Summary of Environmental Law in Canada

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12 Waste Management

 

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12.1 Household and Non-hazardous Solid Waste

 

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This section addresses household and non-hazardous solid waste issues. Liquid waste is discussed in Chapter 9, Protection and Management of Water Resources, and in Chapter 10, Protection of the Oceans and Coastal Areas.

In Canada, the provinces have constitutional authority to deal with most activities relating to solid waste. Federal authority extends mainly to federal lands, federal facilities, and Indian lands.

Federal

The most important federal statutes dealing with solid waste management are the National Parks Act and the Indian Act. The National Parks Garbage Regulations, adopted under the National Parks Act, require an operator to obtain a permit to collect wastes originating in the park and to deliver the wastes to the park's sanitary landfill, dump area, or other designated point. The Reserve Waste Disposal Regulations, adopted under the Indian Act, require an operator to obtain a permit to operate a garbage dump on a reserve or to store or dispose of wastes on Indian lands. The federal government also has published "Sanitary Landfilling Guidelines for Federal Agencies."

Also, the Export and Import of Hazardous Wastes Regulations, adopted under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), establish requirements for the exportation and importation of waste out of and into Canada.

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has produced guidelines on a variety of subjects that touch on the issue of municipal and hazardous wastes, including composing; solid, hazardous and biomedical waste incinerators; alternative fuels for cement kilns; and lubricant recycling. These documents make suggestions but are not legally binding.

Provinces and Territories

Provincial and territorial authorities responsible for the environment are usually in charge of the application of legislation relating to waste. Generally, solid waste is dealt with either by the main provincial or territorial environmental statute or by one or more statutes that pertain to municipalities. Usually, anyone collecting, transporting, processing, storing, or disposing of garbage requires a provincial or territorial permit or licence. Waste management regulations define and designate the different types of wastes and prescribe standards for the location, maintenance, and operation of waste disposal sites and waste management systems.

In many provinces, most projects involving waste management facilities are subjected to an environmental assessment. This includes new disposal facilities, major expansions of existing disposal facilities, major transfer stations, and processing facilities, whether privately or publicly owned. See Chapter 7, Environmental Impact Assessment.

Local Governments

Provincial statutes delegate to municipal governments the power to establish and maintain systems for the collection, removal, and disposal of garbage, and to pass regulations controlling the use of garbage collection systems. A municipality often has the right to buy or expropriate land that is to be used for waste disposal activities.

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12.1.1 Criteria and Definition of Wastes

 

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Federal

The National Parks Act and Indian Act regulations referred to above define solid waste broadly, as garbage or refuse.

Provinces and Territories

Provincial and municipal laws vary in the specificity with which they define solid waste. These definitions can be important in particular circumstances. However, the more important definitions are those that apply to hazardous wastes and other wastes that require special handling, as discussed below in Section 12.2.

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12.1.2 Treatment, Storage and Disposal Requirements

 

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Specific requirements for the treatment, storage, and disposal of household and solid wastes usually vary considerably from one province to another. At a minimum, municipal or provincial rules require an operator to obtain a permit or licence to collect, store, or dispose of solid waste. Usually, these permits or licences have terms and conditions attached. Municipal garbage collection is sometimes provided by the municipality itself, and in other cases is contracted out to the private sector. Commercial and industrial garbage collection are more frequently contracted out than is residential garbage collection.

Generally, provincial legislation and regulations define and control various types of solid waste disposal facilities, such as landfills and incinerators. The fly ash and bottom ash from these incinerators is usually landfilled. In some jurisdictions, the disposal of incinerator ash is regulated as a hazardous waste (see Section 12.2 below); in others it is not. Many provinces are cleaning up landfills. In some cases, legislation requires owners of landfills to provide guarantees of sufficient financial reserves to cover the costs of closing down their site.

