Newfoundland and Labrador has fallen short of the goals it set in its 2002 Provincial Solid Waste Management Strategy, according to a recently-released review. The 2002 strategy called for the province to reduce the number of waste disposal sites by 80%, to eliminate open burning at disposal sites by 2005 and phase out the use of incinerators by 2008, to phase out use of unlined landfill sites by 2010, and to implement full province-wide modern waste management by 2010.
The province missed those deadlines but has made progress toward some of the objectives. But not enough. The recommendations coming out of this review, appropriately called “Finishing what we started,” are meant to do just that.
The province has made significant progress in reducing the number of waste disposal sites, landfills and incinerators, and the amount of open burning. It was a costly effort, and cost remains an impediment to additional closures. The 2002 strategy estimated the capital cost of implementation at $150-$200 million. As of March 31, 2019, $202 million in public funds had been spent.
The biggest shortfall has been in waste diversion. The 2002 strategy called for a 50% cut in materials going to landfill. As of March 31, 2019, the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board (MMSB) put that figure at only 25%.
The review recommends that the MMSB be made the lead provincial authority to oversee a new provincial strategy. Deposits and fees on beverage containers and tires should be increased. The MMSB should initiate consultations about additional extended producer responsibility programs – for tires, special and household hazardous waste, and packaging and printed paper. The MMSB should also lead the development of a province-wide organics program against a backdrop of a provincial ban for organic waste to come into effect in five years.
The construction, renovation and demolition sector, and the industrial, commercial and institutional sector, should also be required to recycle. Those programs should also be implemented only after extensive consultation.
The existing eight waste management regions on the island portion of the province should be consolidated into two: one for the western and central regions of the province, one for the east. Labrador is a special case. It should retain its four waste management regions. The only change recommended is for the southern region, where one regional waste disposal facility should be established.