7.1. Maintain the 4R-D hierarchy
Within the meaning of the 4R-D principle, reclamation refers to the processing of residual materials to recover useful substances or products or energy, while the Environment Quality Act (EQA) (chapter Q-2) defines it as “any operation the purpose of which is to obtain usable substances or products, or energy, from residual materials through reuse, recycling, composting, regeneration, or any other process that does not constitute elimination.” The EQA therefore assigns the same value to each operation. Underlying the 4R-D principle, however, is the notion that prioritizing source reduction, reuse, recycling, and other forms of reclamation in that order–certain exceptions aside–yields the greatest benefit in residual materials management.
To ensure that residual materials are subject to the most sustainable management methods, any waste management plan or program developed by the Minister will give priority to source reduction and, in treating these materials, will respect the following order: reuse, recycling (including by biological treatment or landspreading), any other form of reclamation by which residual materials are treated for use as a substitute for raw materials, energy production, and disposal. However, deviating from this order will be possible when an analysis demonstrates this is justified based on a goods and services life cycle approach.
The government also plans to establish criteria specific to Québec that will serve as a framework for recognizing reclamation activities. For example, in the case of thermal processing, apart from complying with residual materials management plans (RMMPs), the government wants to ensure that energy performance, greenhouse gas balance, the final destination of waste, and compliance with air emission standards are taken into account so that this activity can be recognized as reclamation within the meaning of the Policy.