COVID 19 Disrupts Cross-Border Waste and Recyclables Flow

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Written by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie and Peter Hargreave, Policy Integrity Inc.

COVID 19 Disrupts Cross-Border Waste and Recyclables Flow

In light of all the actions being taken by all levels of government to address the spread of the coronavirus, it is worth considering its impact on the waste management sector in Canada.  For most, how waste is collected and where it is taken, is not a daily consideration.  And yet, it is one of the most important public health and safety considerations.

Canadian Waste Industry Vulnerable to US Shutdown

In Ontario for instance, roughly one-third of the Province’s waste disposal needs are met by landfills in the United States.  That equates to 3.2 million tonnes of waste a year or roughly 9,000 tonnes per day. While other Canadian provinces do not have the same reliance on out-of-country disposal, many are reliant on a degree of waste materials being shipped across the border.

The free movement of these materials across the US border is an important element of the current Canadian waste management system.  In the last two decades, we have dealt with a few potential disruptions to this flow of materials.

  • The terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001 provided a first indication of the potential vulnerability when US border access was constrained.  The immediate closure and proceeding long lines at the border lasted for several days afterward. The Ontario Ministry of Environment, for instance, had to facilitate emergency measures to ensure waste could be managed in the interim period.
  • After a number of waste truck rollovers in Michigan in the early 2000s, local Senators threatened legislative action to restrict waste crossing the border. This led to an agreement between the state of Michigan and Ontario municipalities in 2006, to end the export of municipal waste (specifically from the GTA) to Michigan by 2010. The province helped facilitate the agreement, and as a result, the state of Michigan dropped all legislative initiatives to stop waste imports. The agreement did not include non-residential waste. By 2010, Ontario municipalities had stopped sending residential waste to Michigan. For a time, overall waste shipments to the U.S. declined, but since 2010, non-residential waste export to the U.S. has steadily increased.
  • Concerns were also raised again as part of the negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 2018 that there could be potential for restrictions on the movement of goods.

Any impact on the movement of waste as a result of a closure to the border, would necessitate the management of this roughly 9,000 tonnes of additional waste domestically.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures?

As in 2001, the inability to transfer waste to the United States would likely necessitate potential changes to environmental permits (such as Environmental Compliance Approvals in Ontario) or governmental emergency declarations / measures to allow for waste receiving sites to increase their annual daily maximum limits. Provincial regulators have been prepared in the past in granting the necessary permissions, and are likely doing similar work  now to ensure the waste industry is not at risk of willful non-compliance.

It may also be the case that some of these waste volumes don’t easily find an alternate receiving site, putting the collectors and/or haulers in the difficult position of potentially operating an unlicensed waste storage facility.  Provincial governments will need to think through these situations including requiring certain sites to accept materials.  In short, there are no simple solutions, but proper planning across the country can at least reduce risks.

Hazardous Recyclables and Hazardous Waste Movement Compliance

In the case of hazardous materials for which no clear alternate home is available in Canada, the situation is even more precarious.   Internationally, no less than 99% of all (lawful) hazardous recyclables (and hazardous waste) exported from, or imported to, Canada are with the United States.  International wastes are still regulated in Canada under the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations, which has yet to be replaced by the long-proposed and more business-friendly Cross-border Movement of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations.  

The Export and Import law currently requires certifications from the holder that any recyclable or waste which is not successfully transferred across the border will be lawfully disposed of in Canada consistent with the approved recycling or waste activity under which the materials were to be transited to the United States.  

A closed border will, in at least some circumstances, put that certification to the test as not all materials exported to the United States have an alternate recycling or disposal facility in Canada.  This is increasingly so with the growth of more specialized and regionally-servicing facilities in US states which capture both Canadian and American materials.  

Some Canadian Recyclers Dependent Upon US Material 

The reverse also creates challenges for the waste industry as some Canadian recyclers are economically dependent on US material.   The disruption of the needed supply of US-originating materials into specialized recycling and disposal facilities in Canada can quickly create a situation where insufficient material volumes makes the facilities no longer viable, leaving the Canadian materials also without a home.

In other words, the growth of integration, particularly in respect of hazardous recyclables and discrete hazardous wastes makes a border shutdown acutely challenging for the Canadian recycling and waste industry.

Contingency Planning to be Developed?

It is likely an overreaction to anticipate that US-Canada integration in resource recovery and waste disposal will come to an end with the current closure of the border.   The economies of scale and lower cost disposal capacity in the United States will presumably reinvigorate this international trade once the worst of COVID-19 has passed.

There may, however, be a growth in contingency planning in respect of Canadian waste and recycling capacity, recognizing a myriad of events may give rise to future US border closures and the Canadian waste industry needs to be prepared.


About the Authors

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of the firm’s Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. 