For biomedical wastes, regulatory requirements and management practices vary considerably in different parts of the country. Regulation generally defines different categories of biomedical wastes and specifies for each category how they should be treated, transported and stored. Moreover, the administrative requirements for obtaining a certificate or permit or to hold an impact study vary with the type of activity: storage, incineration, disinfection or transport.

Regulation of the management of biomedical waste incinerators, as point sources of air pollution, varies considerably. The current trend, however, is to replace these incinerators with off-site incineration or landfill. Modern off-site medical waste incinerators are subject to relatively stringent air pollution control requirements.

Moreover, operators of plants producing, storing, treating or transporting biomedical wastes must keep a record of their activities and produce an annual report. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment has made specific recommendations for the handling of biomedical waste in the "Guidelines for the Management of Biomedical Wastes in Canada." The Guidelines set out recommended procedures for segregation, packaging, storage, disinfection, transportation, incineration, and final disposal of biomedical wastes. Numerous other guidelines and standards also exist, published by professional societies, Environment Canada, and Health Canada.

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12.1.3 Waste Reduction (including recycling or reuse policies)

 

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In 1990, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment established a National Packaging Protocol designed to reduce packaging waste by 50% by the year 2000. Provincial governments, municipalities, and businesses implemented the Protocol through both voluntary and mandatory measures, and the objectives were reached before the cut-off date. Some provinces have also developed or are in the process of developing recycling regulations that require major generators of industrial, commercial, and institutional waste, and major packaging users (e.g., paper products industries, food and beverage manufacturers, etc.) to develop waste and/or packaging reduction plans.

More broadly, most provinces have developed policies emphasizing the reduction, re-use, and recycling of wastes (the "3 R's") in priority over disposal. Many provinces require municipalities to prepare and implement plans for managing solid wastes in accordance with the 3 Rs approach. In addition, most provinces have legislation dealing with specific issues such as beverage container deposit refund systems, established by the 1970 British Columbia Litter Act, the 1973 Saskatchewan Litter Control Act, and the "Green Back Trash to Cash Program" in Newfoundland and Labrador. In Alberta, the government has created a board made up of industry, municipal and community stakeholders which manages its beverage container recovery system. Another board is responsible for recycling used oil materials. Similar management programs involving the cooperation between the private and the public sector have been implemented in many provinces. The "Plan d'action québécois sur la gestion des matières résiduelles 1998-2008" is another example. This program puts forth measures that will allow to re-use annually more than 65% of recyclable materials.

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12.1.4 Siting Issues

 

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The siting of solid waste facilities, such as landfills, incinerators, transfer stations, and recycling facilities, is a recurring problem in Canada. Generally, the siting of these facilities is dealt with by municipalities and regional districts under zoning and sanitation regulations, rather than by provincial governments.

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12.1.5 Liability and Enforcement

 

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Penalties are provided in all federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal legislation enacted for the management of wastes. The range of penalties varies greatly from legislation to legislation. Enforcement is usually done by municipal officials or by the provincial ministry or department responsible for the environment.

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12.2 Hazardous Wastes

 

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Recent legislation has tried to replace the notion of hazardous waste by that of hazardous materials. This seeks to increase the scope of intervention to all hazardous waste and new materials. Moreover, the new notion encourages re-use and recycling of wastes.

Federal government

CEPA 1999 strengthens governmental authority with respect to regulations governing the export and import of hazardous waste (including dangerous recyclables) and confers the authority to:

The development of criteria for the management of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclables in an environmentally sound manner is a new requirement of CEPA 1999. Priority criteria will be for those wastes containing substances on the List of Toxic Substances (Schedule 1).

The new Act also contains distinct definitions for recyclables and wastes, giving regulatory organizations the flexibility to react differently for recyclables and wastes when the proposed management is environmentally sound.

CEPA 1999 contains clauses stipulating that upon notification, the Minister must make public information obtained (type of waste, name of company, and country of origin or destination) concerning the export, import, and transit of hazardous wastes and recyclables.

