Business Items    Item #   10. b.            
Regular Council Meeting Agenda
Meeting Date: 02/12/2018  
Title: Council Support for Provincial Waste Regulation Changes - Levasseur
Department: Planning & Infrastructure
Where People Choose to Live - A dynamic city with an exceptional quality of life
Citizens consistently express high levels of satisfaction with municipal services.

Request for Decision Summary
During the January 22, 2018 Regular Council Meeting, an update was provided on the Capital Region Waste Minimization Advisory Committee’s recent advocacy efforts with respect to modernizing recycling regulations and Extended Producer Responsibility in Alberta. The committee has asked that the City of Spruce Grove support these advocacy efforts by participating in a writing campaign to the Government of Alberta and by providing a letter of support to the City of Calgary, who is preparing an Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) resolution on Extended Producer Responsibility.

Proposed Motion
That the City of Spruce Grove support the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association campaign to modernize Alberta’s recycling framework by providing a letter to the Government of Alberta. 

 That the City of Spruce Grove provide a letter of support for the City of Calgary’s Alberta Urban Municipalities Association resolution for the establishment of an Extended Producer Responsibility policy and program approach in Alberta.
Under the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and as an expectation by its residents, municipalities have provided waste collection services for many decades. With increasing public pressure, environmental values and economic benefits, many municipalities have developed and taken ownership of extensive waste diversion programs for their communities.

At the provincial level, Alberta Environment and Parks dictates through the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act how waste, both general and hazardous is handled, stored, transported and disposed of within Alberta. However, the province does very little in terms of requirements for waste diversion (recycling) programs or goals to assist municipalities.

In addition, the province is responsible for regulations related to a number of stewardship programs that exist for specific materials such as oil, tires, electronics, paint and beverage containers. With the exception of beverage containers, these programs are often managed and subsidized by municipalities as they have developed programs and expectations for them within their respective communities.

In terms of a national context, Alberta has the worst record for waste generation and diversion in Canada, with over 1,100 tonnes annually generated per capita and less than 20% of that being diverted from landfill. In addition, Alberta is one of the only provinces that has not yet taken action to develop diversion targets or policies at the provincial scale.

Issues Background

1. Chinese Market Restrictions

The North American recycling industry relies heavily on foreign markets for recycling materials. This is particularly true for plastic and mixed paper recyclables that are sent to China. In 2016/17, China initiated the Green Fence and National Sword controls on imports to focus on quality of product. This means that they have instituted a threshold for importations to have less than 1% waste/contamination in these streams. For perspective, traditionally a clean, high quality mixed plastic or paper stream would have 3-5% waste/contamination.

This does not mean that there is a complete ban, but that there is pressure on North American recycling facilities to produce a cleaner, homogenous stream of recycling, which can be difficult given most programs provide single stream, blue bag collection.

The blue bag material that is collected in Spruce Grove is contracted with GFL Environmental Inc. for recycle processing. Their material recovery facility (MRF) is on the west end of Edmonton, where they sort and separate all of the materials into appropriate streams for recycle markets. Typically this MRF has a reliable output rate of less than 5% contamination; however with the new controls put in place from China, they have had to meet stricter demands. At this time, their materials have been approved for importation, though this is a result of additional labour and time to ensure that contamination is removed. This may not be sustainable in the long term without some changes to the system.

Even though there are currently significant market restrictions, recycle programs should stress the importance of recycling and not landfilling. Recycling has proven

to save energy and resources, and residents will continue to demand their municipalities to offer effective recycling programs. In the meantime, some materials may require stockpiling or be redirected to landfill until such time that alternate markets will be sourced. In addition, sorting technologies and program design changes may need to be implemented to adjust to the changing market demands.

2. Provincial regulations

Through provincial legislation, there are a number of materials regulated and administered by delegated administrative organizations that are arms-length from government. Such materials include oil, paint, tires, electronics, household hazardous waste and beverage containers.

In 2013, Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD, now Alberta Environment and Parks) completed an extensive consultation on the development of a new recycling regulation that would include necessary regulatory amendments to existing provincial recycling programs that would ensure long term financial and environmental sustainability. Following this consultation, several revisions were proposed to the province’s existing regulatory framework for designated materials. The proposed regulatory amendments aimed to:
  • streamline Alberta’s regulatory framework;
  • provide options to shift end-of-life management responsibilities from taxpayers to producers and consumers; and
  • reduce municipal solid waste in Alberta.

The amendments would achieve these goals through:
  • Consolidation of Alberta's existing recycling regulations under one regulation – the Designated Materials Recycling Regulation;
  • Removal of specified maximum environmental fees from regulation while still ensuring consumer protection from excessive fees;
  • Expansion of the electronics program to include small appliances, audio/visual equipment, telecommunications equipment and power tools; and
  • expansion of the used oil materials recycling program to include automotive anti-freeze/coolant containers and diesel exhaust fluid containers.

The proposed amendments to the provincial regulatory framework would represent an important first step in enhancing Alberta’s waste reduction record. Despite consultations around these proposed changes in late 2013, the province has yet to implement any regulatory change. Consequently, the existing provincial programs are strained financially resulting in extra stress on municipalities to provide these programs at point of collection. AUMA has prepared the attached letter to be sent to regional MLAs to address this issue.

3. Extended Producer Responsibility

There is a national trend for provincial jurisdictions to implement targeted policies for a number of recyclable materials, including printed paper and packaging, hazardous wastes, agriculture plastics, construction materials, textiles and other difficult to manage materials.

Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is defined as a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility, physical and/or financial, for a product is extended to the postconsumer stage of a product’s life cycle. EPR shifts responsibility upstream in the product life cycle to the producer and away from municipalities. As a policy approach it provides incentives to producers to incorporate environmental considerations in the design of their products. EPR also shifts the historical public sector tax-supported responsibility for some waste to the individual brand owner, manufacturer or first importer.

Most provinces in Canada are either working toward or have an EPR program in place. Since many jurisdictions across Canada already have EPR programs for printer paper and packaging, producers have built the cost of recycling into their product that is sold across Canada. This means that Alberta’s consumers are already paying the cost of these programs through the purchase of these products, on top of paying their municipal taxes or utility fees to manage these programs at the community level.

As a result, the City of Calgary is putting forward an AUMA resolution for the Province to establish an ERP policy and program in Alberta and is asking for support from other municipalities across Alberta.
City Council may choose not to support the letter writing campaign from AUMA or the resolution from the City of Calgary and continue with the status-quo of paying for these recycling programs.
Both letters have been shared with members of the Capital Region Waste Minimization Advisory Committee and will be traveling through the approval processes at each participating municipality.
Increased potential for funding from the Province and producers to adequately cover the costs currently paid for by municipalities for proper waste disposal and recycling.

AUMA Letter Campaign
City of Calgary Resolution