On June 2, 1998, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment posted its proposed General Waste Management Regulation on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry for comment. The process began in November 1995 with broad stakeholder consultations. In July 1996, the discussion paper Responsive Environmental Protection was released by the ministry and outlines the numerous proposals for amendments. Further consultations followed, as well as the ministry’s final reform package, Better, Stronger, Clearer Environmental Regulation in Ontario (released November 1997).
The objective, according to the ministry, is to address inadequacies that exist in the current waste regulations and, at the same time, ensure continued environmental protection. The objectives of the draft regulation are several: to address the lack of consistency between technical standards, approval requirements, and potential environmental risks posed by particular projects; to revise outdated definitions; to remove obsolete regulations; to reduce or eliminate onerous administrative requirements; to resolve the lack of consistency with other jurisdictions; and, to address the restrictions on use of new technology.
Ontario’s current general waste management regulation–and the one with the broadest application–is Regulation 347 (enacted in 1970) which governs the management of waste to prevent environmental damage and risk to human health. Other waste regulations include: Regs 352 and 362, which govern the management of PCBs; Regs 101, 102, 103, and 104, which deal with recycling, waste audits, and waste reduction work plans; Reg 341, which addresses deep well disposal; and, Regs 340, 344, 345, and 357, which apply to containers. All of these, with the exception of the container regulations, have been rolled into the new draft waste regulation. The government intends to incorporate the remaining regulations at a later date.
A common industry complaint is that there are too many regulations and that it’s difficult to ascertain which ones apply to particular activities. For example, PCBs fall within the definition of “subject waste” in the current Reg 347. One might conclude that, by adhering to it, any requirements that pertain to PCBs are satisfied. This would be erroneous. In addition to this regulation, there are other regulations that deal specifically with PCBs.
New classes of approval
One issue opposed by environmental groups when the reform package was first released was the proposed introduction of four approval classes based on the level of environmental risk. Those facilities with little or no environmental impact would be dealt with via an environmental approval entailing considerably less bureaucracy than the existing approach.
The draft regulation introduces Classes I, II, III, and IV–Class I facilities pose the highest risk and Class IV pose the least. Class IV facilities would require no waste certificate of approval. Class III would include facilities where there is significant experience with the operations and the associated impacts. Such facilities would be governed by standardized approval regulations (SARs)–a series of conditions that must be adhered to in order to avoid the requirement to pursue the standard approval process (which currently applies to most facilities).
The draft regulation updates and revises numerous definitions and creates additional definitions as well. For example, the concept of “roster waste” has been developed, along with a simplified system for tracking roster waste. Roster waste involves small volumes of hazardous waste (less than 100 kilograms). Many of the requirements that currently apply to the transportation of hazardous waste would be eliminated for roster waste. This concept will likely be looked upon favourably by industry which is currently subject to onerous administrative requirements for the management or shipment of relatively minor amounts of waste. (The ministry will also likely experience some administrative relief.)
The definition of “waste-derived fuel” has been revised to allow tires and clean wood, but not Blue Box materials. The ministry’s goal is to increase opportunities for waste diversion, reduce raw material costs to facilities which use supplemental fuels, and provide alternative waste management options.
Other amendments involve recycling systems. For example, the requirement for waste and packaging audits has been eliminated, although the requirement for developing work plans has been maintained. Grass recycling has also been provided as an option for yard clippings.
At about the same time that the ministry released the draft waste regulation, it also released its proposed Guidelines for Aerobic Composting Facilities and Compost Use. The draft guidelines have not received as much public attention and scrutiny as the draft regulation, likely because it has been overshadowed by the latter.
The draft guidelines are intended to replace the Interim Guidelines for the Production and Use of Aerobic Compost in Ontario (released November 1991) and to address numerous changes that have occurred in the composting industry. The draft guidelines will assist proponents in terms of the siting, design, and approval of aerobic composting facilities, and in the production of quality compost based on engineering principles, practical experience, and current legislation.
Part I of the draft guidelines includes general information and requirements for composting facilities in Ontario. While the requirements do not have any legal force, the ministry notes that these requirements will usually be included in a certificate of approval issued by the ministry, which will then make the provisions legally binding on the operator of a composting site. The second part of the document provides guidance to facility operators in numerous areas including water management, composting facility unit operations, prevention and control of contaminants, and occupational health and safety issues.
Written by Rosalind H. Cooper, LL.B. with Fasken Campbell Godfrey in Toronto, Ontario.