Peter Hargreave, President of Policy Integrity Inc., has over 15 years’ experience in providing strategic advice in the development, implementation and oversight of public policy. Over his professional career, he has developed a strong network of relationships with regulators, public and private organizations, and other key stakeholders involved in environmental issues across Canada, the United States and abroad. 

What Power Does Canada Have to Restrict Single-Use Plastics?

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Written by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie and Peter Hargreave, Policy Integrity Inc.

With all of the talk from the Government of Canada about the coming laws targeting single-use plastics (SUP), it’s worth asking whether the Parliament has such powers and what’s needed for them to act on SUP.   After all, the federal government has ceded much of its role to the provinces and territories which regulate over environmental protection generally, including most waste management matters, and some provinces have expressed hostility and a willingness to commence legal challenges to any encroachment on their jurisdiction, often on environmental matters such as climate change.   

Regional exceptionalism has become the norm as the federal government has for decades left the provinces and territories to take the lead without national coordination. As a result, the federal approach to SUP which will inherently value (in some measure) national consistency over regionalism will have difficulty in establishing balance, particularly given that some provinces rely upon plastics production as critical revenue sources.  So where exactly does the federal government believe they possess the powers to fulfil their promises to impose a SUP law across Canada?

CEPA and Toxic Substances

The federal government will, by all accounts, attempt to use Part V of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, Controlling Toxic Substances.   Specifically, Environment and Climate Change Canada has the power to regulate plastics under section 90(1) of CEPA, if satisfied that the substance is toxic, to place them on the List of Toxic Substances, which is Schedule 1 to CEPA. 

Findings of toxicity were made for plastic microbeads in toiletries in 2017. Section 64 defines a substance as toxic if

“it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions that:

  1. have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity;
  2. constitute or may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or
  3. constitute or may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health.”

On the Toxic Substances List already are substances Canadians would recognize as inherently dangerous such as lead and mercury.  In contrast, the federal government would be seeking to make a common household material, broadly used to contain and preserve our foods, medicines, etc. equivalent under CEPA to these clearly toxic substances.  It would be a difficult argument to claim that plastics are toxic at all times and for all purposes.    

The ECCC presumably intends to assess plastics as toxic on a more narrow and functional basis – namely that plastics become plastic pollution as they degrade over time, principally as waste material, especially when not managed properly at the end of life.  As waste management is admittedly a provincial/territorial area of legislative authority, the toxicity claim would blur jurisdictional lines.  In short, it’s not as straight forward as the federal government has suggested. 

The Test to Establish Plastics are Toxic

Curiously, while the test for plastics to be placed on Schedule 1 List is that plastics are toxic, the considerations the ECCC are to adopt in assessing a substance are expanded under section 68 to whether a substance is toxic or is capable of being toxic.  The considerations include:

  1. whether short-term exposure to the substance causes significant effects,
  2. the potential of organisms in the environment to be widely exposed to the substance,
  3. whether organisms are exposed to the substance via multiple pathways,
  4. the ability of the substance to cause a reduction in metabolic functions of an organism,
  5. the ability of the substance to cause delayed or latent effects over the lifetime of an organism,
  6. the ability of the substance to cause reproductive or survival impairment of an organism,
  7. whether exposure to the substance has the potential to contribute to population failure of a species,
  8. the ability of the substance to cause transgenerational effects,
  9. quantities, uses and disposal of the substance,
  10. the manner in which the substance is released into the environment,
  11. the extent to which the substance can be dispersed and will persist in the environment,
  12. the development and use of alternatives to the substance,
  13. methods of controlling the presence of the substance in the environment, and
  14. methods of reducing the quantity of the substance used or produced or the quantities or concentration of the substance released into the environment;

As this is a list of considerations and not a strict legal test, no particular item may be necessary or sufficient for the federal government to declare plastics are toxic – there is likely considerable latitude where the science supports concerns over environmental harm.

Does the Draft Assessment Provide Sufficient Scientific Support?

On January 31st, 2020, the ECCC released its draft Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution.   The assessment was not focused upon plastics itself, but rather on plastics when it comes pollution.   This might be understood as an assessment of how plastics are capable of being toxic and not a study on the inherent toxicity of plastics, which has a separate assessment process.  This itself is a departure from the ECCC’s common assessment process, although used for microbeads as arguably the first of those lifecycle toxicity tests.

The findings from the draft Assessment, still in consultation until the end of March, are limited to the pollution (read: waste) effects of plastics and not plastics absent their current usage:

The purpose of this report is to summarize the current state of the science regarding the potential impacts of plastic pollution on the environment and human health, as well as to guide future research and inform decision-making on plastic pollution in Canada. It provides a review of the available information on plastic pollution, including its sources, occurrence, and fate, as well as on the potential effects of plastics on the environment and human health.

