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Waste and hazardous substances

Definition

How is ‘waste’ defined in your jurisdiction?

Waste management regulation is primarily a provincial responsibility in Canada. ‘Waste’ is defined differently in every province, but typically encompasses anything that is no longer of use to the generator.  The provincial waste management regimes include a complex array of designations and exemptions that are used to more clearly define the breadth of the regulatory scope.

Waste handling

What rules and procedures govern the handling of waste, with particular respect to:

(a) Storage?

The storage of non-hazardous solid waste on the site of the generator is typically exempt from regulation. Storage of waste at any other location usually requires some form of permit from the provincial regulator.

(b) Transport?

The transport of waste is primarily regulated by the provinces. In some provinces, such as Ontario, waste transportation is the subject of permitting. In other provinces, such as Quebec, it is not. 

The federal government regulates the interprovincial and international transport of hazardous waste. International movements are subject to the requirements of the Basel Convention or the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States concerning the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, which require pre-notification and approval by the originating and receiving countries pursuant to the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Materials Regulations.

(c) Disposal?

Waste disposal is primarily regulated by the provinces through the permitting of individual sites, although some provinces have adopted landfill standards by regulation. Waste disposal permits are typically subject to rigorous and comprehensive terms and conditions. 

(d) Recycling/reuse?

Most Canadian provinces mandate some form of waste diversion through legislation and have adopted waste stewardship requirements that impose costs on the producers of products. Most provinces have specific stewardship requirements for:

  • consumer recyclables (eg, paper, glass or plastics);
  • used tyres;
  • e-waste;
  • used oil and
  • special wastes.

These programmes are mostly delegated to producers or industry groups that represent producers of the same materials, although enforcement remains the provincial regulators’ responsibility.

Liability

What is the extent of a waste producer’s liability after transferral of waste (eg, to a waste disposal agent)?

Generally speaking, liability is transferred when waste is transferred as long as the transferee holds a valid permit from the provincial regulator.

Waste recovery

Are waste producers bound by any waste recovery obligations?

Provinces impose different forms of recovery obligations on specific waste producers. For example, some provinces, such as Ontario, require parties that produce waste in the construction sector to prepare and implement waste diversion plans and source separate specific construction and demolition waste facilities to enhance recyclability.

Waste disposal agents

How are the business activities of waste disposal agents/landfill operators regulated?

The activities of parties engaged in the business of waste management are typically regulated by way of a permit. The provincial permitting regimes focus on environmental issues. Provinces do not typically regulate business practices, although laws of general application apply to businesses in the waste sector. The federal Competition Tribunal may need to approve corporate transactions in the waste industry, depending on their size.

Hazardous substances

What special rules, regulations and safeguards apply to the handling and disposal of hazardous materials?

Each provincial regulator has enacted special rules and regulations that govern the handling and disposal of hazardous materials. Rules and regulations have largely been harmonised across the country, apart from in Quebec. Producers of hazardous materials are usually required to both:

  • register with the provincial regulator; and
  • only transfer hazardous materials with a defined movement document or waste manifest.  

Most provinces have special rules relating to asbestos, polychlorinated biphenyls and refrigerants.

The federal government also regulates the interprovincial and international transport of hazardous materials. International movements are subject to the requirements of the Basel Convention or the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States concerning the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Waste, which require pre-notification and approval by the originating and receiving countries pursuant to the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Materials Regulations.

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