June 21, 2004

Ontario seeks input on ways to reach 60% waste diversion target by 2008

The Ontario government is seeking public input on options for diverting 60% of the province's waste from disposal. Ontario's 60% Waste Diversion Goal: A Discussion Paper, released on June 10 by Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky reviews the current situation and summarizes current regulatory and other approaches for increasing the amount of waste that is diverted. It also presents for consideration and debate a series of potential action items, along with 31 questions related to the topics covered by the paper.

The document will provide a basis for five public forums being held during June. The first took place on June 18 in Kingston, with the others scheduled for June 21 in London, June 23 in Thunder Bay, June 24 in Sudbury and June 29 in Toronto.

"The challenge for all of us is to manage our waste in a way that is sustainable, practical and protects our communities and the environment," said Dombrowsky. "By setting ambitious diversion targets we hope to drive investment and promote Ontario's recycling and composting industries."

Diverting 60% would reduce the amount of waste going to disposal in Ontario by 7.2 million tonnes - the equivalent of about 600,000 truckloads a year or more than 1,600 truckloads a day. This is also roughly the same amount generated in 2002 by residential sources and the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sectors, according to the discussion paper. Construction and demolition waste made up the remaining 2.2 million tonnes of the total 9.4 million tonnes of waste thrown out by Ontarians in 2002.

While waste generation is almost equally split between the residential and the IC&I sectors, the composition of the two waste streams differs markedly, says the paper. For the residential sector, focusing on organics, including food and yard waste, will yield the greatest gains in waste diversion. Blue Box recycling will need to be maximized as well, along with opportunities for diverting waste in the "other" category, such as electronics.

While increased organics diversion (e.g. by restaurants and food retailers) will contribute to gains in the IC&I sectors, the paper says these sectors will also need to maximize recycling under Ontario's 3Rs regulations and investigate more aggressive solutions to divert the "other" category of waste which makes up about 26% of the total.

The discussion paper sets out potential action items in various areas.

Setting province-wide waste diversion objectives and targets: Among the ideas proposed are the setting of mandatory waste diversion targets for municipalities, based on population size, and a requirement for public reporting of waste diversion rates by certain businesses.

Residential waste diversion (accelerating centralized composting): Backyard composting should receive continued support and encouragement; the paper also proposes increased organic waste collection and centralized composting in Ontario's largest municipalities.

Financing strategies for increased waste diversion: The paper suggests that a range of financing options be made available for creating new waste diversion programs and infrastructure. Among the components that might be considered are user-pay schemes, provincial funding, a provincial waste disposal surcharge, private sector investment, municipal financing through borrowing, and designation of new wastes for which Waste Diversion Ontario would develop waste diversion programs.

IC&I waste diversion: The paper proposes a review and revision of Ontario regulation 103/94 to reflect a renewed commitment to IC&I waste diversion (the 3R regulation currently applies to a limited number of IC&I waste generators and does not include requirements for organic waste diversion). Proposed as well is a requirement that the largest waste generators publicly report their waste diversion rates; a phase-in or public reporting of waste diversion by other generators, on a sector-by-sector basis; and provision of training to small businesses to help them increase their waste diversion rates.

Also open for discussion is the feasibility of phasing in a ban on the disposal of key organic and recyclable materials; a requirement for all waste generators in the municipal and IC&I sectors, in addition to waste site operators, to report waste diversion statistics; streamlining and clarifying regulatory requirements so as to encourage the development and adoption of new waste diversion technologies; and measures for reducing packaging and increasing the recycled content in products and packaging.

Ontario's 60% Waste Diversion Goal: A Discussion Paper is available on the Ministry of Environment Web site, www.ene.gov.on.ca or by calling 1-800-565-4923 or 416/325-4000. While the public sessions will conclude by the end of June, comments will be accepted until August 9, 2004. Submissions should be sent to the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Waste Management Policy Branch, 135 St Clair Ave E, Toronto M4V 1P5, FAX 416/325-4437, E-mail wastediversion@ene.gov.on.ca.

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