Waste diversion in Ontario has stalled around 25 percent over the last decade. While most of the success is coming from the residential sector, where 47 percent of household waste is diverted from landfill, the diversion rate for the rest of the economy is much lower.
There is broad consensus among stakeholders that fundamental changes are needed to the policy framework to increase diversion.
Failure to take action has economic and environmental consequences, including the loss of valuable resources, the lost opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the dwindling capacity of Ontario’s landfills and the increasing pressure on municipal taxpayers and industries to fund diversion efforts and rising costs.
To guide our transition to a circular economy, the province is seeking feedback on its proposed Strategy for a Waste-Free-Ontario: Building the Circular Economy. The proposed strategy outlines a road map for resource recovery and waste reduction for Ontario and:
- sets a vision and goals;
- articulates key government actions to support implementation of the vision and goals; and
- identifies performance measures to measure progress towards achieving the vision and goals.
Ontario’s proposed strategy recognizes that the current “produce-use-dispose” model is not sustainable. The strategy, when implemented, would move Ontario toward a circular economy – a system where nothing is wasted and valuable materials destined for landfill are put back into the economy without negative effects on the environment. Several jurisdictions have started to move toward a circular economy, implementing producer responsibility approaches and other targeted measures to manage waste. This approach will reduce greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change, save scarce resources, create jobs and capitalize on financial opportunities.
The proposed strategy embraces a vision for Ontario “where waste is seen as a resource that can be recovered, reused and reintegrated into the economy to achieve a circular economy.”
Ontario’s vision would be fulfilled with the proposed strategy’s two goals: a zero waste Ontario and zero greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector. To achieve these goals, Ontario would work towards systematically avoiding and eliminating the volume of waste, while conserving and recovering resources from the waste stream. This would also help the province meet its climate change commitments and help Ontario build a low-carbon economy.
Four objectives are outlined in the proposed strategy as critical to achieving these goals.
- Enhance Provincial Direction and Oversight
Striving for a waste-free Ontario will require transformation and sustained leadership through broad, cross-cutting direction. This direction is critical for communicating requirements, priorities, goals, principles, best practices and desired outcomes. We will also need to enhance oversight in resource recovery and waste reduction systems.
To provide strong leadership, the government will also need to better understand how we can build a circular economy in Ontario. Data gathering, analysis and communication will help us understand how far we have come and what else is needed to achieve our goals in order to make better evidence-based decisions.
- Enable Efficient and Effective Recovery Systems
As we move towards full producer responsibility and a zero-waste future, we need to make sure that we have the necessary building blocks in place for an efficient and effective resource recovery system that will save taxpayers money, reduce emissions from waste and reduce costs for companies and consumers, all while protecting environmental and human health. We also need to strengthen generator responsibility as set out under the Environmental Protection Act.
- Increase Waste Reduction and Resource Productivity
Resource recovery and waste reduction contribute to economic development and job creation in a variety of ways. If we are to build a circular economy and reap its benefits, it is critical that we minimize raw materials use, maximize reuse of products and packaging and recycle a wider range of materials. Ontario will also use a variety of tools and take actions to incent businesses to show leadership and demonstrate efforts to increase resource productivity by reducing the use of raw materials and avoiding waste to maximize the recovery of materials at their end-of-life.
- Create Conditions to Support Sustainable End-Markets
Given the right conditions, materials can be recovered and re-integrated into the economy. For this to happen, the cost to recycle must be more viable than the low cost of sending materials to landfill. More emphasis needs to be placed on stimulating the development of markets for these products to help close the resource loop. Taking action to foster a supportive business environment for companies that utilize recovered resources within Ontario will help drive additional recycling, create more jobs, reduce greenhouse gases and extend the life of existing landfills.
