A Parliamentary waste management conversation

Canada’s House of Commons Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development is currently undertaking a study of the management of municipal solid waste and industrial materials. Recommendations on the role, if any, of the Federal government are a possible outcome of this Committee work.

Earlier this month Executive Director Michael Goeres from the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, Mr. Frank Moir, co-chair of the Neighbourhood Liaison Committee of the Highland Creek Treatment Plant (Toronto), Mr. Raymond Louie, first vice-president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and Gerry Moore of Island Waste Management Corporation, appeared before the committee. Raymond Louie was also speaking about the recently formed National Zero Waste Council. This was one of several  expert panels with which the Committee is meeting as it proceeds with its task.

The National Zero Waste Council presentation asked the Federal Government to engage with the Council, develop a Canada-wide strategy to reduce waste, develop incentives for producers and consumers, and reduce waste itself.

Of greatest interest to GallonDaily was the response and questions from the parliamentarians. Committee time is always very limited but these interjections can often give an indication of what our elected officials see as the highest priorities in a policy area and hence what they might seek to include in the Committee report. It is also important to note that the Government has control of Parliamentary Committees so nothing is likely to appear in the Committee report that does not have at least general agreement from the Government, meaning the Prime Minister’s Office.

On this particular hearing day, Committee Member comments included:

  • a Conservative Party Member asked why the Government of Canada does not legislate and regulate extended producer responsibility across the country.
  • an NDP Member asked what the federal government is doing right now on the matter of the circular economy, what a national waste management strategy might look like, and the role the federal government should play in the design of products and packaging to make them easier to recycle. Later in the proceedings he asked whether the federal government should adopt a clear policy on the cost of carbon to help companies in the recycling industry with economic viability.
  • another Conservative Member asked about optical sorting of recyclables and suggested that might be something for further study, whether or not the Federal Government should play a greater role in municipal waste management (mostly not), and whether businesses are coming forward to work with you [CCME?] to create opportunities to actually expand and grow industries in the waste diversion sector.
  • a Liberal Member asked about pharmaceutical waste.
  • another NDP Member asked about construction, renovation, and demolition waste and the possible role of the federal government in that sector.
  • another Conservative party Member focused on the relative cost of landfilling and recycling and made the point that, in his opinion, on this issue of waste management and recycling, there is far too much religion and not enough math. He asked how waste management companies deal with low-value materials and silage wrap. He also asked “What are the real environmental benefits of waste diversion” and suggested that the answer was kind of circular: “that the environmental benefit of reducing waste is to reduce waste”.
  • another NDP Member asked about food waste and the possible role of the federal government in funding waste treatment plants and wastewater treatment plants.
  • another Conservative party Member asked how recycling can reduce the costs of waste management that are borne by the householder, whether energy from waste is profitable, and the challenges of recycling collection in rural areas.

A written transcript of the Committee proceedings on this particular day is available at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?DocId=6673945&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=2

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