January 16, 2006

Municipal task force proposes comprehensive, integrated waste management strategy for Ontario

A strategy proposed for Ontario by a task force representing municipal interests integrates waste management, resource use and energy creation.

A Joint Waste Management Task Force set up by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Association of Municipal Recycling Coordinators (AMRC) developed the strategy with the aim of helping the provincial government find solutions to Ontario's continuing waste disposal problem. The document details an integrated framework for policy and legislative tools to support waste diversion, waste infrastructure, product stewardship and related issues. The AMO is calling on the government to implement its proposed strategy as soon as possible.

"The impending closure of local landfills and international destinations to waste shipments from Ontario municipalities provides a great incentive to develop a waste system solution that is neither piecemeal nor temporary, but one that will serve all Ontarians for many years to come," says the paper.

The task force points out that while municipalities are responsible for waste management, the province has the lead role in the approvals process as well as in drafting policy and legislation in this area. Ontarians, it says, are counting on the provincial government for collective, progressive and environmentally sound solutions to the existing waste management problem.

These solutions, says the strategy paper, must be effective and affordable and must protect the natural environment. Moreover, it adds, stewardship efforts will, in the long run, give Ontario industries a competitive edge through improved efficiency and new production methods that help reduce waste generation.

The task force says all waste policies and programs should be evaluated in terms of the triple bottom line approach, taking into account their environmental, economic and social impacts. Sustainable waste management, it adds, is a responsibility shared by industry and consumers, as well as all levels of government.

A third and final principle on which Ontario's waste management system should be based is adherence to an integrated hierarchy of priorities. The paper lists seven "rungs" on this priority "ladder:" prevention; enhanced design for reduction or re-use; product re-use; material recycling and composting; resource recovery; disposal in an energy-from-waste (EFW) facility; and landfill disposal.

From this waste management hierarchy and the underlying principles, the task force is proposing a strategy incorporating the following elements:

*financial incentives and penalties (including charges, subsidies and deposit-return systems where applicable) to encourage industry the reduce, re-use, recycle and recovery products;

*immediate development of a simplified class environmental assessment (EA) system for waste management options that allows for a ranking of new alternative waste management technologies;

*provision in the 2006 provincial budget for waste-related research and development capabilities that enable both the public and private sector to tackle a shared problem;

*support for reduction and re-use initiatives through eco-labelling, procurement, outreach and education programs;

*development and implementation of a plan for reaching Ontario's 60% waste diversion target, including a critically urgent funding program for the facilities needed to manage organic waste;

*collaboration with municipalities to find long-term, viable methods for dealing with the remaining 40% of waste requiring management;

*reinstatement of waste management facilities as an eligible service under the Development Charges Act, to help growing communities recover the costs of new facilities required as a result of a growing population base;

*amendment of the current regulatory regime as set out in the guidelines governing EFW facilities, the Environmental Assessment Act and the Waste Diversion Act; and

*utilization of residual waste to produce energy.

Finally, the task force urges the government to accord greater power to Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) by ensuring that it has sustainable funding, full authority to develop waste diversion programs and the necessary policy and approval support from the Environment Minister.

The task force concludes that prompt adoption and implementation of these strategy elements is a necessary first step not only toward solving Ontario's waste problem, but also toward making the province a recognized leader in integrated waste management, while ensuring a healthy economy and environment.

The AMO-AMRC strategy proposal may be viewed on the AMO's Municom Web site, www.municom.com.

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