It’s also notable that the draft Assessment is identifies as a “survey” of existing science and anticipates further research on plastics, even though the assessment is to serve as to “guide regulatory activities”. 

This report is not intended to quantify the risks of plastic pollution on the environment or human health, but rather to survey the existing state of science in order to guide future scientific and regulatory activities.

The broad remedial powers of the ECCC under CEPA likely cure these defects in science for a finding of plastics as toxics, but proceeding to regulation from the draft Assessment alone may open the ECCC up to challenges that more is needed before such as determination can be made. The ECCC seems to leave the door open to more science, perhaps as much due diligence as inquiry.

It is also worth noting that the regulation of SUP in the name of plastic pollution mitigation aligns with Canada’s commitments under the Ocean Plastics Charter. Such an agreement does not however vest the federal government with implementation powers it does not already have.

So Which Plastics Would Be Declared Toxic?

The draft Assessment divides plastics into two categories:  microplastics (5mm of less) and macroplastics (more than 5mm).   There is some other discussion regarding alternative plastics, such as biodegradable, compostable and bioplastics, but these arguably aren’t sufficiently addressed in isolation in the draft Assessment to warrant findings specific to these alternatives.   

It’s likely that each of microplastics and macroplastics will be the subject of distinct regulatory control measures on behalf of the ECCC under the coming law, with microplastics perhaps attracting the greater restrictions given the greater nexus to contamination.   After all, “microbeads” of 5mm or less are already listed as a toxic substance on Schedule 1.  

It’s also clear that the federal government views SUP as a more pressing matter in light of the 2021 implementation by member states of the European Union’s (EU) Single-Use Plastics Directive and the Ocean Plastics Charter.  In fashioning a Canadian version of a SUP law, it’s worth understanding what regulatory instruments the ECCC would have under CEPA.

The Range of Control Measures Available

Once some category of plastics are deemed “toxic”, the ECCC inherits a considerable range of control instruments to regulate those plastics.  Section 93 of CEPA provides the ECCC ability to control:

  1. the quantity or concentration of the substance that may be released into the environment either alone or in combination with any other substance from any source or type of source;
  2. the places or areas where the substance may be released;
  3. the commercial, manufacturing or processing activity in the course of which the substance may be released;
  4. the manner in which and conditions under which the substance may be released into the environment, either alone or in combination with any other substance;
  5. the quantity of the substance that may be manufactured, processed, used, offered for sale or sold in Canada;
  6. the purposes for which the substance or a product containing it may be imported, manufactured, processed, used, offered for sale or sold;
  7. the manner in which and conditions under which the substance or a product containing it may be imported, manufactured, processed or used;
  8. the quantities or concentrations in which the substance may be used;
  9. the quantities or concentrations of the substance that may be imported;
  10. the countries from or to which the substance may be imported or exported;
  11. the conditions under which, the manner in which and the purposes for which the substance may be imported or exported;
  12. the total, partial or conditional prohibition of the manufacture, use, processing, sale, offering for sale, import or export of the substance or a product containing it;
  13. the total, partial or conditional prohibition of the import or export of a product that is intended to contain the substance;
  14. the quantity or concentration of the substance that may be contained in any product manufactured, imported, exported, offered for sale or sold in Canada;
  15. the manner in which, conditions under which and the purposes for which the substance or a product containing it may be advertised or offered for sale;
  16. the manner in which and conditions under which the substance or a product containing it may be stored, displayed, handled, transported or offered for transport;
  17. the packaging and labelling of the substance or a product containing it;
  18. the manner, conditions, places and method of disposal of the substance or a product containing it, including standards for the construction, maintenance and inspection of disposal sites;

It is likely that a suite of these measures will be adopted distinctly for microplastics and macroplastics. (It’s not clear if alternative plastics would attract their own measures.)  The EU’s Single Use Plastics (SUP) Directive may be instructive, it sets out a number of measures including:

  • Aggressive recycling targets for beverage containers (77% by 2025 and 90% by 2030);
  • Design requirements for beverage containers (i.e., recycled content and tethered caps);
  • Labelling requirements for products that are often not disposed of properly (tobacco products, beverage cups, wet wipes and sanitary towels);
  • Expanded producer responsibility requirements; and
  • Bans by 2021 on single-use plastic cotton bud sticks, cutlery, plates, straws, stirrers, sticks for balloons; all products made of oxo-plastic; cups, food and beverage containers made of polystyrene foam.

Enter the Provinces

It is generally understood that most jurisdictions in the EU will achieve most of the outcomes in the Directive through EPR provisions. Given the diversity in approaches to EPR in Canada that could prove difficult to achieve as these efforts have firmly and institutionally rested with the provinces (and increasingly, territories) in Canada.  The ECCC is playing catch up and there are some questions related to their legislative authority over this mechanism without the support of the provinces. A comprehensive strategy around SUP will necessarily involve provincial /territorial for which the 2018 Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment’s (CCME) Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste was just the beginning of a new age of cooperation on (plastic) pollution.


