Implementation plan for Canada-wide standards on federal incinerators

Federal government


Signed by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) Ministers in May 2001.

Brief statement of problem:

Polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins and polychlorinated dibenzofurans, commonly known as dioxins and furans, are toxic, persistent, bioaccumulative, and result predominantly from human activity. Due to their extraordinary environmental persistence and capacity to accumulate in biological tissues, dioxins and furans have been designated as Track 1 substances, and are slated for virtual elimination under the CCME Policy for Management of Toxic Substances and the federal Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP).

Mercury is a natural and persistent bioaccumulative element which can be transported many miles in the atmosphere. CCME determined that mercury levels in fish and wildlife across Canada warrant additional efforts to reduce atmospheric emissions derived from both deliberate use of mercury and from incidental releases of mercury. Under the CCME Policy for Management of Toxic Substances and the federal Toxic Substances Management Policy (TSMP), mercury has been designated as a Track 2 substance which identifies that mercury shall be managed through its lifecycle to minimize releases.

General accountability

There were a total of 77 incinerators operated by federal departments based on the latest inventory (1997) of federal incinerators. These included both hazardous and non-hazardous waste incinerators. Five of these incinerators burned more than 26 tonnes per year of waste while two incinerators burned more than 120 tonnes per year of waste. The available information showed that there are no sewage sludge incinerators operating at federal facilities.

Canada's overall approach to management of mercury and dioxin/furan emissions from waste incineration units at federal facilities will be:

Hazardous waste incinerators

Incinerators burning hazardous waste will be subject to the proposed Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), which specifies minimum removal and destruction efficiencies, and restricts releases of mercury and dioxin/furan at concentrations at least as stringent as the Canada-wide Standards (CWSs). The proposed Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations sets requirements on the overall waste management of hazardous waste at federal facilities including environmentally sound management plan, releases to all media, landfills and storage. The regulation will apply to federal incinerators that burn hazardous waste at a quantity of 5 kilograms or 5 litres or more during any 30-day period. According to the latest inventory for federal incinerators, all of the existing incinerators would exceed this rate. The emissions for mercury and dioxin/furan will be verified by annual stack testing. Pollution prevention protocols will be adopted, beginning in 2003, to prevent mercury and mercury containing devices from entering the hazardous waste stream. Incinerators burning medical waste at federal facilities will also be captured under this regulation.

Non-hazardous (municipalFootnote 1) waste incinerators

A recent survey conducted for non-hazardous waste incinerators at federal facilities showed that 17 incinerators remain in operation, each burning less than 26 tonnes per year of waste. The type of waste burned is comparable to municipal solid waste.


At this time, pollution prevention plans are considered the preferred approach for the management of mercury. This may include at-source reductions or substitution of mercury-containing products. Furthermore, this may be promoted as a communications exercise and as a core component of facility pollution prevention plans. The implementation of the CWS for mercury in fluorescent lamps and in dental amalgam wastes are examples of such at-source reductions.


Since the formation of dioxins/furans emissions are more influenced by the incinerator design and control technology, the approach to managing dioxins/furans emissions may differ from the approach used for reducing mercury emissions. Federal incinerators may be required to prepare pollution prevention plans under CEPA 1999. The long term objective is virtual elimination. Recommendations to be developed in 2002 by the CCME CWS dioxin/furan multistakeholder advisory group on the Pollution Prevention Strategy for waste incinerators will be considered.

Summary/joint efforts

Environment Canada is currently gathering more information on the status of these incinerators including emissions data. Further consultation with the government departments will be carried out to evaluate the best management approach(es) to meet the CWS for both mercury and dioxins/furans. Recommendations will be developed in consultation with the government departments.

As open burning of waste is being discouraged in rural communities, incineration may become the alternative waste management option. Municipal solid waste incinerators established to serve these remote locations may combust more than 26 and 120 tonnes of waste per year, exceeding the limits set out for dioxins/furans and mercury in the CWS respectively. This may result in the consideration of other risk management options.

