

The Government of Ontario has promised guidance relating to requirements for monitoring and reporting during the COVID-19 crisis, but thus far no guidance has been provided and all monitoring and reporting obligations under regulations and approvals remain in force. Operationally, anecdotal experience suggests that some Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks offices are showing flexibility from an enforcement perspective, but this appears to be largely an ad hoc approach in situations where compliance is not achievable.

The Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks has announced that it is temporarily exempting all Ontario Ministries from the requirement to post proposals for instruments on the Environmental Registry, ostensibly to allow the Government to respond quickly to time sensitive needs of the Government and various regulated entities.

As set out in previous Blakes bulletins, the Ontario courts have suspended various civil proceedings and the Government of Ontario has suspended limitation periods and various procedural time limits. The Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal has confirmed that all in-person Environmental Review Tribunal hearings will be postponed but it is where possible carrying on with interlocutory and procedural matters by teleconference.

QUEBEC

The Quebec Ministry of the Environment and Fight against Climate Change (MELCC) has issued guidance on its website regarding compliance inspection activities during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The MELCC has indicated that it will need to adjust its delivery of compliance services to be consistent with the government position on COVID-19 that is focused on social distancing and take into account the challenges faced by businesses.

Under the MELCC guidance, businesses must do everything they can to avoid causing damage to the environment and they must continue to comply with legal obligations for situations that may have a direct impact on the health and safety of the population as well as on the quality of the environment.

Compliance inspections by the MELCC, other than those related to responding to environmental emergencies, responding to complaints and monitoring of drinking water, will be limited and performed in situations where there is a significant risk to the quality of the environment or the health and safety of the population.

The MELCC has also indicated that it will be tolerant with businesses whose ability to comply with environmental obligations are affected by the restrictions put in place as a result of the COVID-19 emergency measures, particularly in relation to compliance with administrative requirements, such as requirement to transmit reports. In the majority of non-compliance situations, enforcement measures will not be used. However, the MELCC reserves the right to do so if the situation requires action. Specifically, enforcement measures, such as notices of non-compliance and administrative monetary penalties, will be limited and adapted to the current COVID-19 situation. If situations of non-compliance cause significant risks to the environment or to the health and safety of the population, the government will assess the action to be taken, taking into account the emergency situation and the context specific to each case.

The MELCC has also announced that it will temporarily exempt companies who seek to convert their operations in order to participate in efforts to combat COVID-19 from obtaining environmental authorization that would normally be required to modify an activity—for example, an increase in production—or to add an activity—for example, the design of new products. The MELCC must be notified of the activity to undertaken and receive confirmation of the exemption from the Minister, which will be delivered with 48 hours.

SUMMARY

The impact of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving and there are no clear answers or timeframe for the crisis to end. To help navigate the challenges, Blakes has consolidated resources on a range of topics relating to COIVD-19 and its business and legal implications.

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About the Authors

Sabrina Spencer is an Associate at Blakes’ Vancouver offices.  Sabrina’s practice focuses on environmental, indigenous and municipal law, and includes project development matters, real property matters, regulatory compliance, indigenous consultation and accommodation, and commercial transactions and agreements.

Dufferin Harper (Duff) is a Partner at Blakes’ Calgary offices.  He practices in the areas of environmental law, commercial litigation and regulatory law. He routinely acts for clients on environmental due diligence and liability issues, especially as they pertain to brownfield redevelopment and transportation of dangerous goods.

Jonathan W. Kahn is a Partner at Blakes’ Toronto offices.  He is widely regarded as one of Canada’s leading environmental lawyers. For more than 25 years, he has provided representation and advice on a broad range of environmental and natural resources law issues.

Charles Kazaz practices all aspects of environmental law at Blakes. He advises clients in the commercial, industrial, mining and waste-management sectors. Charles is based in both Montréal and Toronto and has extensive expertise in environmental aspects of corporate, commercial and property transactions, project development, regulatory compliance and liability issues.

Sydney McLauchlan is an articling student at Blakes. She obtained her J.D. from Queen’s University Belfast.