About the Authors

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of the firm’s Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. He assisted in the founding of one of North America’s first Circular Economy Producer Responsibility Organizations and provides advice and representation to a number of domestic and international industry groups in respect of resource recovery obligations. Mr. Cocker was recently appointed the first Sustainability Officer of the International Bar Association Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on environmental issues and has authored numerous publications including recent publications in the Environment and Climate Change Law Review, Detritus – the Official Journal of the International Waste Working Group, Chemical Watch, Circular Economy: Global Perspectives published by Springer, and in the upcoming Yale University Journal of Industrial Ecology’s special issue on Material Efficiency for Climate Change Mitigation.

Peter Hargreave, the President of Policy Integrity Inc., has over 15 years’ experience in providing strategic advice in the development, implementation and oversight of public policy. Over his professional career, he has developed a strong network of relationships with regulators, public and private organizations, and other key stakeholders involved in environmental issues across Canada, the United States and abroad. He has extensive experience in assessing waste management policies at the federal, provincial, and municipal level across the country. He has also played a key role in leading major research efforts in the waste management sector including data capture and analysis, and understanding the economic and environmental impacts of various waste management activities.

New B.C. Program aims to keep organic waste from landfill

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The Government of British Columbia recently announced that it is partnering with the federal and local governments on the new Organics Infrastructure Program. The $30-million program will help communities expand their infrastructure, diverting organic waste away from landfills. It will also help the Province meet its CleanBC commitment to help communities achieve 95% organic waste diversion for agricultural, industrial and municipal waste.

Organic waste currently represents 40% of material sent to municipal landfills in B.C. and generates 7.5% of the province’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In total, the projects are expected to reduce nearly 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the next decade. This is like removingmore than 100,000 cars from the roads for a year.

The Organics Infrastructure Program combines $10 million in federal funding from the Low Carbon Economy Leadership Fund, $10 million from the Province, and $10 million in matching funds from local government applicants and their partners. Among the projects are two from the Central Kootenay Regional District — Central landfill composting facility and the Creston landfill composting facility — that, together, provide the region with food-waste processing capacity for the first time. Another recipient is the Northern Rockies Regional Municipality’s worm composting facility. It will divert organic waste from Fort Nelson’s landfill and create high-quality soil.

“This program will help communities, the Province and Canada meet our shared climate action goals,” said George Heyman, B.C.’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “It will also help build B.C.’s clean economy by creating green jobs and setting the stage for the economic opportunities that come from the reuse of organic materials.” 

“Investing in better infrastructure for waste management will divert organic waste from municipal landfills and turn it into clean and useful compost,” said Jonathan Wilkinson, federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change. “Initiatives such as this one are key to fighting climate change and helping us reach net-zero emissions by 2050. I congratulate the Province of British Columbia for its leadership in this effort.”

Twelve projects have finalized agreements to date. Additional projects are expected to come on board in the coming months. The initial projects are expected to break ground starting in the spring.

Organics Program Receipiants

The 12 projects in 10 B.C. that are to receive funding are listed below. Additional projects are expected to be approved in the coming months. The dollar values below represent the provincial funding portion only. The money will be distributed over three fiscal years to support project planning, design and construction.

Central Coast

  • Central Coast organics compost diversion initiative (Phase 1): $49,092
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 950
  • This project, led by the Central Coast Regional District, is the first phase of a composting facility that will allow Bella Coola to divert organic waste from its landfill for the first time and enhance services to the Nuxalk Nation.

Central Kootenay

  • Central landfill composting facility: $776,053
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 68,873
  • Creston landfill composting facility: $ 485,745
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 15,890
  • Two complementary projects, led by the Regional District of Central Kootenay, will provide processing capacity for food waste for the first time in the regional district. These projects represent strong partnerships within and outside the regional district as one of the facilities will also service part of the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.

Columbia Shuswap

  • Revelstoke composting facility: $100,000
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 61,465
  • This project, led by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, will allow residents and businesses from the City of Revelstoke and Electoral Area B to divert food waste from the landfill for the first time. Over half the waste entering the Revelstoke landfill is organic. This project will create a usable compost product, prolong the existing landfill life and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Comox Valley

  • Regional organic composting facility additional capacity: $484,815
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 37,489
  • This project, led by theComox Valley Regional District, means the communities of Campbell River, Courtenay, Comox and Cumberland will be able to compost an extra 1,625 tonnes of food waste per year, supporting the regional district’s waste diversion target of 70% by 2022.

