On the basis of recommendations from its Waste Management Advisory Committee, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador released the report entitled “Waste Management Strategy” in April 2002. The report announces the implementation of a provincial waste management strategy to reduce the number of landfill sites and the amount of waste disposed to landfill, and to upgrade standards for waste management sites to minimize impacts to the environment.
In March 2001 the government began to explore various waste management initiatives and to consult with affected stakeholders regarding a provincial waste management strategy. In May 2001 the environment minister established a Waste Management Advisory Committee.
The objectives of the committee were to meet with various stakeholders and obtain input regarding present and future provincial waste management practices. In October 2001 the committee released its report entitled “A Call to Action on Environmental Protection — Public Consultations on Waste Management.“
The committee concluded that a successful waste diversion program must have several components, including: source separation and recycling, a hybrid collection system combining collection from households with drop-off locations, and the removal of organic materials from the disposal stream. The committee suggested that the government initiate a public awareness and education program for reduction, reuse and recycling initiatives.
The committee also referred to various research initiatives undertaken by the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board and suggested that the board initiate stewardship programs for cardboard and newsprint. The committee identified cardboard and newsprint as major contributors to the volume of material going to landfills in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Additional recommendations included: encouraging composting through information and pilot projects, studying the amount and type of packaging coming into the province to lay the foundation for policy, encouraging the government to continue to rely on Green Depots, and collaborating with the Recycling Depot Operators’ Association to establish depots operating standards.
The committee focussed on regional waste management systems, noting that the economic feasibility of waste management initiatives requires that communities pool resources, and that the government needs to encourage communities through regulations. However, the report does note that there are some areas of the province where a regional approach would not be appropriate due to geographic separation and that, in those instances, the emphasis should be to improve existing disposal sites and diversion programs.
The committee also recommended that the new waste management systems include hazardous waste management in order to safely dispose of these materials. The committee recommended that the board should continue to investigate hazardous waste management in other provinces in order to inform government regarding opportunities and alternatives.
Finally, the committee focussed on economics. It suggested that the government encourage research and investigation into various products, a waste marketing agency and a waste exchange. Other suggestions included industry stewardship agreements with sectors such as the construction industry, diary industry, fast-food industry, major retail and grocery stores, and healthcare.
The new strategy
The strategy is based on five key activities: waste diversion, establishing waste management regions, developing modern standards and technology, maximizing economic and employment opportunities, and public education. The strategy is intended to divert 50 per cent of materials currently going to disposal by 2010, reduce the number of waste disposal sites by 80 per cent, eliminate open burning at disposal sites by 2005 and phase out the use of incinerators by 2008. The strategy is also intended to phase out the use of unlined landfill sites by 2010 and implement province-wide modern waste management by 2010.
In terms of waste diversion, the government intends to implement disposal bans, research diversion programs and expand the work of Green Depots throughout the province. Within the next two years all government departments, institutions, crown corporations and agencies that receive a portion of their funding from the provincial government will be required to provide a waste management plan to meet the waste management strategy and diversion policies of the government.
In order to reduce the number of waste disposal sites the government intends to establish 15 waste management regions. The only exception to this would be isolated areas where community disposal sites will remain in operation. Even these communities, however, will be expected to contribute to the goal of 50 per cent reduction of waste going to disposal.
The government also intends to provide standards and regulations to govern the design, construction and operation of waste management systems. Incineration and unlined landfill sites will not be an acceptable means of disposal except in isolated areas. The government sees the need for new waste management facilities as a way to create employment and economic opportunities and it intends to maximize these. Approximately 20 to 30 people will be employed in each waste management region, with the majority of jobs involved in the operation of regional waste management facilities.
While Newfoundland and Labrador have undertaken various initiatives in the area of waste management in the last few years, the commitment to pursuing a clear waste management strategy with measurable objectives over the next eight years is commendable. Shortly after the strategy was announced, the government’s commitment became evident when the board announced the launch of a household hazardous waste collection program for 14 municipalities.
Rosalind Cooper, LL.B. is a partner with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, with offices across Canada. Ms. Cooper is based in Toronto, Ontario.