Timeframe for achieving the targets

Hazardous waste incinerators

The targeted dates towards implementing the Canada-wide Standards are as follows:

Non-hazardous (municipal) waste incinerators

The proposed plan to implement the Canada-wide Standards for mercury and dioxin/furan is as follows:

International efforts

To ensure the continued protection of Canadians and their environment, Canada is an active participant in international agreements on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and heavy metal and has ratified the following:

Canada is also committed to reducing mercury and dioxins/furans releases through regional initiatives such as:

Our domestic programs provide examples to other countries for significant mercury and dioxins/furans reductions. Under the UNEP, Canada has established a 5-year $20 million (Cdn) Canada POPs Fund, administered by the World Bank, to assist developing countries to build their capacities to deal with POPs and to implement their obligations under the Convention.

Public role / transparency

Under CEPA 1999 , the Minister will offer to consult with the governments of the specified jurisdictions in the development of an instrument such as objectives, guidelines, codes or regulations. Public feedback comment may be obtained through these means during the assessment phase for new waste incineration facilities. Public meetings may be held as appropriate to afford local stakeholders the opportunity to have input to the assessment process or to provide information of interest to the public respecting existing facilities. In this way, the public will have the ability to ensure that the CWS will be met at any new or existing facility. Once the instrument is operational, information on mercury or dioxin/furan emissions may be obtained through direct request to the department or through the National Pollutant Release Inventory mandated under the CEPA 1999.

Access to information

Annual dioxins/furans and mercury releases from point sources will continue to be tracked and released to the public through the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI). The reporting criteria is intended to capture all point sources from sectors targeted by the Canada-wide Standards for dioxins/furans and mercury including base metal smelters, pulp and paper boilers, waste incinerators, electric power generation, electric arc furnace in steel manufacturing and iron sintering.

To align with the Canada-wide Standards for dioxin and furans established for waste incinerators, the NPRI has revised the waste quantity threshold from 100 tonnes per year to 26 tonnes of waste per year for non-hazardous solid waste and biomedical/hospital waste incineration beginning reporting year 2002.

Since a large number of federal incinerators do not meet the reporting threshold set under NPRI (below 26 tonnes per year), the NPRI will not provide a complete profile of dioxin/furan or mercury release from federal incinerators in Canada. An alternative reporting mechanism will be required for this sector. Environment Canada will revisit the reporting threshold for waste incinerators and conduct compliance promotion at federal facilities which should report to the NPRI.

To provide a more comprehensive profile of the pollutant releases in Canada, Environment Canada also maintains national release inventories for specific substances of concern such as mercury and dioxin/furan. These inventories attempt to fill in gaps by estimating releases for point sources that have not reported to the NPRI and include sectors beyond point sources such as area, mobile, reservoir sources. They are continuously updated and the latest versions will be posted on the Environment Canada Web site.

Verifiable progress

Under the Federal Hazardous Waste Regulations, annual stack tests are required and the results must be submitted to the Minister upon request. Under Section 46, CEPA 1999, the federal Minister may require jurisdictions described under Part 9 to report information as requested or as set out under CEPA 1999. The federal Minister of the Environment will comply with reporting requirements stipulated in this CWS.


New and existing waste incinerators in jurisdictions described under Part 9, CEPA 1999, may be required to meet emission limits for other pollutants. It is anticipated that other CEPA toxic substances such as particulate matter (PM10), hexachlorobenzene, hexachlorobutadiene and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) will also be managed at any new or existing facility. The control or prevention techniques applied to reduce mercury and dioxin/furan would benefit in reducing the other substances of concern.

Life-cycle issues

These considerations will be addressed on a case-by-case basis as each new facility is reviewed. Ash/carbon and/or residues will be landfilled in accordance with sound management principles and regulatory requirements.


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