East Kootenay

  • There are three projects being funded in the Regional District of East Kootenay that work together to support a regional system. These projects are in the Columbia Valley, Elk Valley and central subregions, providing coverage throughout the region.
  • East Kootenay regionally integrated resource recovery network: Columbia Valley site: $333,160
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 25,442
  • East Kootenay regionally integrated resource recovery network: central sub-region site: $333,160
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 13,539
  • East Kootenay regionally integrated resource recovery network: Elk Valley site: $333,160
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 42,563

Kootenay Boundary

  • Regional District of Kootenay Boundary organics diversion expansion project: $1,182,006
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 2,873
  • This project will expand the regional district’s organics processing capacity to include food-waste materials from the industrial, commercial and institutional sector throughout the Boundary region and initiate food-waste collection for residents of Greenwood. This expanded facility will primarily process food waste, wood, yard and garden waste from the City of Grand Forks.

Northern Rockies

  • Northern Rockies vermicomposting(worm) facility: $222,546
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 2,273
  • This project will divert organic waste from Fort Nelson’s landfill through a vermicomposting facility; red wiggler worms work with fungi, bacteria and other invertebrates to transform organic matter into “castings,” which can be used in municipal landscaping or residential gardening.

Okanagan-Similkameen

  • Oliver landfill residential food waste compost facility: $400,000
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 4,014
  • This project, led by the regional district, provides the Oliver and Osoyoos landfill service areas with a new composting facility that will process residential food waste, agricultural waste and yard waste. This project is part of a larger regional strategy to manage organic wastes in the regional district. 

Summerland

  • Summerland organics processing facility: $790,500
  • Projected GHG reductions (tCO2e): 24,548
  • The District of Summerland will benefit from the relocated organics processing site as the move will increase capacity, upgrade operational and environmental technology and create high-quality Class A compost streams. The project will divert additional organic waste, preventing it from being landfilled and, therefore, reduce greenhouse gases, while prolonging the existing landfill life.

Ontario Waste Processing Firm fined increased to $170,000 following appeal

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An Ontario Court recently granted the Crown’s appeal of the sentence that had been imposed in 2018 after a guilty plea by Quantex Technologies Inc., and increased the fine from $140,000 to $170,000, plus victim fine surcharge.

Quantex Technologies Inc., based in Kitchener, plead guilty and was convicted in Ontario Court in 2018 for violations related to permitting waste to pass from its control without accurately completing a manifest, for transferring waste subject to land disposal restrictions without giving notice to the receiver, and for permitting the emission of an air contaminant to an extent that it may cause personal discomfort.

Quantex Technologies Inc. is a firm that specializes in the field of hazardous waste management, including re-refining of fuels and International slop oil recovery.

In its 2018 ruling, the Ontario Court convicted Quantex of three violations and fined the a total of $140,000 plus a victim fine surcharge of $35,000 with 2 years to pay.  The court also issued a probation order requiring the company to retain an independent auditor to conduct an embedded audit of some of the company’s waste management practices.

In December 2018, when the Court-oredered embedded audit was to begin, Quantex advised the Crown that it had sold the facility.  It subsequently became apparent that the company had sold the facility prior to being sentenced in June 2018 and that Quantex had provided inaccurate information to the sentencing court.  Therefore, the earlier sentencing had been conducted on the basis of inaccurate information.  

As a result, the Crown appealed the sentence.  The appeal was resolved on consent when the appeal court varied the sentence to increase the fine from $140,000 to $170,000. The $30,000 fine increase reflected the anticipated cost of the embedded audit. The victim fine surcharge also increased from $35,000 to $42,500. The sentencing court also vacated the Order requirement that the company conduct the embedded audit.

At the time of the violations, Quantex Technologies Inc. operated a hazardous and liquid industrial waste transferring/processing site in Kitchener under ministry approval.

Summary of the Violations

The first violation relates to incidents that occurred between November 2015 and January 2016. During that time, Quantex accepted hazardous wastes which were bulked together and shipped to another waste processing/transfer facility. An Ontario Environment Ministry inspection indicated that the waste manifest did not accurately reflect the waste classifications and that Quantex had not notified the receiver that some of the waste was  subject to land disposal restrictions. As a consequence, the receiving facility was not aware that some of the waste had classifications that were not approved under the company’s ministry approval.

The second violation relates to an incident in August 2016. At the time, Quantex employees were transferring liquid industrial and/or hazardous wastes from storage totes into a tanker trailer on-site, and the truck’s vacuum pump and exhaust was being discharged into the air. During the transfer period, neighbours experienced burning and irritated eyes, a chlorine-like odour and difficulty breathing. The occurrence was reported to Quantex, which ceased the operation immediately.

Past Violations

In 2016, Quantex was fined $140,000 plus a $35,000 victim surcharge for an incident that occurred in 2012 in which odour was released during the transfer of septic waste from one tanker to another. The odours resulted in neighbours complaining that it gave them headaches and made them nauseous.

