In recent years, Québec has made a firm commitment to sustainable development by adopting a series of policies and implementing programs and measures that are based on the Sustainable Development Act (chapter D-8.1.1) and are a part of the 2008-2013 Government Sustainable Development Strategy. This new approach promotes the emergence of a green economy based on economic development that respects the environment and citizens’ quality of life. Implementation of the Climate Change Action Plan and the Québec Energy Strategy, and adoption of a development strategy for Québec’s environmental and green technology industry, entitled Pour un Québec vert et prospère, are some compelling examples.
Development of this green economy relies on recourse to renewable energy sources–notably hydroelectricity and wind energy–and to technology and innovation. The Residual Materials Management Policy will be an additional tool to build this new economy by helping Québec take full advantage of its resources.
The 13 million-odd tons of residual materials produced in Québec annually hold undeniable potential to be used both in manufacturing goods and products and energy production. To illustrate this point, it should be noted that the 2.5 million tons of the most commonly recycled residual materials recovered in Québec in 2006 (metal, paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass) were valued at $550 million and generated over 10,000 direct jobs. Recycling and reintroducing these materials into the production cycle also yielded significant gains with respect to the economy, resource protection, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction.
Based on the government’s desire to build a green economy and on the collective and individual commitment of Quebecers to sustainable development, this Policy aims to encourage behaviors that are more respectful of the environment as well as better residual materials management and consumption practices. It aims to create a zero-waste society that maximizes added value through sound residual materials management, and its main goal is for end waste to be the only residual material sent for disposal in Québec.
To help meet this goal, the Policy includes measures that will address the 3 main challenges of residual materials management:
— Ending resource waste
— Promoting the achievement of the goals of the Climate Change Action Plan and of the Québec Energy Strategy
— Making all stakeholders involved responsible for residual materials management
Challenge 1: Ending resource waste
Large quantities of raw materials are used to produce goods, which, once consumed, increase the volume of residual materials to be managed. Part of these materials can be reduced at the source to take pressure off natural resources and reduce the ecological footprint associated with extracting them. The remainder, however, will remain in the management cycle. Québec produced nearly 13 million tons of residual materials in 2008. Although the measures implemented under the 1998-2008 Québec Residual Materials Management Policy helped increase the amount of recycled residual materials from 3.4 million to 6.8 million tons between 1998 and 2008, nearly half the residual materials that Québec generates continue to be sent to disposal sites without any value being recovered. A total of 810 kg of waste per capita were sent for disposal in Québec in 2008. It is essential to stop wasting these resources and to recover them. They may then be used to stimulate job creation and contribute to social progress by fostering the growth of wealth in Québec.
Challenge 2: Promoting achievement of the goals of the Climate Change Action Plan and of the Québec Energy Strategy
Climate change is a major issue for our society. From a residual materials management perspective, it concerns first and foremost the management of organic material. Currently, most residual organic material in Québec is landfilled or incinerated. Approaches to managing this material must, however, seek to add value to it, to improve our greenhouse gas balance and contribute to the Québec Energy Strategy, which seeks to put new technology to good use. In large quantities, organic waste has great potential in the creation of a new green energy industry by means of biomethanation, a process that produces biogas as an alternative to fossil fuels.
Challenge 3: Making all stakeholders involved responsible for residual materials management
A sustainable residual materials management model assumes that all actors affected assume the responsibilities and costs incumbent upon them. This approach is founded on the “polluter pays” principle and the principle of responsible production and consumption. Businesses that market products must be responsible for them throughout their lifecycle, including the post-consumer stage. Consumer participation is also a key factor in the success of this model and the government intends to reach out to them and design tools that will guide them in their choices.
Residual materials management in Québec is based on a regional planning approach for all waste produced in municipal territories, whether it is of domestic, industrial, commercial, or institutional origin or is generated by the construction, renovation, or demolition sector. Regional municipalities are responsible for such planning and must ensure that their management plan covers all generators of residual materials within their boundaries.
Lastly, those who generate residual materials–citizens, businesses, and institutions alike–are not sufficiently aware of the importance of managing these materials effectively and of taking part in the various programs set up to reduce resource waste. They do not receive enough encouragement. The government has an important role to play in this regard.