Solid Waste & Recycling


Quebec's Program for Used Oil

On March 10, 2004 the government of Quebec adopted the regulation respecting the recovery and reclamation of used oils, oil or fluid containers and used filters. The regulation took effect on October 1 and its adoption advances the objectives of t...

On March 10, 2004 the government of Quebec adopted the regulation respecting the recovery and reclamation of used oils, oil or fluid containers and used filters. The regulation took effect on October 1 and its adoption advances the objectives of the Quebec Residual Materials Management Policy, 1998-2008, the purpose of which is to recover 65 per cent of the 7.1 million tonnes of residual materials that could be recovered annually for the purpose of re-use, recycling, composting or energy production. The policy sets the reclamation goal for oil, paint and pesticides at 75 per cent.

In this context, the regulation will, as of 2005, require that any business that markets oils under a trademark it owns or uses (or any first supplier in Quebec) recover 70 per cent of the used oils it markets, or arrange for its recovery through a system of collection points). This percentage will advance to 75 per cent in 2008. The same applies to oil or fluid containers and used filters, 50 per cent of which will have to be recovered as of 2005 and 75 per cent as of 2008.

The regulation also requires that a business reclaim (or see to the reclamation of) all oil or filters it has recovered. The requirement of reclaiming recovered oil or fluid containers will only apply insofar as their reclamation is technically possible and the costs associated with the reclamation do not threaten its competitiveness.

Other requirements result from the first two, namely, that of conducting information campaigns to inform consumers of the recovery system plus giving the environment minister information on the recovery system that has been set up, the results achieved each year (in terms of quantities recovered and reclaimed), the means taken to promote the system, a description of the information campaigns, and the costs of the system.

Who does what

The regulation is unique, however, in that it allows a business to transfer its individual obligations to an accredited organization. Every trademark holder or first supplier may become exempt by becoming a member of an accredited organization, the function of which is to implement such a recovery or reclamation system on behalf of its members, or by financing such a system. The organization must enter into an agreement with Recyc-Qubec, a government agency answering to the environment minister, to determine the terms of the system and how it will operate.

In Quebec, trademark holders (mainly the oil companies) have joined to set up such an accredited organization. It is the Socit de gestion des huiles usages (SOGHU). SOGHU was to have signed an agreement with Recyc-Qubec before the end of September but that agreement still has not been signed.

A second organization has been set up by Canadian Tire, which decided to implement its own system rather than become a member of SOGHU. The agreement between Canadian Tire and Recyc-Qubec has also not yet been signed.

If the content of the agreement is substantially the same as the proposed agreement presented this past summer, the Quebec used oil management program will be based on the model of the western Canadian provinces.

Like the western program, Quebec’s program seems to institute a system of royalties (EHCs) and rebates (return incentives). The royalty will be paid by SOGHU members to finance the rebates that will be given to those who recover material based on the quantities of used oil, oil or fluid containers or used filters recovered.

Negative effects

In reality, however, producers of used oil (often franchisees of trademark holders) have already realized how lucrative the program could be and are starting to charge recoverers, who will therefore have to deduct the costs asked by the producers from the rebates they receive. Not only will recoverers lose part of their rebate, the quality of used oil also seems to be more and more detrimentally affected due to the quantity of water or toxic products added to it, although we believe that no sampling for toxic products will be required.

In addition, it seems likely according to preliminary information that the number of recoverers will increase substantially without the quality of oil and its final use being monitored.

Hlne Lauzon is a partner at the Lavery de Billy law firm. Contact Hlne at

NOTE: Readers may be interested in reading Safety-Kleen’s scathing letter to SOGHU under “Posted Documents” at our website: As we went to press, Safety-Kleen applied for a court injunction against the SOGHU plan. We’ll report the outcome in the next edition.



As we went to press the gloves came off in the fight over faulty used-oil stewardship programs in Canada.

On Friday, December 3, claiming that a proposed used-oil recovery program for Quebec will result in increased pollution and reduced recycling, Safety-Kleen Canada Inc., filed a motion in the Quebec Superior Court seeking an injunction to block implementation of the initiative. (See preceding article.)

Safety-Kleen contends in its filing that implementation of an agreement between Recyc-Quebec, an environmental agency of the Quebec Government, and Socit De Gestion Des Huiles Usages (SOGHU), which includes major large lubricating oil brand-owners, actually encourages the burning of used oil, rather than recycling, and is wholly inconsistent with the Government of Quebec’s waste reduction policies.

Safety-Kleen is the world’s largest re-refiner of used motor oil, and is Canada’s largest collector, re-refiner and recycler of used motor oil and industrial solvents.

“This program does not promote the reuse and recycling of used oil,” said Safety-Kleen’s Dale McIntyre, director of refinery operations responsible for the company’s Breslau, Ontario, oil re-refinery. “In fact, it will increase pollution by encouraging the burning of used oil as a fuel. Plain and simple, this proposal is bad for the environment.”

Safety-Kleen’s court filing cites numerous problems with the proposed program, including:

The proposal is inconsistent with the Government of Quebec’s waste reduction policies, which promote re-use, recycling and reclamation, because the proposal actually encourages the burning of used oil rather than reuse through re-refining. Safety-Kleen notes that used oil contains “heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, cadmium and chromium, chlorinated solvents, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), glycols and chlorinated solvents as well as potentially containing PCBs. Burning of used oil either releases these constituents directly to the atmosphere or through burning may transform them into even more toxic constituents that are then released to the environment.”

The proposal ignores a Supreme Court of Canada ruling regarding the “Precautionary Principle,” which requires that “Environmental measures must anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation.” Safety-Kleen notes that in Western Canada, where the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI) has already established a similar program, the effect has been to encourage the blending of hazardous waste into used oil, and to promote the burning of used oil as a waste-derived fuel.

The proposal is anti-competitive in that in puts lubricating oil manufacturers in control of a program that has dramatic commercial impacts on the used-oil market, which is the source of Safety-Kleen’s supply of raw materials for producing high-quality lubricating oils that compete with products produced by SOGHU’s members.

The proposal was developed through a process of closed negotiations without public consultation regarding key contents of the agreement, disregarding the principle of fair and due process and public consultation.

The proposal establishes a program under which consumers will be paying millions of dollars in surcharges to fund a program that undermines used-oil recycling.

A program identical to the one agr
eed to by Recyc-Quebec and SOGHU, and proposed by CPPI, was rejected in July 2004 by the Ontario Government’s agency on waste diversion, which said the program failed to meet regulatory requirements, did not track the final disposition of collected used oil, and did not promote the government’s reduce, reuse and recycle policies.

In 2003, Safety-Kleen’s Breslau, Ont., plant re-refined approximately 152 million litres of used lubricating oil collected from thousands of generators across Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and the northeastern United States. Re-refining that used oil, rather than burning it as fuel, avoided the emission of approximately two metric tonnes of lead, 19 tonnes of hydrochloric acid, 242 kilograms of chromium, 781 tonnes of particulates and greenhouse gases, and more than 300,000 metric tonnes of carbon equivalent. Safety-Kleen’s customer base includes major retailers, municipalities, fleets and transit authorities, and commercial/industrial users.

Contact Pierre Gendron, 450-464-6085. (Also, see Editorial “Lubricating Public Policy” Dec/Jan. 2004 edition.)

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