Saskatchewan’s New Solid Waste Management Strategy

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The Government of Saskatchewan recently announced the new provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy, outlining a practical and sustainable strategy for short- and long-term waste management goals over the next 20 years.

Saskatchewan produces the second-highest amount of waste per capita in Canada at 842 kilograms of waste. Along with its federal, provincial and territorial partners, Saskatchewan has signed on to the Canada-wide aspirational goal of reducing waste generated per person by 30 per cent by 2030, and 50 per cent by 2040 from 2014 baseline levels. This means reducing waste to 589 kg/person by 2030 (30 per cent) and 421 kg/person by
2040 (50 per cent).

The majority of the waste generated in the province ends up in Saskatchewan’s 203 landfills, of which 186 are managed by municipalities and 17 are industrial/private landfills.

To move the province towards this future state, the Saskatchewan government strategy focuses on six goals:

  1. Enhance education, awareness and technical understanding of waste management best practices and the risks of improper practices across Saskatchewan.
  2. Encourage regional collaboration to enhance the cost effectiveness of waste management infrastructure.
  3. Provide a modern, efficient and effective regulatory system for waste disposal and management.
  4. Enhance waste diversion across Saskatchewan.
  5. Foster innovative and sustainable solutions to manage waste.
  6. Demonstrate government leadership in waste management.

To achieve the waste reduction targets, the government has made a number of specific targets under each of the six goals. For example, one specific commitment is to work with the federal government through the Investing in Canada Plan to close and decommission unsustainable landfills or enhance existing municipal or regional waste management
facilities. Another specific commitment is that continued support of innovation for waste management through initiatives such as the
Government of Saskatchewan Innovation Challenge.

The Solid Waste Management Strategy aligns with the Saskatchewan Growth Plan and will serve as the roadmap for waste reduction and management for the well-being of the province, its people and its future.

Other specific aspects of the strategy include the Household Hazardous Waste Regulations and Recycling Program as well as the Grain Bag Recycling Program.

Household Hazardous Waste Regulations and Recycling Program

The Government of Saskatchewan is paving the way for an important province-wide stewardship program for managing household hazardous waste (HHW). Although HHW makes up approximately one per cent of the waste stream in Saskatchewan, it poses a much higher risk of environmental impacts than other municipal waste due to its toxic nature.

In order to create a permanent, province-wide HHW program, the much-anticipated Household Hazardous Waste Product Stewardship Regulations came into effect on June 27, 2019. The regulations require manufacturers or distributors, vendors, importers, and retailers of household hazardous waste products to manage the collection and safe disposal of the products.

Once the product stewardship program has been approved by the Ministry of Environment, implementation of the program can begin to take shape.

The household hazardous waste program will be funded and operated by the industry that creates, imports or sells the products identified in the regulations, alleviating some of the costs for municipalities and taxpayers.

Grain Bag Recycling Program

The Government of Saskatchewan has approved a recycling program for agricultural plastics under The Agricultural Packaging Product Waste Stewardship Regulations. The program is the first of its kind in Canada and provides a responsible option for producers to return plastic grain bags for recycling. All sellers of grain bags are required to join an approved program.

The grain bag recycling program is operated by Cleanfarms on behalf of regulated retailers and manufacturers. Cleanfarms, an organization committed to environmental responsibility through the proper management of agricultural waste, is currently operating 32 collection sites around the province. Continued growth of the program will expand the collection network in the years to come.

The grain bag recycling program is funded through an environmental handling fee (EHF) added to grain bags at the point of purchase.

B.C. Recycling Start-up Receives $1.68 million from SDTC

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Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) recently announced funding of fourteen cleantech and environmental projects across Canada. The total amount of funding granted to the 14 start-up companies from SDTC is $46.3 million. The funds, which must be matched by private investment, will be used for commercial development by each company.

One of the companies receiving funding is RecycleSmart Solutions based in British Columbia. The company is receiving $1.68 million from SDTC for a project to decrease the driving distance of garbage collection trucks and the amount of garbage destined for landfill sites. 

RecycleSmart manufactures and installs smart sensors in waste bins, providing details about bin contents and contamination. This information helps reduce unnecessary waste collection and allows waste management companies to reduce the amount of trash destined for the landfill.

Leah Lawrence, President and CEO, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, stated at a news conference to announce the funding, “Canadian cleantech entrepreneurs are tackling problems across Canada and in every sector. I have never been more positive about the future. SDTC remains committed to helping companies accelerate their clean technologies, from seed to scale-up.”

