There are actually so many rules for waste management in Canada, it’s challenging to understand — let alone keep track of — who can do what!
But first, what is waste? As defined by Environment Canada, “waste generally refers to any material, non-hazardous or hazardous, that has no further use, and which is managed at recycling, processing, or disposal sites.”
In Canada, the federal, provincial/territorial and municipal governments have different levels of responsibility for managing and reducing waste. The legislation governing waste management is extremely complex, so here’s a brief snapshot of the current system, along with some resources.
Environment Canada manages the international and interprovincial movements of hazardous waste, and releases of toxic substances due to activities on federal lands affecting the air, land, and water.
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environments (CCME) consists of 14 environment ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments. The CCME discusses all aspects of the environment at a national level. Under the category of waste the CCME have worked on national initiatives dealing with compost, Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), electronics, and hazardous waste. Sustainable packaging is a major focus of EPR as packaging protocols are controlled at the national level.
Another program the Federal Government is responsible for is the EcoLogoTM environmental standard and certification mark. EcoLogo provides assurance that products and services with the logo meet strict standards helping consumers find sustainable products. EcoLogo products and services demonstrate reduced environmental impacts in resource use, waste production and the release of toxic substances to the environment.
The Ontario Ministry of the Environment is responsible for the approval, licensing and monitoring of waste management operations. What does that mean? Well, for example, our Halton Waste Management Site has Certificates of Approval for the operation of the landfill, the household hazardous waste depot, and the compost pad.
Three provincial Acts also relate to waste management in Ontario:
- Environmental Protection Act (EPA) authorizes the Ministry of the Environment to establish liability on the party who have failed to take all reasonable care to prevent the release of pollutants into the environment.
- Environmental Assessment Act (EAA) requires an environmental assessment of any major public sector undertaking that has the potential for significant environmental effects, such as Halton’s landfill.
- Waste Diversion Act (WDA) mandates the development, implementation and the operation of waste diversion programs — to reduce, reuse or recycle waste. This Legislation determines what and how we recycle, and has a significant impact on many of the waste diversion programs in Halton Region.
Within each Act are specific regulations that pertain to waste management. These regulations mandate how all waste generators (anyone in any place that is creating waste) in Ontario are to manage their waste. Here are just a few of the key Ontario Regulations (O.Reg.) that may affect your household or workplace:
Applicable Regulations in the Environmental Protection Act (EPA)
- O. Reg. 347 (General – Waste Management)
- O. Reg. 101/94 Recycling and Composting of Municipal Waste
- O. Reg. 102/94 Waste Audits and Waste Reduction Work Plans
- O. Reg. 103/94 Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Source Separation Programs
- O. Reg 104/94 Packaging Audits and Packaging Reduction Work Plans
Ontario Regulation 101, 102, 103 and 104 are known as the 3Rs Regulations.
Regulation 101 is important to the work we do at Halton Region, as our mandate is to provide services to residents. This regulation also pertains to Blue Box waste management, recycling depots and sites, as well as leaf and yard waste management and composting sites.
O. Reg. 102, 103 and 104 are specifically for the industrial, commercial, institutional (ICI) sectors. The Provincial government is responsible for monitoring waste activities that occur in these sectors and has resources for waste reduction.
Applicable Regulations in the Waste Diversion Act (WDA)
- O. Reg. 273/02 Blue Box Waste
- O. Reg. 542/06 Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste
- O. Reg. 85/03 Used Oil Material
- O. Reg. 84/03 Used Tires
- O. Reg. 393/04 Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) is the non-governmental organization created by the Waste Diversion Act (WDA). The WDO operates the programs under the WDA and creates a funding method based on fees paid by industry. Each program must determine industry fees, estimate costs for the program, and set waste diversion targets. The industry fees, which are often passed along to the consumer, are to assist with recycling or proper disposal when the purchased item becomes waste. WDO is responsible for monitoring the effectiveness and efficiency of each waste diversion program.
The WDO is required to develop programs in co-operation with an industry funding organization (IFO). Stewardship Ontario is an example of an IFO and their mandate is to “develop, implement and operate recycling programs, namely Ontario’s Blue Box and Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste programs.” Two other examples of IFOs are the Ontario Electronic Stewardship for waste electrical and electronic equipment, while Ontario Tire Stewardship operates the scrap tire recycling program.
The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy has a paper on A Brief History of Waste Diversion in Ontario that provides some background on the WDA.
So how does the pick up of your waste at the curb fit in to all of these policy making and decision-making levels? Well, your friendly neighbourhood Spiderman — I mean municipality — are on the road, on the phone, and in the thick of things developing and managing both the waste management programs legislated by the Provincial government and programs developed above and beyond the legislation.
As many of our residents know, Halton Region has a highly developed integrated waste management system. An integrated waste management system uses several waste controls such as reduction, reuse, recycling and disposal methods to minimize the environmental impact of our residential waste streams.
In November 2011 Halton Regional Council adopted the 2012-2016 Solid Waste Management Strategy, that sets a goal to boost Halton’s residential waste diversion rate from 60% to 65%. The initiatives set out in the Strategy will be developed by Halton Region with guidance from our Council, Local Municipalities, and our residents.
When developing the initiatives we need to consider legislation set by the Province and the programs developed by WDO and the IFOs. Halton Region receives funding from the industry fees that are collected under the WDA program. Lengthy reports are submitted several times a year for each of the WDA programs. Often these fees do not cover the actual costs associated with Halton’s integrated waste management system and not all programs are legislated (while Blue Box recycling is legislated, GreenCart organics is not).
The programs under the WDA are not always “cut and dry.” Often municipalities go through difficult negotiations to develop fair contracts. And some of you may remember the controversy during the summer of 2010 surrounding the “eco fees” with Stewardship Ontario’s Orange Drop program.
As you can see, we are all in this thing called waste management together. The system is complex with the different levels of government involved and the various acts, regulations and mandates that we need to follow.
Even with all of this red tape, in the end we are very fortunate to take part in the numerous waste diversion systems available. Here in Halton we are proud of the service we are able to deliver and proud of our residential participation to achieve our 60% waste diversion from landfill!
So that is one big nutshell that all of this information fits in to. Did this make things more clear or confuse you even further? Give us a shout if you have any questions or would like more information about waste management legislation in Canada, Ontario, or Halton.