In the 20th century, the industrial nations were devoted to satisfying our ever-growing consumer needs. To do so, they extracted and processed extensive natural resources. Today, we know that these resources are limited and that extractive and manufacturing activities are responsible for our major pollution problems: water pollution, global warming due to greenhouse gases, soil contamination and erosion, ecosystem degradation and loss of biodiversity. Part of the solution to these problems is sound residual materials management. Recovering useful materials and recycling them back into the production stream generally has the same effect as source reduction, namely, reducing the need for ...view middle of the document...
Removing putrescible materials from the waste stream therefore reduces the pollutant load in disposal sites and can be a valuable source of compost, which helps improve soil quality while cutting back on the need for fertilizers and pesticides.
Minimizing the amount of waste entering landfills reduces the rate at which they are are filled, thereby extending their life span and restricting the need for replacement sites.
It was to meet these challenges that, in 1989, the Québec government adopted an integrated solid waste management policy, which targeted a 50 percent reduction in the quantity of waste sent for disposal by the year 2000. In 1989, 5.7 million tonnes of residual materials, of the 7 million tonnes generated, went for disposal, leaving a recovered volume of just under 1.3 million tonnes. Ten years later, the total quantity generated had risen to 8.3 million tonnes, with 5.3 million tonnes being discarded. This meant that 3 million tonnes were being reused, more than double the 1989 amount. However, given the 1.3-million-tonne increase in total residual materials generated, the reduction rate had reached only 10.8 percent, a far cry from the 50 percent initially sought.
The 1989 policy also targeted safer disposal methods, but Québec's regulatory standards governing waste disposal were only reviewed for new disposal sites authorized from 1993 onward under the environmental assessment procedure.
The Québec Residual Materials Management Policy therefore proposed a management system that is more environmentally sound while supporting Québec's social and economic development.