 

 

Free Webinar on True Zero Waste and the Circular Economy

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This webinar is a complimentary event open to the United States Green Building Coalition – Los Angeles (USGBC-LA) community members and the general public.  It is scheduled for May 13th at 11 am Pacific Daylight Time.

Topics of discussion on the TRUE Zero Waste and Circular Economy Overview – Webinar on May 13th (11 am PDT) include:

  • What is Circular Economy?
  • What’s the difference between Circular Economy and a really good recycling program?
  • Introduction to the basic concepts:
    • Waste = Food
    • Build Resilience Through Diversity
    • Energy from Renewable Resources
    • Think in Systems
    • True Zero Waste Certification overview

Without urgent action, global waste will increase by 70 percent on current levels by 2050, according to the World Bank’s new report. The make-take-waste way of doing things is coming to an end and if we do it right, we’ll create massive new economical and social opportunities!

During the webinar there will be a discussion on how businesses can create value by striving for zero waste, seeing products and materials as cycles, the role of creative solutions, and how you can contribute to make the transition to a Circular Economy.

SPEAKERS

 Denise Braun, CEO All About Waste

Denise has over seventeen years of experience in the sustainability field, starting in Brazil and then moving to the United States. She is the founder and principal of All About Waste – a woman and minority-owned sustainability and zero waste consulting firm based in Los Angeles, CA. Denise and her team provide a diverse range of services including solid waste data collection and analysis, circular strategic frameworks, green building certifications, zero waste programs and certification, training/educational workshops, and community outreach. She has worked in various capacities on over 150 LEED-certified projects, many of which have achieved the highest level of certification with no clarifications. Denise is currently working on several zero-waste and wellness projects. She worked on the first TRUE-certified zero waste high-rise commercial building in the world. Denise has been responsible for over 30 million square feet of waste audits and has developed and analyzed technical waste management solutions for a large variety of building types. Denise has presented at numerous lectures, workshops, and conferences, including the annual Municipal Green Building Conference and Expo, Net Zero Conference, the Living Building Collaborative Zero Waste Forum and the GreenBuild Conference & Expo. She currently has several accreditation and expertise such as: LEED AP,  WELL AP, ENV SP, TRUE Advisor, Fitwel Ambassador and sustainable supply chain. She also is sitting as a Board of Director at USGBC-LA.

 Ryan McMullan, CEO Lean Green Way

Over his career Ryan McMullan has led several Sustainability programs including in Toyota’s Corporate Responsibility department and Rice University’s Facilities & Engineering department.  These have included strategically developing and deploying environmental targets across a wide variety of functional groups, reporting on environmental progress, greenhouse gas inventories, and developing programs for zero waste, zero carbon, and zero water.  He now consults with companies like Lockheed-Martin, Walmart and Mattress Recycling Council (MRC) to help them establish leading sustainability strategies. He is an advisor to TRUE Zero Waste Certification at GBCI and the Environmental Leader Conference. He earned his Masters from the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management at UC Santa Barbara and his Bachelor’s from Rice University.  At home he keeps busy improving the sustainability of his home in Long Beach, California, teaching his 10-year-old son to conserve resources and design games, and writing on his experiences.

British Columbia Landfill to convert LFG to RNG and sell it to FortisBC

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The Capital Regional District (CRD) recently  announced approval in principle of an agreement where FortisBC will purchase Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) produced from the landfill gas (LFG) that is generated from the Hartland Landfill.  The RNG will be used by FortisBC for beneficial use in its natural gas distribution system.

The CRD is a regional government for 13 municipalities and three electoral areas on southern Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, serving more than 413,000 people. FortisBC Energy Inc. owns and operates approximately 49,000 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC Energy Inc. is a subsidiary of Fortis Inc., a major company in the North American regulated electric and gas utility industry.

The project is expected to reduce the region’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 264,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the 25-year project life, the equivalent of removing 2,240 cars from the road for 25 years. The agreement would allow for FortisBC to purchase between 140,000 gigajoules to 280,000 gigajoules each year for 25 years, starting in late 2021.

