The Ontario government has proposed new regulations to encourage municipalities and industry to divert waste from landfill and to support new waste technologies. The developments should be of interest to readers across Canada. Draft regulations have been posted for a sixty-day public comment period that ends on September 18, 2006. The proposed regulations focus on three key areas: recycling, alternative fuels and emerging waste technologies.
Recycling barriers removed
The environment ministry has proposed amendments to Ontario’s General Waste Regulation, Regulation 347, that would facilitate recycling by municipalities and remove regulatory barriers that prohibit or limit recycling activities by others. Currently, the regulatory framework that governs the recycling of waste imposes strict controls on the handling of recyclable materials, and requires that a waste approval be obtained. This has been a long-held criticism of the recycling regime because it discourages recycling activities.
The proposed regulations will specifically exempt: waste paint or waste coatings recycled into paint; printed circuit boards recycled by smelters; emission control dust recycled by smelters; spent activated carbon recycled by being reactivated; metal bearing waste recycled by smelters; and crumb rubber recycled into product (not fuels) from the requirements for waste approvals under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA).
In addition, the recycling of certain electronic and related products is being promoted by exempting systems that collect, store and transfer such waste from the EPA waste approval requirements. This exemption will apply to batteries; mercury containing devices and materials (such as electrical switches, thermostats and florescent lamps); waste electrical and electronic equipment; and printed circuit boards. However, all air approval requirements will continue to apply to the management or recycling of these materials.
Beneficial use of wastes
The ministry has reviewed the placement of waste materials on land for beneficial purposes. For example, the ministry has identified the construction of walkways, roads and parking areas that involve deposition of materials on land as beneficial uses, and not disposal. As such, Regulation 347 would be amended to exempt these beneficial uses of waste from approval requirements. This exemption is intended to apply to waste asphalt shingles, waste asphalt and waste glass.
Encouraging alternative fuels
The ministry has proposed removing specific approval requirements for converting certain wastes into alternative fuels in order to encourage diversion of these wastes and put them to beneficial use. Again, all air emission approval requirements would still be applicable.
Regulatory amendments are proposed to permit production of ethanol and biodiesel from biomass comprised of organic wastes, and their use as alternative fuels without the need for waste approvals (as is currently required). Production of energy from biomass is generally considered to have a neutral impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Biodiesel is a fuel made from biomass and is considered a clean burning alternative to traditional fuels, such as gasoline and diesel fuel. Biodiesel can be blended with petroleum diesel for use in diesel engines. Any biodiesel produced will be required to meet quality standards that are specified in the regulation. Ethanol (ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol) is a fuel that can be made from biomass and can be blended with gasoline for use in gasoline engines.
Expanded wood waste alternative fuel
The environment ministry plans to expand the ability to combust wood waste as a fuel or fuel supplement. Currently, Regulation 347 exempts sites that combust a maximum of 100 tonnes per day of wood waste as fuel or fuel supplement from the EPA waste approval requirements. The ministry proposes to amend Regulation 347 to allow wood waste combustion sites to combust any quantity of wood waste as fuel or fuel supplement without the need for a waste approval.
However, the current 500 cubic metre limit on the storage of wood waste will remain, and the combustion process will still be subject to other applicable requirements such as approvals for air emissions. Also, facilities that burn wood waste to produce electricity will still be subject to Regulation 116/01 under the Environmental Assessment Act.
Waste technology pilot projects
The ministry is proposing that pilot or demonstration projects relating to new waste management technologies (including waste-to-energy technologies) be exempt from the environmental assessment process and from the requirement for a mandatory waste hearing for a fixed time period. Air emissions standards will still be applicable to such projects, but the waste approval process will be streamlined. The regulation will limit the exemption to projects with a maximum capacity of 75 tonnes per day of municipal waste and set a project time limit of three years, which could be extended up to a maximum of five years.
The ministry also intends to facilitate the development of more programs based on the principle of extended producer responsibility (EPR) to manage products when they become waste for reuse, recycling or proper disposal. However, because these programs are a form of waste management, they currently require waste approvals. The ministry is proposing to exempt any system based on extended producer responsibility that is designed and operated in accordance with the regulatory requirements from the need for a waste approval.
Rosalind Cooper, LL.B. is a partner with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, with offices across Canada. Ms. Cooper is based in Toronto, Ontario. Contact Rosalind at firstname.lastname@example.org