January 10, 2005

Top waste diversion rate of 88% projected by Toronto advisory group

A waste advisory group, set up by Toronto City Council in 2003 to review and provide advice on the adoption of new and emerging solid waste management technologies, policies and practices has concluded that Toronto's goal of 100% diversion from landfill by 2010 is not achievable. In its final report, the group says that, based on existing provincial regulations, a diversion rate of approximately 88% per cent could potentially be achieved using a mix of new and emerging mechanical and advanced thermal technologies together with source-based diversion programs. On the same basis, approximately 75% diversion is possible using biological processing in combination with source-based diversion programs.

The advisory group's report focuses on three key issues first presented in the city's Task Force 2010 Report approved by Council in 2001. The first of these was the question of whether 100% diversion is achievable through the use of new and emerging technologies, policies and practices.

If provincial environmental regulations were revised to permit the use of bottom ash from gasification or char from pyrolysis operations, a diversion rate of approximately 96% would be possible, says the report. If Ontario revised its regulations to permit the routine use of low quality compost, a diversion rate of approximately 86% could be achieved using mechanical and biological processes, it adds, noting that any decision on the adoption of such technologies for processing Toronto's residual waste must be based on their environmental performance, reliability and cost through a full environmental assessment (EA).

The advisory group also examined whether the 60%-40% split between traditional source reduction (reuse, recycling, composting) and introduction of new and emerging technologies, policies and practices is reasonable. It concluded that with the full and aggressive implementation of the policies and practices currently implemented by the city, along with new policies and practices recommended by the group, Toronto should be able to achieve source-based diversion from landfill of between 50 and 60%, and quite possibly higher, by 2010.

However, adds the report, regardless of the exact level of diversion that will be achieved--which will be known only after new policies and practices are fully implemented--there will be a continuing need to process and/or dispose of a significant amount of remaining materials.

The third issue focused on by the group was what steps the city should take next in order to achieve its diversion objectives. For Toronto to move beyond the expected 40% diversion rate by 2006 with its currently approved diversion programs, the advisory group recommends that:

1. Toronto fully and aggressively implement new policies and practices, such as those recommended by the advisory group and city staff, to significantly increase source-based diversion from landfill. These should include the strong promotion of existing and new diversion programs.

2. The city immediately establish a waste diversion working group to oversee the planning, design, implementation, promotion and monitoring of source-based diversion programs. This group, says the report, should report directly to Toronto's works committee and should include members of the public, city staff, front line collection workers, and possibly works committee members.

3. Toronto move ahead expeditiously with a full environmental assessment, including the formation of a public advisory committee reporting directly to the works committee to direct the EA process. Given the significant public concerns about various potential solutions to the city's waste management problems, the report emphasizes that the EA process needs to be innovative, thoughtful, well managed and fully transparent.

The advisory group's final report may be viewed available on-line at www.toronto.ca/net.

In other waste diversion activities, Ontario Environment Minister Leona Dombrowsky last week said municipalities will be receiving half of the funding for their Blue Box programs in 2005 from business. Waste Diversion Ontario, through its industry funding organization, Stewardship Ontario, will collect about $59 million from industry stewards and $5 million from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario for distribution to municipalities in 2005.

"Business and industry have stepped up to the plate and are taking environmental responsibility seriously," Dombrowsky said. "This will make municipal Blue Box programs sustainable and help us meet our waste diversion goals." She further noted that for the first time since industry began paying into the program, stewards' fees will be based on actual costs incurred by municipalities. This means municipalities will be receiving the full 50% of net costs, in accordance with the cost-sharing arrangement under the Waste Diversion Act. The total projected net costs of municipal blue box programs for 2005 is about $117.5 million.

In a letter to Bas Balkissoon of Waste Diversion Ontario approving the fee plan, the Minister asked that industry and municipalities work more diligently to keep municipal Blue Box costs contained through better design for recyclability of packaging and printed paper destined for the Blue Box system, and through support of markets for recycled materials.

Dombrowsky has also asked the WDO and its partners to submit, by February 28, 2005, an amendment to the Blue Box program plan which would expand the existing in-kind contribution of members of the Canadian Newspapers Association and the Ontario Community Newspaper Association.

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