“Climate action and environmental stewardship are embedded in the CRD’s strategic priorities, committing the CRD to take a leadership role pursuing carbon neutrality,” said CRD Board Chair Colin Plant. “This Earth Day, we are sharing this significant move forward in our commitment to this goal — working alongside local governments to further reduce emissions and explore new resource recovery opportunities are key initiatives associated with this priority. The GHG analysis clearly points to upgrading landfill gas to Renewable Natural Gas as the best decision for the climate.”

RNG is a carbon-neutral energy made from capturing and upgrading the biogas released from decomposing organic waste in the landfill. RNG blends seamlessly with conventional natural gas in the existing natural gas system to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Ongoing commitment towards a lower carbon future remains a key focus at FortisBC,” said Doug Stout, vice-president of market development and external relations with FortisBC. “I’d like to thank the teams at FortisBC and the Capital Regional District for their collaboration in completing this important application and another positive step forward in achieving provincial GHG reductions.”

Increasing the amount of renewable gases in FortisBC’s system is a vital step towards their 30BY30 target, an ambitious goal to reduce customers’ GHG emissions by 30 per cent by 2030.

In 2004, Hartland’s landfill gas-to-electricity plant began using landfill gas for green power generation and currently supplies electricity to approximately 1,600 homes in the region. The volume of biogas being produced at the landfill has exceeded the capacity of this current system, and the existing infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life. Two options were evaluated: expanding the existing power generation equipment to sell more electricity to BC Hydro or installing a biogas upgrading facility at Hartland Landfill to upgrade this biogas to RNG. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the displacement of conventional natural gas in alignment with the CRD Board’s climate emergency declaration.

A lifecycle greenhouse gas assessment of the two alternatives found that upgrading landfill gas to RNG will reduce the region’s GHG emissions by approximately 264,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the 25-year project life, a significant improvement over the electricity scenario, which would result in an approximate 2,800 tonne reduction.

The CRD and FortisBC are currently working together on a supply contract that will be submitted to the British Columbia Utilities Commission for approval. If approved by the commission, the CRD will continue to be responsible for the ownership and operation of the Hartland Landfill, the landfill gas collection system and the upgrade facility. FortisBC will pay a fixed price per gigajoule for the RNG and will be responsible for the costs associated with injecting the RNG in to the natural gas distribution system.

 

Global Smart Waste Management Market valued at at $1.5 Billion

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According to a recent market research report prepared by Maximize Market Research, the global smart waste management market was valued at US$ 1.5 Billion in 2019 and is expected to reach approximately US$ 9.53 Billion by 2027, at compound annual growth rate of 26% during forecast period of 2020 to 2027.

The global smart waste management market is segmented into Waste Type, Solution, Service, Applications and Regions. Based on Waste Type Market is segmented into Industrial Waste and Residential Waste. Based on the solution, the smart waste management market is segmented into network management, analytics and reporting solutions, optimization solutions, asset management, asset management, fleet management, remote monitoring and others. On the basis of service, the global market is bifurcated into managed services and professional services. On the basis of application, the market is divided into food & retail, manufacturing & industrial, municipalities, construction, healthcare, and colleges & universities.

Not only for smart cities or urban areas but smart waste management needed in the rural areas of a country as well. As wastes create problem to the environment and can harm to the humans as well as animals on planet by spreading any kind of diseases and allergies. Wrong methods of waste disposal and landfills also cause environmental hazards and health issues, hence it has become need of the current and forecasted era to look out for so

me smart ways to dispose of the waste. If waste management has done in a good way, it may act as a renewable resource. The companies that offer smart solutions for waste collection primarily focus on three solutions intelligent monitoring, route optimization, and analytics.

The rising volume of waste is creating complexities in the logistics of waste collection and need to meet the several regulations by government and environmental authorities relating to waste processing, urges for the better waste management solutions, which can be made possible by the use of advanced technologies, such as IoT sensors, RFID, GPS, etc. Owing to the several reasons, the smart waste management market is at an emerging phase, and it is estimated to witness healthy growth of CAGR 26% during forecast period 2020-2027.

