9. Controls on Recyclables

A key objective identified by Environment Canada is to develop a regime that allows Environment Canada to track shipments and ensure the environmentally sound management of hazardous recyclable materials in a way that promotes recycling over disposal. The development of this new regime has raised a number of difficult issues.

The first issue has to do with defining which shipments of recyclable materials should be covered by the regulations. This turns in part on what is considered a "recyclable material" as opposed to a product and in part on the definition of "hazardous."

As discussed above, the Department intends to clarify the waste/recyclable versus product issue through the publication of a guidance document. The overall approach to determining what is "hazardous" should be more straightforward than is the case under the current regulations because of the new listing regime described above. In addition, Environment Canada is considering a supplemental listing to clarify the new regulations' application to various specific streams of concerns, such as certain types of electronic waste and treated wood.

Environment Canada proposes a separate regime for shipments of recyclable materials among OECD countries consistent with the OECD decision. This regime will provide enhanced flexibility while retaining the core elements of the basic control regime required to manage risks effectively and to comply with international obligations. The new regime will reflect the provisions concerning hazardous recyclable materials in OECD Decision C(2001)107 and the Canada-USA Agreement.

The proposed regime for hazardous recyclable materials will contain the following key changes from the Full Controls regime described above:

In addition to the streamlining proposed above, recycling stakeholders have requested that Environment Canada re-examine the controls for specific, low risk hazardous recyclable materials, such as electronic scrap imported to environmentally sound recycling operations.

Although Canada's international obligations to control hazardous recyclable materials are quite stringent, Environment Canada explained that it is carefully examining them to identify opportunities for flexibility. To the extent that such flexibility exists, the Department may propose further modifications to the controls, especially for movements of hazardous recyclable materials within the OECD.

Environment Canada strongly supports the promotion of environmentally sound recycling over disposal. However, in addition to continuing to comply with Canada's international obligations, Environment Canada's major concern in making any significant changes to the scope and controls for hazardous recyclable materials is the risk of sham recycling and export to non-environmentally sound operations, especially in developing countries.

There are two possible mechanisms that could be used to implement modified controls:

  1. Specific exemptions within the regulations.This approach would provide clarity and would be preferred by those stakeholders who do not want their materials subject to controls. However, this mechanism is not very flexible, as it would require specific regulatory provisions tailored to each particular recyclable material being exempted. At the same time, there is a risk that a broad exemption would be inappropriately used by persons not operating in an environmentally sound manner. Monitoring such non-compliance would be difficult if the company is operating outside the scope of the known regulated community.
  2. Case-by-case variances. This would involve using the authority under Section 190 of CEPA 1999 to issue a permit of equivalent level of environmental safety (PELES - see section 10) to provide variances for low risk hazardous recyclable materials on a case-by-case basis, using strict environmentally sound management criteria. This would provide significant flexibility, as such variances could be issued at any time after the entry into force of the regulations and could establish conditions for individual situations. Because such variances would only be issued to specific exporters or importers based on environmental considerations, monitoring compliance with the modified controls would be significantly easier than with a regulatory exemption. This approach would require a highly transparent process to allow stakeholder input as an alternative to regulatory consultations. This approach would require building confidence with stakeholders that it will provide the necessary flexibility while ensuring environmental protection.

During the consultations, Environment Canada expressed support for the second approach whereby the regulations will not differentiate among categories of hazardous recyclable materials, but will authorize the use of the PELES authority to provide variances for hazardous recyclable materials that represent a low risk of harm to the environment and human health, if managed in an environmentally sound manner.

Such PELES applications will be assessed on their merits. Applicants may wish to demonstrate that the proposed variance would meet environmental objective beyond the basic requirement of the proposed regulations for all shipments. Environment Canada is examining this model as a means to promote extended producer responsibility. Both international environmental and trade obligations must be considered in issuing such variances.

Departmental officials acknowledged that further discussion of this approach and specific examples of its use will be required prior to entry into force of the new regulations.

The following points summarize the reaction of participants to Environment Canada's proposals:

As the risks associated with low risk recyclables are specific to the unique circumstances surrounding the production, transport and processing of these materials, Environment Canada proposed to examine low risk recyclables on a case-by-case basis. The following comments were provided concerning "low risk recyclable materials":

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