September 27, 2004

Hazardous waste imports decline for fourth straight year; exports also show downward trend

Total quantities of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials imported into Canada in 2003 declined for the fourth consecutive year, as indicated by figures released last week by Environment Canada. Imports of hazardous materials last year totaled 417,368 tonnes, down almost 6,000 tonnes from approximately 423,000 tonnes in 2002.

Most notable was the decline in the imports of hazardous waste destined for landfilling which dropped to 43,274 tonnes, a reduction of 34% from 2002 levels (65,500 tonnes) and down by of 82% from 1999, when they peaked at 235,000 tonnes. Environment Canada notes that imports represent less than 8% of the total hazardous waste generated in Canada, and such imports for disposal have decreased steadily since 2000.

Between 2002 and 2003, less hazardous waste was exported as well, with total quantities decreasing by nearly 6% (close to 20,000 tonnes), from 340,261 tonnes in 2002 to 321,294 tonnes in 2003. The reductions in exports are attributed partly to a 14% decrease in hazardous waste materials destined for disposal to the United States and other Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, due to the variability of manufacturing and remediation activity industries.

The reduction in imports indicates that provincial regulations introduced in Quebec in 2001 requiring pre-treatment of contaminated soil have had a positive effect in helping to reduce overall imports of hazardous wastes destined for landfilling. Another contributing factor to the downward trend in imports is believed to be the move to harmonize Canadian and American guidelines for the landfilling of hazardous wastes; these include pre-treatment requirements. Recent efforts, complemented by a new discussion paper released by the province of Ontario on treatment standards for hazardous wastes destined for disposal could further contribute to a reduction in imports in the future, adds the department.

In 2003, nearly 97% of Canadian imports came from the United States with a significant fraction of the remainder coming from Europe as hazardous recyclable materials destined for metal recovery operations.

Shipments for recycling, which reduce reliance on primary resources and benefit Canadian industry, represented nearly half of all imports in 2003. Most of the imported material included batteries, metal-bearing wastes and manufacturing residues. Other hazardous waste imports included liquors from metallurgical processes, contaminated soils and residues from oil refining.

Metal recovery and physical/chemical treatment were the two most common means of managing the hazardous waste imports (28% and 26%, respectively), followed by regeneration of substances and incineration (15% each). A further 10% of the imported material was landfilled, with other recycling and other disposal used for 3% each.

Imports of hazardous waste for recycling went to five provinces, with Ontario and Quebec continuing to receive the vast majority of all hazardous waste imports into Canada. Nearly all imports for final disposal were destined for Ontario and Quebec, with small quantities imported into British Columbia and Alberta.

Exports of hazardous waste for recycling originated from nine provinces, with Ontario and Quebec accounting for almost 80% of these shipments. The bulk of these shipments were managed by facilities in the northeastern and central United States.

Since 1992, Canada has had strict regulations in place governing the transboundary movement and tracking of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials. Proposed revisions to the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste Regulations, published for consultation earlier this year, will further contribute to the protection of the environment and human health and will modernize a control regime established over a decade ago.

More information is available from Joe Wittwer of Environment Canada's transboundary movement branch, 819/953-2171 .

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