The report encompasses the market by different segments and region, providing an in-depth analysis of the overall industry ecosystem, useful for making an informed strategic decision by the key stakeholders in the industry. Importantly, the report delivers forecasts and share of the market, further giving an insight into the market dynamics, and future opportunities that might exist in the Global Smart Waste Management Market. The driving forces, as well as considerable restraints, have been explained in depth. In addition to this, competitive landscape describing the strategic growth of the competitors have been taken into consideration for enhancing market know-how of our clients and at the same time explain Global Smart Waste Management Market positioning of competitors.

German Researchers Discover Plastic-Eating Bacteria

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Researchers in Germany recently published a research paper in Frontiers in Microbiology in which they describe the isolating a strain of bacteria that can degrade plastic.  The specific bacteria Pseudomonas sp. were able to biodegrade polyurethanes.  The plastic, specifically polyurethane, served as the sole source of carbon and energy for the bacteria.

Due to the variety in physical, chemical, thermal and mechanical properties, polyurethanes (PU)have a broad range of applications, Some of the main applications are detailed below:
• Flexible PUF: automobile seating, furniture, carpets.
• Rigid PUF: refrigerator, insulation board.
• Elastomers: footwear, adhesives, medical.
• RIM: automobiles (bumpers, side panels).
• Other: carpets, casting, sealants.

As PUs are used in so many every day applications and industrial uses, they enter the municipal solid waste stream, usually by way of discarded consumer and industrial products. These products frequently are durable goods with a long lifespan such as upholstered furniture, mattresses and automobile parts. By weight, approximately 1.3 million tons of waste PUs are generated each year in the USA alone. The largest market is for PUF (47% flexible and 28% rigid), followed by PU elastomers (8%).  North America represents around 30–35% of the world total consumption, with the remainder in Western Europe (around 40%), the Far East (around 15%) and the rest of the world (around 10–15%).

Polyurethanes, due to there diverse chemical composition, are very difficult to recycle.  Due to their high flammability, they are typically treated with flame retardants that may be carcinogenic.

“The bacteria can use these compounds as a sole source of carbon, nitrogen and energy,” says microbiologist Hermann Heipieper, from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research-UFZ in Germany. “This finding represents an important step in being able to reuse hard-to-recycle PU products.”

The discovery was made in the soil underneath a waste site containing an abundance of brittle plastics. Having spotted the strain, the scientists ran a genomic analysis and other experiments to work out the bacterium’s capabilities.  It will be some time before there is a commercial-scale bacteria-based solution to plastic waste challenge.

Canadian Research

In Canada, researchers from the University of British Columbia and industry partner Polymer Research Technologies are working together to develop technology that will allow polyurethane foam waste to be chemically recycled into polyols.  If successful, the research will lead to a commercial-scale process that can produce a reusable, recyclable, economical, and eco-friendly raw material alternative to petroleum-based virgin polyol.

 

Free Webinar Impact of COVID-19 on Waste Management

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The International Solid Waste Association (ISWA) is hosting a webinar on April 29th at 7 am EDT to discuss the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on waste management.

About the Webinar

What impact does COVID-19 have on waste management worldwide? How can we keep waste management uninterrupted, safe, and focused on protecting public health?

The webinar speakers, from the ISWA Board and Scientific & Technical Committee, will discuss waste management in these unprecedented times during this 1 hour roundtable.

This webinar is intended for all working in the waste management sector who want to get expert insight into the latest information, best practices, and recommendations of waste management and COVID-19.

ISWA and COVID-19

Over the last few months almost every country worldwide has had to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak. The first wave of quarantines throughout the world will create serious social and political impacts, and have already required a quick response from the waste industry.

ISWA has gathered best practices from their national members and also created recommendation based on multiple expert collaborators within the ISWA network. Please take a look at https://www.iswa.org/iswa/covid-19/ for more information.

The ISWA is an independent and non-for-profit association working in the public interest to promote and develop sustainable waste management. ISWA has members in more than 60 countries.

Timeline extended for Ontario Blue Box Transition Plan

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Stewardship Ontario, recently announced that the Ontario government had granted an extension for the submission of the blue box transition plan to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA).  Stakeholders now have until July 8, 2020 to submit input on how Ontario’s Blue Box recycling program should be transitioned to a full producer responsibility model.

Stewardship Ontario is a not-for-profit organization funded and governed by the industries that are the brand owners, first importers or franchisors of the products and packaging materials managed under recycling programs in the Province of Ontario.

