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Quebec Residual Materials Management Policy, 1998-2008

  1. Background
  2. Principles
  3. Purpose
  4. Goals


The Act to amend the Environment Quality Act and other legislation as regards the management of residual materials (1999, chapter 75) established that the Québec Action Plan for Waste Management, 1998-2008, made public by the Minister of Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks and amended to comply with the provisions of the Act, makes up the government Residual Materials Management Policy.

Section 53 of this Act provides that once published in the Gazette officielle the Policy is deemed to satisfy the requirements of section 53.4 of the Environment Quality Act and remains into force until it is amended or replaced, in accordance with the provisions of this section.

The purpose of this document is to make known the government Residual Materials Management Policy made pursuant to section 53.4 of the Environment Quality Act.


1 – Background

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 virgin materials along with pollution generated by their processing.

Putrescible materials are the main source of contamination in disposal sites. In landfills, their decomposition in the absence of oxygen produces malodorous, explosive gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect. The organic compounds released by the decomposition migrate with leachates and can contaminate surface and groundwaters, making them unfit for human consumption and even harmful to aquatic life. 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 proposes a management system that is more environmentally sound while supporting Québec's social and economic development.


2 – Principles

The actions proposed in this Policy are premised on the following fundamental principles of waste management:


Unless an environmental analysis indicates otherwise, waste management options should be considered according to the following hierarchy: source reduction, reuse, recycling, resource recovery and disposal.

Greater producer responsibility

Manufacturers and importers assume greater responsibility for the environmental effects of their products throughout their life cycle, including the upstream effects inherent in the choice of product components, the effects of the manufacturing process as such and the downstream effects resulting from the product’s use and disposal.

Citizen participation

Citizen participation in the development and monitoring of measures targeting ecologically sound waste management is essential to achieving our goals. The general public must have access to relevant information and to the appropriate forums during the decision-making process.


Waste management decisions and their implementation are made at the regional municipality level in accordance with the powers of municipal authorities.


By fully assuming their role, mission and responsibilities, all stakeholders contribute in a coherent, concerted and complementary manner to implementing the measures designed to achieve the set goals.

3 – Purpose

The purpose of the Québec Residual Materials Management Policy is:

1° to prevent or reduce the production of residual materials, particularly by targeting product manufacturing and marketing;

2° to promote residual materials recovery and reclamation;

3° to reduce the quantity of residual materials sent for disposal and ensure the safe management of disposal sites;

4° to make manufacturers and importers take into consideration the environmental effects of their products and the costs related to the recovery, reclamation and disposal of the residual materials generated by these products.


4 – Goals

One way to help ensure sustainable resource use is through better management of residual materials as a resource. The main goal of this Policy is to recover 65 percent of the 7.1 million tonnes of residual materials that can be reclaimed each year. This goal can only be reached, however, if all sectors of society do their part. The following recovery goals have therefore been set for each sector and material category1.


  • 60 percent of glass, plastics, metals, fibres, bulky waste and putrescible material;
  • 75 percent of oils, paints, and pesticides (household hazardous materials);
  • 50 percent of textiles;
  • 80 percent of non-refillable beer and soft drink containers.

Industrial, commercial and institutional establishments:

  • 85 percent of tires2;
  • 95 percent of metals and glass;
  • 70 percent of plastics and fibres, including wood material;
  • 60 percent of putrescible material.

Construction, renovation and demolition sector:

  • 60 percent of all recoverable resources.

Attaining these targets will increase Québec’s resource recovery rate from 3 086 590 tonnes in 1996 to 4 793 000 tonnes in 2008. By that time, only ultimate waste, i.e. materials that can no longer be reused, recycled or reclaimed, should be going for disposal.

The second fundamental goal of the Policy is to ensure that disposal methods are safe for public health and the environment.

1 Appended is a table showing the recovery goals for 2008 and recovery rates in 1996 by source and container or materials category.

2 Used tires are discarded just as much by consumers as industrial, commercial and institutional establishments. They have been included in the ICI category to simplify presentation.

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