COMMENT: Ontario waste reduction strategy a good start, but needs teeth

A garbage truck arrives at the Carp Road Landfill. It's now operated as a transfer station.

(Photo: A Waste Management truck at the Carp Road Landfill. Although the expanded landfill will be licensed to accept commercial and residential waste, it’s expected that the vast majority of landfill material will be industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) waste.)

On November 27, the Ontario government posted its “Draft Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy” for public comment. The draft strategy admits that Ontario produces too much garbage and that diversion and recycling in the province has stalled. It also directly links waste and climate change.

The draft Strategy embraces a vision for “an Ontario where we have zero waste and zero greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector and where all resources, organic or non-organic, are used and reused productively, maximizing their recovery and reintegrating recovered materials back into the economy.”

The draft legislations puts an emphasis on producer responsibility and supports innovation to address packaging and waste production. The strategy outlines three key goals: 1. Increase Resource Productivity and Reduce Waste; 2. Enable an Efficient and Effective Recycling System; and 3. Create Conditions to Support Sustainable End-Markets. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that many of the proposed tools already exist but have never been enforced. Also the need to reduce our dependency on landfills by banning the disposal of recyclable materials has been a major plank of provincial policy for years. However, the bans were never applied to IC&I waste producers which makes up the majority of garbage in Ontario.

Previous versions of waste reduction policies all featured “carrots” and “sticks” but failed because the sticks were never applied. A lack of enforcement of existing regulations and the unwillingness of the Ontario government to restrict landfill capacity is a key reason the province is so far behind. This time the government has to put some real teeth and meaningful action behind the words to be at all effective in getting to zero waste.

Ontarians have until February 24, 2016 to comment on the draft strategy.

(Olivia Nixon lives in West Carleton and is one of the residents involved with COLA – Coalition for Landfill Accountability, where this article originally appeared.)


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