The RPRA is an arms-length Ontario Government organization that was set up to support the transition to a circular economy and a waste-free Ontario.  The RPRA oversees three waste diversion programs- Blue Box, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW), and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE)– and their eventual wind up.

Now being developed by Stewardship Ontario, the plan was originally scheduled for submission to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) on June 30, 2020 but the timeline has been revised as follows:

  • Stakeholder feedback on transition plan proposals extended to July 8, 2020
  • Transition plan submitted to RPRA no later than August 31, 2020
  • RPRA approval maintains original deadline of December 31, 2020

Consultation materials supplied by Stewardship Ontario originally scheduled for the week of April 6 have been postponed and are expected to be made available to stakeholders shortly.

Stewardship Ontario will be reaching out to stakeholder group associations to schedule meetings and discuss initial feedback on the materials before the rescheduled consultation webinars.

Investment Firm High on Specific Waste Industry Company Stocks during COVID-19 Pandemic

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The Motley Fool, a multimedia financial-services company, recently recommended two waste management companies for dividend-minded investors during this current tumultuous time.

Waste not, want not

One stock the Motley Fool is high on is Waste Connections Inc. (TSX:WCN)(NYSE:WCN).  The Motley Fool basis its assessment on the company on its view that waste disposal services will remain relevant whether the economy is booming or coming to a grinding halt.  No matter how bad things get, the waste business needs to continue its operations.

The Motley Fool stated that, in its opinion, Waste Connections remains a safe dividend stock because people need the company’s services in a time where most businesses are indefinitely closed. Waste Connections will likely see a decline in its revenue since its industrial and commercial clients are not running their businesses. Still, its residential clients will require waste management.

The company reported $1.54 billion in operating cash flow for fiscal 2019. It used the excess cash for $400 million in acquisitions in 2019. It has planned $500 million in acquisitions planned for 2020. While the recession might slow down its growth, the stock is likely to earn a substantial revenue.

As of mid-day April 22nd, Waste Connections stock was trading for $120.77 per share on the TSX, up 14.7 percent from its price a month earlier. The Motley Fool’s assessment is that it does not offer you a juicy amount in terms of dividends, but it has a reliable 0.91% dividend yield. It also has a respectable dividend growth streak of nine years.

Waste Management

The Motley Fool also considers Waste Management (NYSE: WM) a safe buy at during the current COVID-19 pandemic. The company provides essential services in waste management and recycling. In the view of Motley Fool, Waste Management is recession-proof because it will continue to see strong demand for its services throughout the business cycle. And if it’s one thing that investors can expect from the stock, it’s consistency; during the past six quarters, only once has quarterly revenue fallen below $3.8 billion. Its profit margin is also normally above 10%, falling below that threshold only twice in the past 10 quarters.

Currently, shares of Waste Management are trading at around 23 times earnings and 19 times future earnings. The stock also pays a quarterly dividend of $0.545 that, as of recently, yields 2.4% annually. Waste Management announced its plans to increase the dividend in December; it’s the seventeenth straight year that the company has done so. The company’s President and CEO Jim Fish called dividend payments Waste Management’s “top priority for capital allocation after we invest in the business to drive long-term profitable growth.”

In summary, the Motley Fool considers the stock to be near its low, offering a good and reliable payout, Waste Management is a solid pick up today for long-term investors.

Foolish takeaway

It is the assessment of the Motley Fool that there is no telling how long it will take for the pandemic to diminish and the economies of recovery. In uncertain times, a bit of stability and reliability counts for a lot.

Waste Connections might not have a terrific dividend yield, but it is a stock that offers reliability and an excellent dividend growth streak.

Waste Management can help you earn reliable passive income and protect your capital during the recession.

 

Removing Contaminants from Landfill Leachate using Electro-Oxidation

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Written by Nicole Bolea, PE, Xogen Technologies Inc.

More than just ammonia removal…

Previously the application of Advanced Electro-Oxidation, AEO, technology was shown to be a viable option for ammonia removal from landfill leachate.  Though ammonia is a major problem and still a target, recent testing and piloting has shown Advanced Electro-Oxidation destroys many more contaminants in addition to removing ammonia to non-detect levels.  New recent testing and piloting shows promising data for Boron and color reduction.

