“What We Heard” Report: Province Consults Public, Municipalities and Stakeholders about Future Solid Waste Management Strategy and Regulations

August 24, 2015

The Ministry of the Environment has completed a province-wide consultation to examine stakeholder, public, and municipal responses to a proposed Solid Waste Management (SWM) strategy.  In May 2014, the Province initiated consultations to determine possible changes to the SWM strategy in seven areas: product stewardship, disposal bans and approval requirements, the used tire management program, removal of requirement for regional SWM plans, clarifying rules for energy-from-waste, improved enforceability of solid waste regulations and the beverage container deposit-refund program. The findings of the consultation were published in the What We Heard report in March 2015, and will be considered when formulating the next Provincial SWM regulations. Key outcomes included:

Product Stewardship

The Province proposed adding a section in the solid waste regulation to encourage consistency in product stewardship across selected products. The Province also proposed additional materials for stewardship: printed paper and packaging (PPP), used oil/container/filter, mercury-containing products, and other end-of-life Household Hazardous Waste (HHW).

Responses were generally supportive. Common themes were the importance of coordination between provincial programs, total program-compliance, and the significance of outcome-driven regulations with level playing fields for stakeholders and mitigating negative economic impact. Engaging the practice of ‘de minimus’ (a policy which offers smaller companies a break by allowing them to avoid costs of PPP stewardship) was mentioned.

The Province plans to work cooperatively with municipalities and producers when drafting the new regulations to achieve a balance of responsibility with regard to operating stewardship and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs.

Disposal Bans and Approval Requirements

The Province proposed adding to the list of items barred from disposal. Proposed additions included: stewarded materials, textiles, and construction and demolition debris (C&D). The proposed changes included tightening requirements for adherence to bans by disposal site operators. Until now, residents and private sector generators of solid waste shouldered the cost of carrying out disposal bans. In the future, bans may also financially impact the C&D debris generators and disposal sites.

Industry commenters and residents supported additional bans. Though, most responders from municipal disposal sites wanted an impact analysis performed to show the financial impacts. Recurring comments concerned compliance with current bans and suggestions of tax disincentives.

Used Tire Management Program

The Province proposed broadening the existing definition in the regulation to encompass off-the-road tires (OTRs).

The responses, though few, were generally supportive of this proposal.

Removal of Requirement for Regional SWM Plans

The Province proposed amending the regulation by updating the geographic regions to reflect the manner in which they currently operate.

The responses were few and divided. Municipalities were mostly in favour. Those against were afraid that less municipal planning would result in reduced compliance.

Clarity on Rules for Energy-from-Waste

The Province proposed changing the regulation’s definition of “incinerator”; clarifying the requirements for evaluating new and emerging solid waste thermal technologies; and providing for the application of disposal bans when these technologies are employed for mixed municipal solid waste.

Many responses expressed opposition to incineration, while some supported the proposed clarification. Most comments from industry stakeholders conveyed the need to be open to the possibility of energy-from-waste.

Improved Enforceability of Solid Waste Regulations

The Province proposed updating the SWM regulations, specifically the litter abatement sections and those dealing with the open burning of municipal solid waste.

The few responders were municipalities, and did not support the proposal, which was seen to burden them with more responsibility. It was suggested that more funding would be needed if municipalities were obliged to take on more responsibility for litter, illegal dumping, or illegal burning compliance.

The Beverage Container Deposit-Refund Program

The Province proposed amending the regulations to implement a recycling fee that is separate from the deposit and refund, though the price of the fee would not change.

Responses were few but supportive. Industry groups representing beverage container brand owners put forward minor opposition. The Province plans to work together with the Resource Recovery Fund Board Nova Scotia (RRFB) and other stakeholders to further define the role of the RRFB in the administration of future EPR programs.

A copy of the report is available at https://novascotia.ca/nse/waste/consultation.asp

The Government is currently drafting SWM regulations. Next steps include further discussion with stewards, brand owners and the municipalities about upcoming regulatory changes, with a focus on PPP EPR. The goal is to attain a balance between the regulations’ flexibility and prescriptiveness. There is no date set for the release of the regulations.

Kevin Latimer, Q.C. of Cox & Palmer, counsel to UNSM, practices in the areas of municipal and planning law, administrative and public law litigation.

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