Canadian exporters are required to develop and implement reduction plans for exports of wastes destined for final elimination. Wastes containing, made up of, or contaminated by substances deemed toxic under the Act and appearing in Schedule 1 are to be given priority.

Under specific conditions the Minister can also grant permits for operations that present variances with respect to regulations if they can guarantee environmental safeguards that are at least equivalent. Such permits are granted on a case-by-case basis.

Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), the federal government has adopted regulations on the export of wastes containing PCBs (polychlorinated biphenols), on the import and export of hazardous wastes, and on interprovincial transfers of hazardous wastes.

Moreover, it takes a leadership and coordination role with respect to the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act and its regulations of the movement of all dangerous goods that cross provincial or international boundaries, including hazardous wastes, by road, rail, ship, and air. Transportation aspects of hazardous wastes are discussed further in Chapter 22, Transportation.

Also, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has published national guidelines on the treatment and disposal of such wastes.

Provinces and Territories

As with other wastes, the provincial governments play the major role in regulating the management of hazardous wastes. Thus, in addition to federal requirements, provincial requirements also apply to the management of hazardous wastes. In provincial legislation, hazardous waste is often defined according to an extensive and precise list of targeted types of waste. Naturally, hazardous wastes are subject to more stringent legal requirements than regular wastes. For example, in some provinces generators of hazardous waste are required to register with provincial authorities, and to comply with a document manifest system for shipping hazardous waste.

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12.2.1 Criteria for Categorizing as Hazardous Wastes

 

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In general, any material that presents a danger for health or the environment and that is either explosive, gazeous, inflammable, toxic, radioactive, corrosive or oxidizing can be considered as a hazardous waste or material. Different governments have listed certain hazardous products independently of their characteristics. Also, despite some differences, definitions and classifications of hazardous wastes follow those of the federal Transportation of Dangerous Goods Regulations and the Controlled Products Regulations. Most provincial governments try to harmonize their classification criteria with canadian and international regulations.

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12.2.2 Treatment, Storage and Disposal Requirements

 

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The Canadian Council of Ministers of Environment (CCME) has produced guidelines for the treatment, storage and disposal of these wastes; including national guidelines for hazardous waste incineration facilities, landfilling of hazardous wastes, and physical-chemical-biological treatment of hazardous wastes. Environment Canada has also created policies and guidelines on this subject, including a federal policy on the storage and disposal of hazardous wastes, and guidelines for incineration facilities.

Treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous wastes are matters generally governed by provincial, territorial and municipal authorities. These jurisdictions use a permit or licence system to regulate hazardous waste disposal in landfills sites, incinerators, facilities for waste processing, and other types of waste disposal sites (composting sites, dumps, grinding sites, transfer stations, refuse-derived fuel plants, battery recycling, and used tire sites). These permit or licence holders must keep a record of hazardous wastes that they have received, produced or used, and must write an annual report. Storage of hazardous waste by the producer cannot generally exceed 12 months. If more than 100 kilograms are stored, certain conditions regarding the characteristics of containers, labelling, requirements of buildings, equipment, storage areas, etc. must be satisfied. If more than 1000 kilograms are stored, specific norms regarding containers, tanks and pilled storage must be met.

Provincial regulation often specifies rules for setting up and closing landfills. Upon closing, the operator must produce a statement attesting that the site conforms to environmental norms. In some provinces, according to the type and quantity of hazardous wastes, producers or users must keep a record. The largest companies must also produce an annual report of management including more detailed information than that in the kept record.

Some projects such as the incineration or use of hazardous wastes to produce energy, etc., must undergo an impact study.

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12.2.3 Waste Reduction (including recycling or re-use policies)

 

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Hazardous waste reduction initiatives are done at the provincial level, but are generally not covered by the traditional waste management regulatory scheme. There are still few special rules for the operation of recycling facilities, making them subject to the same requirements as regular waste disposal facilities. Regulatory provisions for the operation of hazardous wastes recycling centres are found in British Columbia pursuant to the provincial Waste Management Act. In Canada, there exist different initiatives to reduce the production of hazardous wastes. For example, in 1997, a Canada-wide program to collect and recycle used rechargeable batteries was set up. Partnership agreements with industrial sectors, such as those in Ontario, help significantly reduce chemical and hazardous wastes.