Landfill Leachate: An Expensive Challenge

A growing number of landfills are seeing increases in costs and issues associated with trucking leachate and sending it to the sewer.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey landfill leachate hosts numerous contaminants of emerging concern[1].  This is forcing landfills to reevaluate their systems to treat or pre-treat onsite.

Advanced Electo- Oxidation: How it Works

Screened leachate is pumped through Xogen’s reactor. When the leachate contacts an electrode in the reactor a direct oxidation of the contaminants occurs on the surface of the electrode. Indirect oxidation in the bulk occurs as well from the generation of highly oxidizing species including ozone, hydrogen peroxide and hydroxyl radicals.  As these highly oxidative species form they immediately react with organic matter, ammonia compounds and other constituents in the aqueous solution and get converted into a mixture of hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen gas. Suspended solids in the wastewater will precipitate or float to the surface by the micro-bubbles of gas generated while pathogens are completely killed[2]. This method results in not producing hazardous waste streams that are costly to deal with.  There is no concentrate stream or biosolids produced, the contaminants are destroyed into inert gases that are mixed and vented at safe levels.

 

Contaminant Removal Data

Along with ammonia, AEO has the potential to reduce or completely remove: COD, BOD5, Boron, nitrates, pharmaceuticals, sulfides, H2S, phenols, poly vinyls, cyanide, and E. Coli (resulting in complete disinfection). Piloting a large sample of landfill leachate from the Midwest revealed the potential to remove Boron. Boron reduction by approximately 50% was observed during this pilot. The testing was performed at the pilot plant located on the University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. The campus boasts an impressive piloting and testing system t

Sample before and after AO treatment

hat is part of the Water Innovation Network for Sustainable Small Systems, WINSS. Their vision is “To develop technological solutions that can be readily implemented by small systems. To reduce barriers to their use by utilities. To stimulate research for small systems among the academic and entrepreneurial community. To develop new models for technology & educational outreach in support of small systems”[3]

When discharging leachate to the city sewers color can be a major concern for small communities. The color produced from landfills can inhibit the city’s ability to disinfect with UV later in their process before discharge. Below is a picture and graphical data showing the color reduction potential with AEO.

When discharging leachate to the city sewers color can be a major concern for small communities. The color produced from landfills can inhibit the city’s ability to disinfect with UV later in their process before discharge. Below is a picture and graphical data showing the color reduction potential with AEO.

The picture helps show the color reduction potential, but UV visual spectroscopy testing was also performed to quantify the affect AEO has on color. Along with color in this testing, COD was reduced by approximately 50% with complete ammonia destruction to non-detect levels.

Conclusion

Along with removing ammonia to non-detect and nitrogen to very low levels, Advanced Electro-Oxidation will remove and destroy many more contaminants. The ability to remove many CECs at once has the potential to be a cost-effective onsite treatment option for landfills. A special thanks to the professionals, professors, and students at UMass Amherst for testing and piloting landfill leachate, wastewater to show the potential for Advanced Electro-Oxidation.

 

Multi-criteria decision making framework for plastic packaging: An expanded life cycle approach

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

This white paper is a general overview of a tool being developed by York University and Pollution Probe to help stakeholders better understand the impacts (environmental, economic and social) of plastics with respect to product and packaging design. Our goal is to provide methodological guidance and create a common set of evaluative criteria that stakeholders can use to make informed decisions regarding plastics. This includes the development of an expanded life cycle analysis model, that attempts to model the economic, environmental and social impacts of plastics, at all stages of its life.

Often times, one of the greatest obstacles in the debate surrounding the role of plastics in a circular economy is that we either operate on incomplete information (i.e. how much is actually being generated and diverted), or we fixate on one component of a products life cycle (i.e. recycling at end of life), and evaluate its viability through that narrow lens.

It’s our hope that this tool (and more broadly, the methodological approach), be used in a way to ensure that stakeholders have clear and prescriptive guidance regarding what needs to be considered when making product design and policy decisions.

