Thursday, June 10, 2010

Shipping mercury wastes to Canada

A significant volume of mercury-containing waste in the U.S. is finding its way into Canadian landfills because some treatment standards, recovery requirements and enforcement of those standards are less stringent than in the U.S. U.S. federal regulations require that hazardous wastes including mercury be treated using “Best Demonstrated Available Technology” which requires high temperature retorting. According to one report, if exports to Canada continue, U.S.-based mercury recycling facilities will be undermined. Likewise, investments in the best available technology will be punished instead of rewarded.1

Uniform national policies in both the U.S. and Canada that prohibits land disposal would help eliminate confusion from the disparate policies. Infrastructure and recycling capacity already exist, but as long as exemptions and low enforcement remain, and recycling remains optional, increasing the rate will continue to be a struggle. Suffice it to say, U.S. and Canadian mercury recycling laws are in need of a major overhaul to protect the environment in the years to come.

1. Fortuna, Richard C. Export of Recyclable Mercury Related Wastes to Canada for Landfilling and Barriers to Mercury Recycling in the U.S. Strategic Environmental Analysis, L.C. 2004. 3.

Peder Larson
Larkin Hoffman

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