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12.2.4 Siting Issues

 

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In April 1991, the CCME prepared the national Guidelines for the Landfilling of Hazardous Waste. These Guidelines consider the following issues: site selection, design and construction, closure and post-closure care, and operation and monitoring of landfilling of hazardous wastes. The Guidelines are intended to apply primarily to new landfill facilities, not existing ones. They are not directed toward the landfilling of radioactive wastes as regulated by the Atomic Energy Control Board (AECB) (See section 12.3 Radioactive Wastes).

Under the Special Wastes Regulation of the Waste Management Act, British Columbia sets out the minimum site requirements for mobile facilities, secure landfills, waste piles, surface impounds and land treatment facilities in that province.

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12.2.5 Liability and Enforcement

 

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Under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) , failure to give notice to import or export hazardous waste is subject to a maximum penalty of a CND$1 million fine and three years imprisonment. Penalties under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act can be a maximum of a CND$100,000 fine and 2 years imprisonment. Under the federal Hazardous Products Act, offenders are liable for a maximum fine of CND$1 million and 2 years imprisonment. Provincial legislation also sets penalties that vary from one province to another.

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12.3 Radioactive Wastes

 

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On 31 May 2000, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) replced the Atomic Energy Control Board as the regulating agency of the Canadian nuclear sector. The creation of the CNSC stems from the coming into force of the Nuclear Safety and Control Act and its regulations. Through a system of permits, the CNSC regulates nearly all uses of nuclear energy and nuclear materials in Canada. In particular, the CNSC regulates the following activities and their related nuclear wastes:

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12.3.1 Criteria for Categorization as Radioactive Waste

 

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According to the Nuclear Safety and Control Act, the term "nuclear substance" includes, among other things, "a radioactive by-product of the development, production or use of nuclear energy" and "a radioactive substance or radioactive thing that was used for the development or production, or in connection with the use, of nuclear energy."

The Nuclear Substances and Radiation Devices Regulations determines the quantities of nuclear substances regulated, while the General Nuclear Safety and Control Regulations, among other things, designate as nuclear facilities subject to the Act, facilities for the management, storage (temporary or permanent) or disposal of waste containing radioactive nuclear substances at which the resident inventory of radioactive nuclear substances contained in the waste is 1015 Bq or more.

Electricity generation produces two types of nuclear waste: low-level waste and high-level waste. Low-level wastes come primarily from operating activities: brooms, plastic sheets, protective clothing, and paper products; they make up about one percent of the total and are easily stored temporarily in monitored facilities. High-level wastes are made up of irradiated nuclear fuel released by reactors, which are in the form of solid ceramic pellets; because these wastes are highly radioactive, they must be stored in shielded facilities.

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12.3.2 Treatment, Storage and Disposal Requirements

 

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In 1978, the governments of Canada and Ontario established the Nuclear Fuel Waste Management Program, the goal of which was the safe and permanent elimination of high-level wastes. The research and development required to set up such a site was delegated to Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (AECL).

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Office (LLRWMO) was created in 1982 to assume federal responsibilities in low-level waste management. The LLRWMO is operated by the AECL under an agreement with Natural Resources Canada, which provides funding and a national policy for low-level waste management.

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12.3.3 Waste Reduction (including recycling or re-use policies)

 

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See section 12.3.2

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12.3.4 Siting Issues

 

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Selection of actual site location is subject to technical guidelines developed by the AECB once the disposal concept is agreed upon such as those found in AECB's Regulatory Policy Statement R-72.

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12.3.5 Liability and Enforcement

 

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The Nuclear Safety and Control Act provides for maximum fines of CND$ 1 million and/or a maximum prison term of five years for offences related to nuclear waste.

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2003