August 29, 2005

Imports of hazardous wastes, recyclables decline for fifth consecutive year

Quantities of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials imported into Canada declined from approximately 417,000 metric tonnes in 2003 to approximately 416,000 metric tonnes in 2004. Although the decrease was small, it marked the fifth year in a row for this trend. Figures released this month by Environment Canada also showed a reduction in exports of hazardous waste between 2003 and 2004.

The figures for 2004 indicate that imports of hazardous wastes destined for disposal dropped by more than 12,000 tonnes from 2003 quantities, maintaining a steady downward trend that began in 2000. A contributing factor is believed to be the move towards harmonization with American guidelines for the landfilling of hazardous wastes.

During the same period, imports of hazardous recyclable materials destined for environmentally sound recovery or recycling operations increased by nearly 11,000 tonnes, or 5.8%. Most notable is the reduction in the quantity of imported hazardous wastes destined for incineration and physical/chemical treatment in the province of Quebec.

The Quebec government has imposed more stringent controls on the registration of disposal facilities and their operating conditions, in addition to putting in place pretreatment requirements for landfilling. Consequently, a number of facilities in Quebec reduced their imports from other countries for disposal in 2004 while they undertook modifications to their operations in order to meet the new standards and specifications.

The 2004 statistics indicate that 98.8% of all Canadian imports of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable materials combined came from the United States. A significant fraction of the remaining 1.2% coming from Europe as hazardous recyclable materials destined for metal recovery operations. Other Canadian imports were also received from non-European countries, such as Indonesia, Israel, Jamaica and United Arab Emirates.

Shipments for recycling, which reduce reliance on primary resources and benefit Canadian industry, represented nearly half of all imports in 2004. Batteries, metal-bearing wastes and manufacturing residues accounted for the majority of the imports. Other hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials imported included spent pickle liquors from metallurgical processes, contaminated soils and residues from oil refining.

Imports of hazardous recyclable materials went to five provinces, with Ontario and Quebec continuing to receive the vast majority of all imports into Canada. Smaller amounts of hazardous recyclables were imported by Canadian companies located in Alberta, British Columbia and New Brunswick. Nearly all imports of wastes for final disposal were destined for Ontario and Quebec, with small quantities imported into British Columbia and Alberta. No imports were made into any of the territories.

Canadian exports of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials in 2004 decreased by almost 13,000 tonnes from the previous year. This is a drop of about 4% overall between 2003 and 2004, from 321,294 tonnes to 308,357 tonnes.

The reduction in exports is due in part to an 8% decrease from the previous year in the exports of hazardous recyclable materials such as recoverable metals and renewable materials destined for recycling operations in the U.S. and in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. The net decrease overall reflects the counterbalance resulting from a slight increase in export quantities for disposal.

Environment Canada also notes that in 2004, exports of hazardous recyclable materials originated from eight provinces, with Ontario and Quebec accounting for almost 64% of all shipments out of Canada. Most of these shipments were managed by facilities in the northeastern and central United States. Only Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island, as well as Canada's three territories, did not export any hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable materials in 2004.

Environment Canada releases annual statistics on the export and import of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials as a way of measuring progress against goals for waste reduction and environmentally sound management of waste set by the federal, provincial and territorial governments in 2000 and 2001.

Strict federal regulations governing the transboundary movement and tracking of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials have been in place since 1992. This regulatory regime will be enhanced and modernized by the new Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999). The new regulations, which will replace the current Export and Import of Hazardous Wastes Regulations, were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on June 1, 2005 and will come into force on November 1, 2005. They will enhance protection of the environment and human health by improving controls on transboundary movements, strengthening Canada's compliance with evolving international obligations, and incorporating authorities under CEPA 1999. The federal regulations are complemented by provincial and territorial regulations that set out requirements for the operation of waste management facilities and the licensing of hazardous waste carriers.

More information is available from Joe Wittwer of Environment Canada's transboundary movement branch, 819/953-2171, or on Environment Canada's Green Lane Web site, www.ec.gc.ca/tmb/eng/tmbhp_e.html.

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