Jaclyn McPhadden, RecycleSmart CAO and Co-founder

Jaclyn McPhadden, RecycleSmart, Chief Administrative Officer stated, “The support from SDTC is an incredible opportunity to accelerate the growth of RecycleSmart by fuelling our sensor technology development program. We are honoured to receive this investment, which will increase the rate at which RecycleSmart can move from R&D to commercialization in the next two years.”

About RecycleSmart Solutions

RecycleSmart Solutions develops, and then implements, waste management programs for organizations that achieve financial, environment, and operational goals. The company uses a holistic approach that delivers guaranteed results.

RecycleSmart Solutions has a team of waste and data scientists, engineers, and program designers that develops and implements a waste management program that results in a 10% Cost Savings (minimum) commitment to a client organization.

The company then utilizes its Waste Wizard App that provides an organization with information on collection schedule, invoice details, and other information.

In one case, First Capital Realty, a developer and manager of retail-focused properties, engaged RecycleSmart Solutions to assist in the management of its waste and recycling programs in Edmonton. RecycleSmart Solutions did the following:

  • Installed sensors on all waste and recycling containers;
  • Monitored fill levels of containers on a monthly basis and reduced services when possible;
  • Managed their waste and recycling services;
  • Reduced costs by negotiating new rates with the waste haulers’ and
  • Handled issues with missed pickups/overflowing bins including site cleanups

The result of the technology and management solution resulted in 24 percent savings in operational costs for First Capital Realty at its Edmonton location.

About SDTC and the Canada Cleantech Market

Canada is number one in the G20 for clean technology innovation. In January 2019, 12 Canadian companies were recognized on the 2019 Global Cleantech 100 list. Currently, clean technology employs more than 180,000 Canadians.

The clean technology market is set to exceed $2.5 trillion by 2022.

Sustainable Development Technology Canada is an arm’s-length foundation created by the Government of Canada to support Canadian companies with the potential to become leaders as they develop and demonstrate new technologies to address some of our most pressing environmental challenges.

Pointe-Claire looking for households to enter Zero-Waste Challenge

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The City of Pointe-Claire, a suburb of Greater Montreal, is planning to conduct a Zero-Waste Challenge and is looking for eight households to participate. The challenge will involve the households adopting best practices for the management of household waste.

“This initiative is part of our collective desire to make Pointe-Claire a city dedicated to sustainable development, both through our municipal actions and the promotion of citizen practices that contribute to environmental protection,” stated Mayor John Belvedere in a news release.

From March to October 2020, the chosen households will have to come up with ideas and take concrete steps to reduce waste at the source, that is, from the moment of purchase. To do so, they will benefit from a coaching service and will rely on a diagnosis of their lifestyle, a realistic and appropriate target, tips and tricks and telephone support. A conference and workshops will also be offered: making home-made household and personal care products, and preparing zero-waste lunches.

To track their progress, the eight households will have to commit to weighing household, organic and recyclable waste every month for the seven months of the challenge.

“Everyone is invited to take part in this challenge, which is an opportunity to make a tangible contribution to protecting our planet by limiting the amount of waste that ends up in landfills,” Mayor Belvedere stated.

Households interested in taking part in the challenge have until February 5 to apply to City.

Micron Waste suspends development of cannabis waste treatment technology

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Micron Waste Technologies Inc. (CSE: MWM, OTC: MICWF), an organic waste technology company, recently announced that it has suspended development of the cannabis-industry waste digester system in light of changing market conditions. The company stated that a longer product development was required to reach the commercialization stage of the cannabis waste treatment system.

In its news release, the company stated that the cannabis industry is not currently funding new technologies and this has resulted in a lower outlook on the commercial viability of the company’s Cannavore™ system.

The CannavoreTM is an integrated cannabis waste shredder, microbial digester, and water treatment system. It is designed to operate outside of the facility and has safeguards to prevent biological contamination in the cultivation facility.

In 2017, Micron Waste Technologies signed a non-binding agreement with Aurora Cannabis under which Micron would install an organic waste digester unit at one of Aurora’s growing facilities and where the companies would work to optimize the technology for the cannabis industry.  Under the agreement, Aurora (TSX:ACB) would have the option to buy additional units for its other facilities at a preferred price once the optimization program is complete and is proven viable.

The Company will continue to focus on developing its Organivore™ organic food waste digester and effluent treatment systems.

The company also announced it is actively seeking to leverage the company’s approximately $3M working capital and 2.5M shares of Palladium One Mining Inc. to review potential value-enhancing strategic acquisitions.

GFL and American Waste Announce Merger

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GFL Environmental Inc. , headquartered in Vaughan, Ontario, and American Waste recently announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement for the acquisition by GFL of American Waste’s solid and liquid waste businesses in Michigan and Pennsylvania. The closing of the transaction is subject to customary regulatory approvals and is expected to be completed in February 2020.

GFL says in U.S. regulatory filings that the deal includes US$360 million in cash plus US$20 million in non-voting shares.

