In late October 2001, the Newfoundland and Labrador Waste Management Advisory Committee submitted its final report to the minister of the environment. The recommendations are intended to guide the government in developing a comprehensive waste management strategy. In turn, the minister committed to develop a strategy by the end of the year.
The provincial government created the committee last spring in order to obtain the views of key stakeholders on the development of a new waste management strategy. Chaired by the president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation Municipalities, other members of the committee are: a city councilor, the president of the Recycling Depot Operators’ Association and an individual citizen which previously held a number of elected municipal positions.
According to a public consultation paper released in May 2001, there’s an estimated 480,000 tonnes of material sent to approximately 240 landfill sites annually and some of the major landfill sites in the province are at capacity. The paper also describes the history of waste disposal in the province and the numerous developments over the years.
In 1994, the government instituted a ban on disposal of untreated sewage sludge and oil contaminated soil in landfills in the eastern region and later expanded the ban to other areas of the province. In 1996, the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board was charged to develop, implement and manage a variety of waste diversion strategies. In 1997, the deposit-refund program for beverage containers was initiated and has been successful in diverting 50 per cent of beverage containers from landfills. This initiative lead to the establishment of 37 Green Depots and more than a hundred jobs, as well as reduced roadside litter.
In 1997, the government established the Newfoundland and Labrador Waste Management Trust Fund to provide financial assistance in the development and implementation of waste management initiatives. The board administers the fund, the principal source of which is surplus revenues from the beverage container and deposit-refund system.
The new system
The report discusses a number of alternative approaches to solid waste management and focuses on diversion through new and increased reduction, reuse, recycling, composting and waste exchange.
With respect to composting, the report states that organic material makes up 35 to 50 per cent of solid waste put out for collection by households, and that removal of these materials from the waste stream greatly reduces the volume going to landfills. In addition, diverting these materials reduces or eliminates nuisance problems such as odours and pests at the sites.
The report also describes the benefits of a cooperative approach to waste management, which could involve a regional waste management system where communities would work together to design cost-sharing mechanisms that allow for such factors as community size, transportation and type of waste.
The committee recommends that stewardship programs be implemented as soon as possible and within the next six months for cardboard and newsprint (since these two materials contribute major volumes to landfills), the development of household hazardous waste programs, and with respect to isolated areas, improving disposal sites and diversion opportunities. In addition, industry stewardship agreements that specifically address the construction, dairy, and fast food industries and major retail and grocery stores regarding excess packaging.
The report also encourages investigation of value-added products as well as the viability of a central diverted-waste marketing agency or waste exchange, and also the working with various organizations to ensure that training and research are available to support with the modernization of waste management. The report concludes that a successful waste diversion system must include source separation of recyclable materials, a hybrid collection system combining curbside collection with drop-off depots and removal of organic material from the waste stream.
Much has happened over a fairly short period of time. The announcement of the creation of the committee and the completion of consultations occurred in a matter of months. The committee then prepared and released its report to the government, again on a very aggressive timeline. It will be interesting to follow whether, given the commitment by the minister to move forward on these recommendations, changes take place and whether the state of solid waste management in Newfoundland and Labrador improves as a result of these changes.
Rosalind Cooper, LL.B. is a partner with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, with offices across Canada. Ms. Cooper is based in Toronto, Ontario.