To meet these objectives, Ontario commits to the following actions under the proposed strategy:
- Empower the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority
- Issue policy statements to provide clear direction on the provincial interest
- Establish a data clearinghouse and build data capacity to provide for evidence based decisions
- Transition existing waste diversion programs smoothly to new producer responsibility framework without disruption of services
- Amend the 3Rs regulations to increase resource recovery across all sectors
- Establish service provider requirements to protect the environment while promoting resource recovery
- Ensure landfills are well planned and well managed to minimize their need and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Establish promotion and education requirements to support public participation in resource recovery
- Designate new materials to ensure producers are fully responsible for recovering more materials associated with their products and packaging
- Implement a framework to reduce the volume of food and organic waste going into landfill
- Implement an excess soil management framework to increase the re-use of excess soil, while protecting human health and the environment
- Adopt and implement modern regulatory approaches to build on and promote innovative best practices
- Improve and establish environmental standards to provide for a level playing field and a strong foundation for markets
- Use green procurement practices to build market demand for recovered materials
- Implement disposal bans to direct materials to end-markets
On November 30, 2016, the Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016 came into effect. It enacts the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016.
The Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 requires the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change to develop and maintain a Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy to support the provincial interest regarding resource recovery and waste reduction.
The Ministry posted a draft Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy for public comments from November 26, 2015 to February 29, 2016.
The province has revised the draft strategy based on the public comments and now releases a proposed strategy to seek further comments prior to finalizing it.
The proposed strategy will provide a road map for resource recovery and waste reduction in Ontario in the coming years.
This proposal was posted for a 45 day public review and comment period starting December 16, 2016. Comments were to be received by January 30, 2017.
All comments received during the comment period are being considered as part of the decision-making process by the Ministry.
Please Note: All comments and submissions received have become part of the public record.
Other Public Consultation Opportunities:
The Waste-Free Ontario Act and proposed strategy are based on a number of past and current consultation opportunities.
In 2004, the ministry posted Ontario’s 60% Waste Diversion Goal, A Discussion Paper for public comment. The document identified the need to improve Ontario’s waste diversion results, particularly with regard to organic wastes and wastes generated by the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors. The paper explored options to improve the diversion of waste in Ontario, including landfill bans, more centralized organics processing, and the role of new technologies.
In 2008, the ministry posted Toward a Zero Waste Future: Review of the Waste Diversion Act, 2002, to initiate the five-year review of the Waste Diversion Act. The paper solicited public comment on a number of waste diversion issues to help assess the act’s effectiveness and determine if changes were needed to enhance waste diversion in Ontario. Extensive consultations with key stakeholders, including producers, municipalities, retailers, the waste management sector, environmental groups, and the public focused largely on evaluating the effectiveness of the framework in achieving diversion.
In 2009, a Minister’s report, From Waste to Worth: The Role of Waste Diversion in the Green Economy, provided findings from the review. The report also included proposed broad changes to the waste diversion framework centered on extended producer responsibility for the management of designated wastes, and using other complementary measures to increase diversion. Consultation with stakeholders and Ontarians provided feedback on the proposals to improve the waste diversion framework.
On June 6, 2013, the government introduced Bill 91, the proposed Waste Reduction Act, 2013, and released the draft Waste Reduction Strategy that was posted on the Environmental Registry for public comment. The ministry also met with stakeholders through a series of public consultation sessions to discuss Bill 91. The public consultation sessions also included discussions on the draft Waste Reduction Strategy that provides a blueprint for increasing diversion and the economic and environmental benefits of diverting material from landfill.
In 2014, a Bill 91 Working Group was established to work with producers and municipalities.
In November 2015, the province introduced Bill 151, the proposed Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016, and the Draft Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy. Following introduction of Bill 151, the ministry engaged stakeholders using multiple methods, including:
- Posting of the proposal notice on the Environmental Registry for a 95-day comment period from November 26, 2016 to February 29, 2016
- Holding three information sessions and nine public and stakeholder consultation sessions in locations across the province
- Meeting individually with stakeholders
- Meeting with the federal government regarding services in First Nation communities
- Engaging First Nation communities
As a result of public consultation on the proposed Waste-Free Ontario Act and draft strategy, the Ministry received a total of 167 comments: 90 comments were received in writing and 77 were received online.
The Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016 came into effect in November, 2016.
Senior Policy Analyst
Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Integrated Environmental Policy Division
Waste Management Policy Branch
Non-Hazardous Waste Policy Section
40 St. Clair Avenue West
The documents linked below are provided for the purposes of enhancing public consultation.
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