Halting transboundary hazardous waste shipments

Vancouver, Canada (GLOBE-Net) – Just prior to Christmas, 2006, the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Environment Canada (EC), working together to prevent the illegal exportation of hazardous waste and hazardous recyclable materials out of the Port of Vancouver, seized 50 containers loaded with about 500,000 kilograms of metal and plastic scrap destined for Hong Kong and China.

In the press release issued at the time, it was reported that since November 1, 2005, the CBSA/EC team conducted 50 inspections of marine containers destined for export outside of Canada.

These inspections, part of a continuing joint initiative of these two agencies, have resulted in a large number of detentions. Highlights of CBSA/EC’s joint initiative:

  • 50 containers filled with approximately 500,000 kg of metal and plastic scrap originating from across Canada were inspected and found to contain hazardous waste or hazardous recyclable materials destined for export to Hong Kong and/or China, allegedly in violation of federal regulations;
  • The contents of several shipping containers included waste electrical equipment which contained polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs are toxic to both the environment and human health;
  • Thousands of computer monitors and other types of electronic waste (e-waste) were prevented from being exported to Hong Kong and China;
  • CBSA assessed $50,801.00 in fines against 27 Canadian companies.
It is not known exactly where all the computer waste originated but it could have included a combination of private, company, and even government agencies, which raises the issue that everyone great care must be taken to ensure that e-waste is properly recycled.

Export of the toxic material is a violation of Chinese and Hong Kong domestic laws, Canadian law, and the Basel Convention, adopted in 1989 to regulate the transboundary movement of hazardous wastes. Companies and their officials, found guilty of contravening the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 under summary conviction, face a maximum fine of $300,000, or six months in prison for each count and under indictable conviction, a maximum fine of $1,000,000, or not more than three years in prison.

A Backgrounder on hazardous wastes in the Port of Vancouver that was issued with respect to this violation is available on the Environment Canada website. It contains a useful summary of the relevant regulations and liabilities which generators, transporters and receivers should be aware of when considering the shipment of potentially hazardous wastes.

Under the Export and Import of Hazardous Waste and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations (EIHWHRMR) and PCB Waste Export Regulations, 1996 (PCBWER) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999, penalties for offences under CEPA 1999 range from a maximum fine of $300,000 and six months in prison for summary conviction, and $1,000,000 maximum fine, and not more than three years in prison for an indictable conviction.

CEPA 1999 and the EIHWHRM Regulations set out the conditions for the export, import and transit of hazardous wastes and hazardous recyclable materials shipped across the Canadian border, and expressly prohibits export without a permit from EC and without prior notification to, and consent of, the appropriate authorities within the receiving country.

More details on the Export and Import of Hazardous Wastes and Hazardous Recyclable Material Regulations can be found on Environment Canada’s Waste Management website.

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