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Part I - Canada's Draft National Implementation Plan for the Stockholm Convention

Chapter 5: Measures to reduce total releases from unintentional production

Under the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), Parties are to develop and endeavour to implement an action plan taking into account the obligations set out under Article 5 of the Convention, namely, measures to reduce or eliminate releases from unintentional production of POPs.

The Convention has defined certain persistent organic pollutants for reduction and ultimate elimination from anthropogenic sources in which these substances are unintentionally formed and released. These substances are polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDD, also referred to as dioxins); polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDF, also referred to as furans); hexachlorobenzene (HCB); and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB).

5.1 Introduction

This Chapter is a summary of Canada's National Action Plan on Unintentionally Produced Persistent Organic Pollutants (UPOPs). It identifies Canada's plans for meeting the obligations outlined in the Convention. The Plan presents information on current releases, laws and policies, and the strategies that Canada has adopted in its domestic programs to reduce and virtually eliminate these four unintentionally produced POPs (UPOPs).

Under Article 5 of the Stockholm Convention, Parties are required to take measures, as summarized in Figure 5-1 on the following page, to reduce total releases of by-product emissions of Annex C chemicals from anthropogenic sources "with the goal of their continuing minimization and, where feasible, ultimate elimination".

In Canada, protection of the environment is a responsibility shared by all levels of government, as well as by industry, organized labour groups and individuals. Canadian programs in science and technology, and actions on UPOPs have focused mostly on dioxins and furans as the most information is available for these substances regarding formation, releases, prevention, and control.

5.2 Releases of UPOPs in Canada

Canada produced the Inventory of Releases: PCDD/PCDF, which includes multimedia releases from point, area and mobile sources compiled from various information sources. The most recently published version of this inventory (update of 2001) provides release estimates for the year 1999. In addition to the Inventory of Releases: PCDD/PCDF, the National Pollutant Release Inventory (NPRI), a mandatory reporting program of pollutant releases and transfers under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999), has provided Canadians with information on annual dioxins/furans and HCB releases from publicly-owned and private sector facilities since 2000.

Figure 5-1: Schematic Summarizing Obligations of Article 5 of the Stockholm Convention on POPs.

Summary* of Measures for Unintentionally produced Presistent Organic Pollutants
(UPOPs: PCDD/F, HCB, PCBs)
*See Convention Legal text for definitive details

  • Develop Action Plan with implementation schedule, 2 years after entry into force for Party
  • Inventory current and projected releases.
  • Evaluate laws and policies.
  • Develop and promote strategies and review every 5 years.
  • Require BAT** for new sources identified in plan and Part II Annex C 4 years after entry into force for Party
  • Promote BAT for existing sources Part II and Part III, Annex C, and for new sources Part III, Annex C.
  • Promote BEP*** for new and existing sources Part II and Part III, Annex C.

** Best Available Techniques (BAT): most effective and advanced activities to limit, prevent or reduce releases (process description, available techniques, and achievable release levels).
*** Best Environmental Practices (BEP): environmental control measures and strategies.

Sources - Part II Annex C Require BAT for new Promote BEP
  • Incinerators (municipal, hazardous, medical, sewage sludge)
  • Cement kilns - Hazardous wastes
  • Pulp production using elemental chlorines
  • Thermal metallurgical process (iron sintering, secondary copper, aluminium and zinc


Sources - Part III Annex C Promote BAT/BEP
  • Open burning of waste, residential burning
  • Wood, other biomass firing
  • Fossil fuelled utility, industrial boilers
  • "other" thermal metallurgical process (secondary lead, secondary steel, primary aluminium, primary base metals (i.e. copper, lead, nickel,zinc), magnesium)
  • Smouldering copper cables
  • Specific chemical processes (chlorophenols, chloranil), textile and leather dyeing and finishing
  • Cremaatoria, destruction animal carcasses
  • Motor vehicules, waste oil refineries, vehicle shredder plants

Annual releases of dioxins and furans to the atmosphere according to the Inventory of Releases: PCDD/PCDF were estimated to be 164 grams in 1999 (international toxic equivalent basis-ITEQ). This represents a 62 percent decline since 1990 when atmospheric releases were estimated to be 427 grams ITEQ per year. Releases to water have been virtually eliminated decreasing about 99 percent from an estimated 454 grams ITEQ in 1990 to three grams ITEQ by 1997. Releases to soil have remained unchanged at about 19 grams ITEQ per year.

The figure below presents the estimated percent contribution of identified source sectors to the total release of dioxins and furans to the atmosphere in 1999.

Figure 5-2: Estimated Percent Contribution of Sector Dioxins and Furans Releases to the Atmosphere (1999)
Figure 5-2: Estimated Percent Contribution of Sector Dioxins and Furans Releases to the Atmosphere (1999)

Comprehensive inventories of dioxins/furans and HCB releases to air are prepared annually by Environment Canada for reporting under the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) 1998 Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs Protocol) pursuant to the 1979 Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution. The inventories include emissions to air from point, mobile and area sources, and build upon point source release data reported to the NPRI. The dioxins/furans and HCB inventories will also serve to meet requirements of the Stockholm Convention. The NPRI program is examining possible changes to the reporting requirements for dioxins/furans and HCB, as well as the possible addition of reporting of co-planar PCBs, to meet domestic and international reporting requirements.

