May 21-28, 2007

Newfoundland launches $200M multi-year strategy for managing solid waste

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador is embarking on a $200-million, staged strategy to put in place a modern, regionally-based solid waste management system throughout the province. To be fully implemented by 2020, the strategy has set a goal of 50% reduction in waste sent to landfill by 2015.

Through the new strategy, the government has committed to: create integrated waste management regions, impose disposal bans, establish waste diversion programs, eliminate open burning by 2012, phase out unlined landfills, reduce the number of waste disposal sites, develop modern standards and technology and help support a public education program. At the same time, the strategy aims to maximize economic and employment opportunities.

"The Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy will implement a co-ordinated, regional approach to ensure there is a safe and reliable waste management system for the province," said Municipal Affairs Minister Jack Byrne. "With the funding and implementation plan, we can move forward and continue the important work of securing waste sites, identifying full service regional waste management facilities and putting the proper regional governance system in place. We will also actively pursue opportunities to maximize economic and employment opportunities with a distinct focus on stimulating regional benefits."

Capital costs will be supported through an allocation of approximately 30% of the gas tax revenue, which will provide $22 million to 2010 and a further $50 million in the years to come. Another $125 million could be allocated by 2020, subject to the extension of the program. During the four-year period to 2010, the Department of Municipal Affairs will also contribute $22 million ($5.5 million per year) from its annual capital works allocations.. The government is examining other funding options as well, to support operational costs.

The strategy calls for the establishment of three full-service regional waste management facilities on the Avalon peninsula and in the central and western areas of Newfoundland. Programs will be developed for the zones in Labrador to meet the provincial waste management goals. Regional waste management authorities will be established in 15 waste management zones: 11 on the island and four in Labrador.

Concurrent with the development of the three regional facilities, work will be undertaken to close as many existing sites as possible, consolidate waste management activities, significantly enhance recycling and diversion programs and develop the transportation infrastructure required to provide full integration into the three regions.

The implementation will follow a staged schedule, beginning with elimination of open burning in the Avalon region by 2007. By 2010, the Avalon regional site should be fully operational and open burning in the central region eliminated. By 2011, the central site should be fully operational, with open burning in the western region eliminated. The western regional site should be fully operational by 2016, and all non-host waste management zones should be fully integrated by 2020.

"Each regional authority will be responsible for waste management activities within the respective zones such as recycling, waste diversion and composting, as well as management of waste that is harmless to the environment and disposing of true waste materials at one of the regional sites," Byrne noted.

While the Municipal Affairs department will administer the strategy, the Department of Environment and Conservation Environment will be responsible for standards and regulations. "The environmental standards and regulations will govern the design, construction and operation of all new waste management systems and facilities, as well as the closure of existing non-contained waste management systems. Collectively they will ensure proper protection of the environment and public health and safety," said Environment and Conservation Minister Clyde Jackman. "Furthermore, closure of 80% of all waste sites in our province will undoubtedly reduce greenhouse gases and have a positive impact on the environment."

The Department of Environment and Conservation has developed six new environmental standards that apply to new waste management systems, lateral expansion of new waste management systems, and closure/decommissioning of unlined existing landfill sites. Standards applying to the closure of existing sites require standards require treatment, containment and continuous monitoring to reduce and eliminate any environmental impacts. In addition, systems operators will be required to have formal training and contingency plans prepared. They will also be required to report regularly to the department.

Newfoundland and Labrador has one of the highest waste disposal levels per capita in the country. In the past, the province has spent the least per household on waste management when compared to all other provinces. The first provincial solid waste management strategy, introduced in 2002, stalled due to lack of funding, resistance by some communities to close waste sites, the absence of firm standards, and no implementation plan.

Nevertheless, some progress was made. The initial strategy listed 250 dumpsites; this number has since been reduced to 200, including more than 20 teepee-type incinerators. Implementation of the new strategy is expected to drop the number of dumpsites in the province to 40 sites, all of them in remote locations. The province will work with the communities and regions to improve the operation of these remaining sites.

Several of the barriers to implementing the 2002 strategy have been cleared, most notably the establishment of funding sources, i.e. the gas tax and allocations from the Municipal Affairs department's capital works budget. As well, environmental standards and policies have been developed and an implementation plan drafted.

Revisions to the 2002 strategy include an amendment to waste management standards and regulations such that liner systems will not be required for existing sites where geological features on the site provide effective protection to the environment. The timelines have also been modified, moving the full implementation date from 2010 to 2020.

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