For Immediate Release
December 6, 2014
On December 4th, the Provincial Government released draft regulation that, if enacted, would make it easier for cement and steel companies to burn garbage instead of coal to make their products, claiming this is good for the environment.
The new draft regulation is packaged as a greenhouse gas reduction initiative. Unfortunately, it opens the door wide for cement and steel manufacturers to take industrial, commercial and residential garbage and burn it in facilities never designed to deal with the toxic emissions and other challenges that come from burning garbage. The regulation gives special treatment to the cement and steel industries by failing to ensure they are subject to environmental assessments and exempting them waste disposal permitting requirements that those wanting to burn garbage currently have to follow.
“Coming from Hamilton, I applaud the Province for wanting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that come from making steel,” said Lynda Lukasik, Executive Director at Environment Hamilton. “But this approach could open up the door to burning garbage in coke ovens and blast furnaces that were never designed to be fueled by waste. The result will likely be more toxic pollution coming out of stacks in steel-making communities like Hamilton and Sault Ste. Marie where industrial air pollution is already a huge concern.”
Another negative impact on substituting garbage for coal will be undermining the government’s goal of reducing waste in the province. “‘By giving the cement and steel industries special treatment, it will open the door for other sectors to burn garbage,” states Theresa McClenaghan, Executive Director and Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association. “This will certainly take away pressure on companies to take responsibility for creating less packaging and product waste by making it easier to burn garbage than divert and reduce it.”
This proposal means that local Ontario recyclers could be competing with the cement and steel industry for waste that should be recycled. Future initiatives on waste reduction through product re-designs and recycling would be stifled with this regulatory proposal.
This new regulation is definitely not being driven by environmental and health concerns. “We’ve spoken to dozens of environmental and health organizations across the province. They would love to see greenhouse gas reductions by the cement and steel companies. Many of the groups have been talking with the government on this file. But the concerns that many environmental and health groups raised in the spring about this potential change have been ignored,” said Franz Hartmann, Executive Director at the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “By rushing through a new law, the government is creating a whole new set of problems for the environment that makes absolutely no sense. Surely we can find a way to reduce greenhouse gases that does not sacrifice recycling and extended producer responsibility and create more toxic pollution. We’re once again ready to sit down and figure out how to make this happen.”