**Note: The development and dissemination of the expanded life cycle analysis tool is contingent on raising sufficient funding and support from stakeholder groups. If funding can be secured, the anticipated deployment of this tool will be in Fall of 2020.**

Issue Overview

Plastics have transformed everyday life, with more than 400 million tonnes of plastic and plastic products being generated every year across the world. While plastics often bring many societal benefits and play an instrumental role in manufacturing, technology, healthcare etc. there are significant concerns regarding the quantities of plastic waste being discarded into the environment. In Canada, it is estimated that only 10% of all plastics produced in the country are actually recycled, with the balance accumulating as waste in landfills, public spaces, water ways and oceans. This accumulation of plastics entering into terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems poses acute risks to both human and animal health, with bio-accumulation of plastics being observed as causing endocrinological disruptions to wildlife. It is with this in mind that in January of 2020, the Canadian federal government announced a proposed ban on single use plastics items by the year 2021. This decision was informed by a report commissioned by Environment Canada concluding that single use plastics posed significant risk to the environment resulting from both their manufacturing and disposal.

While this decision has generally been met by a favorable response from both environmental groups and the public, there remain significant questions regarding what single use plastics will be banned. There remains considerable uncertainty regarding what the rationalization and methodology for evaluating which materials should be banned, in addition to the short and long term economic implications resulting from a single use plastics ban.

However, despite the findings of the Environment Canada report, and the prevailing negative sentiment surrounding plastics, and particularly plastic packaging, it is important to recognize that not all plastics are created equal. While the vast majority of plastics are made from ethylene derived from hydrocarbon sources, there exists a significant heterogeneity with respect to the types of resin (polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene etc.), including how it is made, how it is used, why it is used and what can be done with it at end of life.

Many of the environmental concerns attributable to plastics tend to be focused on the manufacturing stage and available end of life waste management options. It is during these two stages that the release of macro plastics (pieces larger than 5mm) and micro plastics (pieces smaller than 5mm) into the environment is considered highest.

While the Environment Canada report undertakes a comprehensive literature review to determine the risks posted to both human and ecological health attributable to plastics in our environment, it does not offer any guidance regarding which plastics to ban, or provide an evaluative framework that can assist decision makers in identifying problematic materials.

One of the dangers of characterizing all single use plastics the same way (bad for the environment, should be banned etc.), fails to capture the complexity and nuances of plastics, particularly for packaged goods.

This white paper outlines a potential evaluative framework for examining the environmental, economic and social impacts of plastic materials (with a specific emphasis on household plastic packaging). The purpose of this framework is to provide both policy makers and plastic producers with a decision making tool that captures the latest in life cycle thinking and consequential impacts (both economic and social), resulting from proposed material bans.

Life Cycle Analysis Thinking

Life cycle thinking for the purposes of informing policy decisions is not a new phenomenon – in fact, many of the studies included in the Environment Canada literature review included a life cycle component when evaluating the environmental safety of various packaging types.

However, most contemporary approaches to life cycle analysis, particularly within the context of end of life management of packaging waste, define system boundaries that are too limited in scope. Often times, model boundaries are defined from the point of disposal, to its final end use application (recycling, composting, energy from waste, or landfilling). The environmental impacts of a particular end of life option are compared against a baseline assuming 100% virgin production (i.e. Recycling 1000 tonnes of PET, would be compared against the environmental impacts of producing 1000T of virgin PET, with the delta in LCA key performance indicators being the measured impact)

The vast majority of life cycle analysis specific to waste management and material design is only concerned with what happens to an item once it reaches its end of life. It is through this lense that many plastics, particularly single use plastics, are deemed to be environmentally problematic. In many instances, particularly for light weight and composite plastics, these materials cannot be readily managed in existing waste management infrastructure.They either cannot be recycled or composted, and even when sorted at a material recovery facility, there are limited end markets for most non PET and HDPE plastics.

As a result, the characterization of these materials is often seen as being “bad” for the environment, with many environmentalists and municipalities pointing to the lack of recyclability as being the primary driver for banning single use plastics. In the absence of recycling or reuse, there is no offset to the environmental burdens associated with virgin production of these plastic materials. If these materials end up in a landfill, the risk of entering into our environment and disrupting both aquatic and terrestrial eco systems increases.

