We recycle, we take our old electronics to drop-off locations, we search for where to bring our items to give them a second life… When it comes to dealing with the goods we no longer use, the responsibility is largely on the shoulders of individuals.
But what if we gave that responsibility to manufacturers instead? That when an item reaches the end of its life, it goes back to the company that produced it. It would certainly make producers reflect a bit more. To consider, right from the start, how they will manage the products when they are returned to them. To therefore manufacture their products better, to make them more durable and more easily repaired, and to create mechanisms for responsibly disposing of the materials that cannot be reused.
At Équiterre, we’re working to make this happen!
Our waste management problems need to be addressed. Canada is at the top of the list of countries that generate the most waste; and among its provinces, Quebec is one of the top producers of waste (697 kg per person per year!).
The situation is all the more outrageous considering that many things that are sent to the landfill or for incineration are still in good condition and could have been used for many more years if only they had been diverted!
What are the laws to manage our products at the end of their lives?
We’re used to returning our batteries, paint and electronics when we’re done with them. For these goods as well as some others, producers must have a program to recover and recycle their products. This is called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).What is EPR?
Extended Producer Responsibility is an approach that is designed to transfer responsibility for the management of waste generated by the consumption of goods to the businesses that marketed them.
Opportunity: Right now, Quebec is looking to amend ERP regulation in order to add more types of items to the list of things that must be recovered and recycled by their manufacturers. The government plans to add electric vehicle batteries and other specific products such as agricultural plastics, pharmaceuticals and propane and butane tanks.
The current list is a good starting point, but it's not enough as far as Équiterre is concerned! The products on the list represent only 4 of the 24 high-priority items that were identified by the Department of the Environment and Climate Change in 2015.
Équiterre submitted a brief (in French) during the public consultations on the amendments to EPR. We want to see a broader range of goods subject to these regulations, including clothing, furniture and toys - all things that could potentially enjoy a second life through this type of system, instead of going to the landfill.
Other important regulatory changes that we’re pushing for include a greater emphasis on reuse, and more ambitious and restrictive targets. For example, a recent report shows that only 10% of electronic devices get a second life.
Household appliances have a big impact on the environment at the end of their lives
L’ajout des produits de réfrigérants (comme les climatiseurs et les réfrigérateurs) est attendu depuis longtemps, car ceux-ci ont une empreinte environnementale particulièrement importante. Cette nouvelle mesure devrait éventuellement permettre une baisse de plus de 200 000 tonnes de GES chaque année (ce qui équivaut aux émissions annuelles de plus de 60 000 voitures).Refrigerators and freezers have been subject to EPR only since 2020. This addition of cooling equipment (such as air conditioners and refrigerators) to the ERP is long overdue, considering their especially damaging impact on the environment. The new measure is expected to eventually reduce GHG emissions by more than 200,000 tonnes per year (equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 60,000 cars).
Producers must be held responsible for ensuring that mechanisms are in place to extend the life of their products in order to allow them to be reused and, where that is no longer possible, to ensure that they are recycled - ideally locally - according to strict social and environmental standards.
To learn more about Équiterre’s recommendations for the recovery and reuse of goods, have a look at our submission(in French) to the public consultation on proposed changes to EPR.
Senior Analyst, Reduction at the source
- Bilan 2018 de la gestion des matières résiduelles au Québec (in French)
- Environmental impacts
- Analyse d’impact réglementaire du projet de règlement modifiant le Règlement sur les halocarbures (in French)
For more information:
Équiterre Makes 41 Recommendations to Address the Garbage Crisis in Quebec