Founded in 1971 as Northern A -1, American Waste and Northern A-1 is a vertically integrated provider of environmental solutions for a broad base of solid and liquid waste customers. The current owners of American Waste, Michael and Edward Ascione, will be joining GFL and will continue to manage the American Waste businesses.

In a news release, Eddie Ascione stated; “Mike and I carefully chose to merge with GFL because of our similar lines of business, GFL’s down to earth senior management team and decentralized operations approach. We believe American and Northern A-1’s expertise in serving both our solid and liquid waste customers is a great fit with GFL’s focus on delivering comprehensive environmental solutions.”

American Waste is one of several acquisitions GFL has made in recent months, including County Waste of Virginia, AGI Group of Companies, and the Soil Safe group of companies.

Tire-Derived Fuels Making Inroads in Canada

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Written by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie

Following some recent key milestones for the tire-derived fuels industries, it appears that TDF is now positioned for significant growth across Canada in the coming years.  It hasn’t been easy in light of long-standing environmental concerns and pressures for circular economy solutions for end-of-life tires but TDF may well be poised to gain ready acceptance as part of Canada’s resource recovery strategy.

Nova Scotia Legal Challenge Unsuccessful

The watershed moment for TDF in Canada arguably came in 2018.  The Province of Nova Scotia first approved TDF as a supplemental energy source for a cement plant facility in Brookfield, Nova Scotia in 2017 on a 12-month pilot project basis.

In so doing, the ministry relied, in part, on a detailed environment study conducted for the proponent by Dalhousie University which compared the greenhouse gas emissions from TDF-supplemented fuels favourably against existing the coal sources.  The report was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada, giving it further clout.

Local residents challenged the ministry’s approval on environmental and procedural grounds – both of which were rejected in a March 2018 decision.  This allowed the proponent to commission the pilot project by August 2019, with a daily consumption rate of 20 metric tonnes of whole tires.

Brookfield Emissions Results Likely Critical to Industry Aspirations

The last hurdle to a full scale commercial TDF-fuel additive kiln at Brookfield will, of course, be the resulting emissions, concerns about which have long-plagued the industry.  Both the proponent and an independent group from Dalhousie will be collecting and reporting on a wide range of emissions data to the ministry, with a first planned public release of certain emissions information set for early in 2020.

It is difficult to overstate the importance that these results will have on the TDF industry across Canada.  There remains substantial opposition to TDF-usage in any application, including cement, and a failure to meet the emissions conditions for the pilot project approval will likely mean a further moratorium on project development, further placing the TDF industry behind other resource recovery technologies and processes.

Ontario Permits Waste Rubber Fuel Source in 2019

The battleground over TDF is far from new in Ontario.  In 2011, a group of community interests, including none other than Gord Downie, successfully opposed the use of TDF at a cement production facility in Bath, Ontario.  The proponent subsequently revised its alternate fuel sourcing plans to include two low carbon fuel categories (LCFs), which have since been subject to emissions testing for a number of years.

Of these categories, “LCF 3” includes:

“Non-recyclable rubber, rubber recycling by-products (including polyester/nylon fibre from tire recycling facilities) and non-recyclable plastics.”

An amended environmental approval was granted to the proponent in August 2019 to augment the alternative feedstock to include the principal LCF 3 materials, thereby allowing rubber waste material (with its superb BTU values) to be included with lower carbon and less energy-rich materials, including various biomass sources.  A graduated approach, which does not preclude moving to TDF as the market conditions evolve.

TDF Established Practice Elsewhere

It is also worth noting that the current disputes over TDF come against a backdrop of established TDF usage in heavy industry elsewhere, including in the cement industries of the United States and Europe.

Further, the provinces of Quebec and British Columbia have long permitted TDF in cement production facilities, though none has been approved recently (in the circular economy era).  Finally, there are other materials whose fuel usage is also contentious, such as roofing shingles, telephone poles, used oils and plastics, which have also been approved for cement production in Canada.  TDF does not, in fact, have a unique environmental legacy.

TDF may remain a lightning rod for industries such as cement production, but recent developments suggest that rapid expansion of TDF usage may be near, particularly following a successful pilot project.  It may also be that the coming regulated circular economy regimes across Canada will, ironically, contribute to TDF growth with privatized and non-prescriptive EPR obligations that may allow producers to economically benefit from TDF resource recovery.

This article has been republished with the permission of the author. It was first published on the Baker McKenzie Environmental Law Insights website.


About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of the firm’s Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. He assisted in the founding of one of North America’s first Circular Economy Producer Responsibility Organizations and provides advice and representation to a number of domestic and international industry groups in respect of resource recovery obligations. Mr. Cocker was recently appointed the first Sustainability Officer of the International Bar Association.