While this outcome may lend credence to the decision to ban single use plastics, it fails to account for the upstream impacts (economic, environmental and social) of a material, prior to consumption. In spite of many single use plastics possessing low levels of recyclability, potential benefits attributable to plastic packaging include:

  • A reduction in the amount of materials used. The transition to plastics for many products has resulted in the light weighting of materials – less physical material is used to make the product.
  • Logistical efficiencies (more material can be transported per shipment) – largely attributed to the reduction in overall weight, the use of light weight and composite plastics has resulted in a reduced emissions footprint related to the transport of materials.
  • Increased durability, longer shelf life (both in the store, and in the home), and allowing for discretionary consumption (you only use what you need). This is particularly true of plastic food packaging. As an example, a laminate package for soup (in lieu of the conventional tin can) allows users to reseal the pouch, allowing it to be stored longer and avoiding waste.

This white paper expands the list of criteria for what should be considered in a life cycle analysis, as a means to create more informed and defensible policy decisions.

 Expanding life cycle criteria

This white paper recommends expanding the boundaries of a life cycle analysis to capture criteria such as material reduction/light weighting, logistical impacts attributable to light weighting, effects on useful product life (both at the store and in the home for perishable items packaged using plastics), discretionary consumption, direct and indirect economic impacts, available waste management infrastructure, risks when landfilled and risks when incinerated.

Table 1 below summarizes what variables are included in the proposed expanded life cycle analysis. It is important to note that depending on the scenario and circumstances being modeled, not all criteria will apply (nor have all criteria been defined)

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The above KPIs include both quantitative measures (i.e. $ cost per tonne managed,) as well as qualitative variables that provides useful contextual information that can better inform decision making.

While expanding our life cycle approach to capture these variables may result in a more time and data intensive life cycle analysis, adopting this methodology is critical in understanding the “true” impact of plastics, particularly single use plastic packaging. In theory, a comprehensive life cycle analysis is intended to capture the aforementioned components, however, there is little methodological guidance with respect to how to do that, and for which materials can it be applied. Further complicating the inclusion of these additional variables is an issue of measurement – how can we measure things like waste reduction, shelf life etc?

Development and Deployment of Expanded Life Cycle Analysis Tool

York University and Pollution Probe are currently working together in order to develop an expanded life cycle analysis calculator that includes the aforementioned components shown in table 1 above. Accompanying this tool will be a guidance document that explains how to measure and weight the above KPI criteria, and how to interpret the output in a meaningful way to help inform decision making.

This purpose of this tool is four fold: 1) allow users to capture life cycle impacts that have traditionally been omitted from previous investigations into LCA or plastic packaging 2) provide an evaluative framework to stakeholders who are looking to evaluate and compare the economic, social and environmental impacts of different types of plastic materials 3) quantify the environmental and economic affects attributable to potential programmatic changes (i.e. a ban on LDPE film), or allow users to model multiple scenarios to see how various options compare (i.e. landfilling all LDPE film, or recycling all LDPE film).

The tool that will be developed and distributed by York University and Pollution Probe will be populated with default data and assumptions (reflecting Ontario specific transportation distances, energy grid mixes, available infrastructure, and material management costs). Users will have the ability to change the underlying assumptions to better reflect differences in their particular jurisdiction, or model scenarios involving trans-jurisdictional management of waste. York University and Pollution Probe can also work closely with stakeholders in developing a more granular expanded life cycle calculator that pertains to the specific operations of a particular organization or municipality.

In the absence of conducting an expanded life cycle analysis, policies and decisions may not be fully informed, potentially resulting in inferior economic, social and environmental outcomes. Using an expanded life cycle approach is intended to capture both the upstream and downstream impacts of plastics, with the intention of helping stakeholders arrive at the most sustainable outcomes.

It is important to note that the most sustainable outcome isn’t necessarily the one that diverts the most material. Understanding what impact material decisions will have on cost (both in terms of material management costs and indirect impacts on the price of packaged goods), and which groups are most likely to be adversely impacted by changes in cost, access or availability, is critical in sustainable materials management.

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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.