Further decreases in releases of dioxins and furans to the atmosphere are anticipated through implementation of the Canada-wide Standards for Dioxins and Furans. This suite of standards was established for five priority sectors, and are anticipated to reduce overall annual dioxins and furans releases to the atmosphere as much as 60 percent by 2010 as compared to 1999 estimated releases. Management strategies outlined for other source sectors will contribute additional but, as yet, not quantified reductions.

5.3 Laws and Policies

Federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal laws provide the basis for management strategies and tools appropriate for a particular source sector.

  • The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA 1999) is the key legislation of the Canadian government for the management of toxic substances. This legislation contains provisions for the prevention, control and virtual elimination of persistent bioaccumulative toxic substances.
  • The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) provides for comprehensive consideration of new projects, which include potential new sources of UPOPs.
  • The Toxic Substances Management Policy of the Canadian government and the subsequent Policy for the Management of Toxic Substances of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment have established a unified, national approach for the management of toxic substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative, and result primarily from human activity, namely, virtual elimination.

In various provinces and territories, legislation or regulations require the owners/operators of industrial facilities to obtain operating permits or approvals which can contain emission limits or requirements for any atmospheric pollutant, including hazardous air pollutants such as UPOPs. In most cases, permits or approvals are issued for a set length of time and must then be renewed. For new facilities, most provinces and territories require comprehensive environmental assessments and the equivalent of 'best available techniques'.

5.4 Strategies to Reduce Releases

Management of unintentionally produced POPs in Canada has focussed largely on releases of dioxins and furans. Reductions in HCB are expected to parallel reductions in dioxins/furans emissions. Less is known about the formation and release of unintentionally produced PCB. However, it is anticipated that measures to address releases of dioxins/furans may also contribute to the management of unintentionally produced PCB.

Reduction and elimination strategies are based on a mix of management tools including regulations, guidelines, environmental codes of practice, and other tools, such as education programs. Many of these instruments are based on the application of best available techniques and best environmental practices. Reductions strategies in Canada include:

  • regulations for pulp and paper mills (which have resulted in the virtual elimination of dioxins and furans releases to water from this source);
  • Canada-wide Standards for Dioxins and Furans emissions from five priority source sectors. These include:
    • Incinerators of municipal waste; hazardous waste; medical waste; and sewage sludge;
    • Coastal pulp and paper boilers burning salt-laden wood;
    • Iron sintering plants;
    • Steel manufacturing electric arc furnaces; and
    • Conical waste combustors of municipal waste.
    These standards include emission limits or activity phase-out, implementation timelines, and reporting mechanisms;
  • national guidelines for the use of hazardous and non-hazardous waste in cement kilns;
  • Environmental Code of Practice for Base Metals Smelters and Refineries to be published under CEPA 1999; and
  • education and technology change-out programs for more diffuse sources such as on-site residential combustion of household wastes and residential wood combustion.

5.5 Use of Best Available Techniques (BAT) and Best Environment Practices (BEP)

Through environmental assessment processes, measures are in place, which would in effect require BAT (i.e., BAT achievable performance) for new waste incinerators, cement kilns, pulp mills, and thermal metallurgical processes such as iron sintering plants. Requirements for BAT can also be incorporated through existing provincial and territorial licensing and assessment processes. In addition, through implementation of Canada-wide Standards, BAT is required for sources of priority in Canada such as steel manufacturing electric arc furnaces, and coastal pulp and paper boilers burning salt-laden wood. BAT and BEP are promoted through educational programs and technology change-out programs for other more diffuse sources such as on-site residential combustion of household wastes and residential wood combustion.

5.6 Use of Substitute or Modified Materials, Products and Processes

Pollution prevention as embodied in domestic laws and policies promotes the development and "use of substitute or modified materials, products and processes"16 to prevent the formation and release of UPOPs.

Early actions taken under CEPA to address releases of dioxins and furans to water from pulp and paper mills, encouraged the industry to switch to an elemental chlorine-free bleaching technology, thus minimizing the formation of dioxins and furans and preventing their release into the environment. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment Canada-wide Standards for Dioxins and Furans called for the development of Pollution Prevention Strategies. The sector strategies developed provide recommended options or tools aimed at the minimization of air pollutants for jurisdictions to consider and use in whole or in part.

5.7 Education, Training and Awareness Building

Information materials on legislation, policies, management strategies, and the environmental and human health effects of toxic substances are available to members of the public through various media including the internet. Education and training programs are used to inform and influence individual behaviour in specific areas where individual citizens can contribute to the avoidance or minimization of toxic substances releases (e.g., on-site residential waste combustion).

Awareness has been built through the development of management strategies such as Canada-wide Standards for Dioxins and Furans. The Canada-wide Standards process employed multi-stakeholder advisory groups, including representatives of industry, environmental non-government organizations, labour groups, and provincial, territorial and federal governments, to provide input and advice on the targets and substance of each standard.

5.8 Implementation Schedule and Strategy Review

Schedules for implementation have been established where appropriate through the strategies to reduce releases. Canada will review its strategies for reducing and eliminating releases from unintentional production on a five year basis. In addition, Canada plans to update its National Action Plan every 5 years, subject to decisions of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and any other relevant factors.

5.9 Conclusion

Significant strides in the reduction and virtual elimination of dioxins and furans have been achieved to date in Canada. Building on these efforts, and as documented in this Plan, Canada is positioned to further contribute toward the reduction or elimination of POPs releases from unintentional production.


16 See Article 5 (c) of the Stockholm Convention that states that each Party shall : "Promote the development and, where it deems appropriate, require the use of substitute or modified material, products and processes to prevent the formation and release of the chemicals listed in Annex C. . ."

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