Amendments to the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations have been made to allow Canada to meet its obligations under the United Nations Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. One of the obligations involves seeking consent of an importing or transit country for any export from Canada of waste or recyclable materials subject to the Basel Convention, including household waste. The other obligation involves taking or returning shipments that cannot be completed as planned.
The amendments expand on what is defined as “hazardous” and provides that waste and recyclable material, including those collected from households, are considered “hazardous” for the purpose of export if (i) they are defined as or considered to be “hazardous” under the legislation of the importing or transit country; (ii) their importation is prohibited under the legislation of the importing country; or (iii) they are one of the “hazardous wastes” or “other wastes” in the Basel Convention and the importing country is a Party to the Basel Convention.
A Canadian exporter must notify the Department of the Environment and obtain a permit before any export of waste or recyclable material. The new provisions will address shipments of waste or recyclable material for which consent was given by the importing and transit countries and for which a permit was issued, but that could not be completed as planned. Other amendments provide that a Canadian exporter or importer no longer needs to inform the authorities of the foreign country of a refused shipment; and, that the Canadian exporter must receive confirmation from the Ministry of the Environment that the authorities of the country of import or transit have approved the disposal or recycling at an alternate facility.
Disposal of Mercury-Containing Lamps
The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has received a report on Bill C-238, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury. The short title of the proposed legislation is National Strategy for Safe Disposal of Lamps Containing Mercury Act.
Mercury is used in a number of products, such as fluorescent light bulbs, thermometers, thermostats, batteries, switches, relays, and measuring devices. The use of mercury in consumer products can pose a risk both to human health and to the environment. While many consumer products made with mercury are being phased out with the use of less harmful substitutes, compact fluorescent light bulbs are an exception and their usage is increasing. This is because fluorescent light bulbs have several performance and environmental advantages. There is no substitute for mercury in fluorescent lighting.
Municipalities are responsible for collecting and disposing of recycling products that contain mercury. Programs for the safe disposal of fluorescent light bulbs vary from one region to another and some municipalities allow mercury- containing light bulbs to be put in the garbage for normal collection.
In February 2016, the federal government published a proposed “Code of Practice for the Environmentally Sound Management of End-of-life Lamps Containing Mercury” for public comment. The objective of the Code of practice was to prevent the release of mercury to the environment by identifying best practices for collection, storage, transportation, and processing of mercury-containing lamps at their end of life. The Code was intended to guide jurisdictions and industry in planning waste management programs and any related regulations.
Bill C-238 would require the Minister of the Environment, in co-operation with provinces, territories, environmental groups, and industry, to develop and implement a national strategy for the safe disposal of lamps containing mercury, which includes compact and tube fluorescent light bulbs. The national strategy is to include national standards for the disposal of mercury-containing lamps; guidelines for disposal facilities; and, a plan for promoting public awareness of the importance of safe disposal. Bill C-238 also requires that the Minister table in Parliament a report on the effectiveness of the national strategy every five years.
Nunavut Proposes Waste Reduction Diversion Act
One of the last jurisdictions in Canada to implement waste diversion laws is the Territory of Nunavut. However, with the introduction of Bill 27, the Waste Reduction Diversion Act, all provinces now have programs for waste diversion. The objective of Bill 27 is the establishment and enforcement of programs to reduce, recover, or divert waste, as well as prohibition of materials that cause impairment of the natural environment. Bill 27 is expected to cover printed paper and packaging; waste electronics and electrical equipment, used oils, and paints, tires; and, possibly batteries and other municipal hazardous solid wastes.
Importers, brand owners, vendors, and manufactures will be obliged under most of these programs, regardless of whether they have a business presence in the Territory. Printed paper and packaging diversion, which typically applies only to residents of a province or territory, may be extended to non-resident distributors in Nunavut to ensure diversion rates meet the overall program goals.