Proposed Ontario regulations support new waste technologies, encourage alternative fuels, recycling of more materials
Proposed amendments to regulations under Ontario's Environmental Protection Act (EP Act) and Environmental Assessment Act (EA Act) would help industry and municipalities keep more waste out of landfills and support new waste technologies. The amendments pertain to recyclable materials, activities for using specific wastes as alternative fuel, and implementation of new and emerging waste management technology. The draft regulations have been posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry for a 61-day comment period, running to September 18, 2006 (www.ene.gov.onc.ca/envregistry/027964er.htm).
New provisions relating to recycling would create incentives by making it easier for municipalities to increase recycling, and remove barriers that make it costly and/or restrictive for the industry to recycle. This could lead to the recycling of batteries, electronics and roof shingles.
Current controls governing wastes destined for recycling require generators to ship such wastes directly to the site where they will be recycled if they wish to be exempted. If the waste is to be stored, processed or transferred at an intermediate site prior to recycling, the intermediate site must first obtain Ministry of Environment (MOE) approval. A recycler (e.g. a manufacturer) is further required to wholly use all the waste (i.e., all waste must be fed into the manufacturing process as received). These requirements have been criticized as too stringent, acting as barriers to increased recycling and discouraging the recycling of wastes that require any pre-processing.
As a strategy for facilitating waste diversion, the Ministry is proposing to exempt certain wastes that are recycled but do not meet current exemption criteria for one reason or another. An amendment to regulation 347 would list the following wastes for exemption from part V of the EP Act as recyclable materials:
*waste paint or waste coatings recycled into paint;
*printed circuit boards recycled by smelters;
*spent activated carbon recycled by being reactivated;
*metal bearing waste recycled by smelters; and
*crumb rubber recycled into products (not fuels).
Another amendment to regulation 347 would exempt collection, storage and transfer systems from specific EP Act approvals requirements when they are used for recycling purposes. This exemption would apply to systems for batteries, mercury-containing devices and materials (electrical switches, thermostats, fluorescent lamps), and waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). The Ministry further proposes to exempt sites used for dismantling intact WEEE so that reusable components can be salvaged and non-reusable components can be recycled.
With regard to alternative fuels, the MOE proposes to remove approval requirements under the EP Act for converting biomass (organic wastes including agricultural residues, waste from forestry operations and food processing wastes) into alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol. As these requirements govern the processing and handling of waste materials, production of ethanol or biodiesel from certain waste biomass is also subject to EP Act approval. Other approvals that might be required under the act, such as for air emissions, would remain unchanged. Production of energy from biomass is generally considered to have a neutral impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Ministry is also proposing to exempt from the EP Act approvals process certain wastes that can be put to beneficial use, namely waste asphalt shingles, waste asphalt and waste glass. These materials, if used in the construction of roads, walkways and parking lots, are currently considered wastes and require Ministry approval. The proposed amendment to regulation 347 is intended to encourage the beneficial use of these wastes.
Another regulatory change would allow wood waste combustor sites to burn any quantity of wood waste as a fuel or fuel supplement without approval under the EP Act; currently, only sites burning less than 100 tonnes per day of wood waste for this purpose are exempt. Removing this limit will encourage greater use of wood waste as an alternative to fossil fuels.
The existing storage limit of 500 cubic metres for wood waste would remain unchanged, and other approval requirements under the act, such as for air emissions, would still apply. Facilities that burn wood waste to produce electricity would continue to be subject to the electricity projects regulation under the EA Act.
New regulations would provide a streamlined waste approvals process under the EP Act for pilot or demonstration projects for emerging waste technologies. These technologies, including energy-from-waste technologies such as gasification and plasma arc, are operating in other jurisdictions but are unknown in Ontario.
Ontario's existing approvals process does not distinguish between pilot, demonstration or full-scale operations or between proven and unproven technologies. This hinders the testing and development of new and emerging technologies. The Ministry is proposing to exempt these pilot or demonstration projects from the environmental assessment process and from a mandatory waste hearing for a set period of time.
These projects would be allowed to operate for three years and to process no more than 75 tonnes of municipal waste per day. Upon request, a pilot could be extended for an additional two years by the MOE if it meets the Ministry's conditions. Such projects would still require a certificate of approval under the EP Act and would have to comply with provincial air emission standards. If a project proved viable and the proponent wanted to continue operating it as a permanent facility, it would have to go through the EA process.
The MOE is also seeking comments and suggestions on ways to encourage the development of more extended producer responsibility systems (EPRS), under which manufacturers set up "take-back" programs to collect or accept spent products, such as computers and other electronics, directly from consumers. Because such programs are considered a form of waste management, they currently require a lengthy approval process. By providing a simpler regulatory mechanism that would make it quicker and less costly to establish such programs, the Ministry hopes to support their development, whether initiated voluntarily or under the Waste Diversion Act.
Accordingly, the Ministry is seeking public comments on a proposal for a regulatory approach that would exempt from the approval process any EPRS, designed and operated in compliance with regulatory requirements. The proposed approach would involve defining a responsible party and establishing the scope of key system components, such as definition of wastes, operating rules and processes, and reporting. There would be no approval requirements for these systems, making implementation quicker, simpler and less costly.