July 23, 2007

Ontario beefs up inspection force to improve compliance with waste diversion regs

The Ontario government is hiring ten new environmental enforcement officers to focus on increasing waste diversion in business and industry across the province. Adding the new officers will allow more inspections of facilities in the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sectors in order to ensure that they comply with Ontario's recycling requirements. In addition to conducting inspections, the officers will also focus on educating the business community to ensure they understand the law.

The announcement by Environment Minister Laurel Broten came as the Ministry of Environment (MOE) released the results of a 2006 inspection sweep of 260 businesses to assess their compliance with Ontario's waste diversion regulations 102 and 103. Nearly 93% of the facilities were found to be out of compliance with the regulations, although over 90% of those inspected were source-separating materials to some degree. The MOE notes that waste from business and industry makes up about two thirds of all waste in Ontario.

"The 3 R's - reduce, reuse, recycle - aren't just rules for Ontarians at home, they are a responsibility that business and industry shares," said Broten.

Provincial regulation 102 describes the IC&I facilities subject to its requirements (e.g. large manufacturing operations, restaurants, hotels/motels, large retail establishments and complexes, and large office buildings). It requires them to conduct waste audits and develop and implement waste reduction work plans. Regulation 103 adds requirements for source separation of certain specified waste materials, in order to keep valuable resources out of landfills.

The Ministry of Environment (MOE)'s sector compliance branch has increased inspections in the IC&I sector significantly in the past few years: the number of inspections rose from 12 in 2004-05 to 336 in 2006-07.

In 2006, an inspection sweep was carried out between March and October. Companies were selected randomly for inspection and included facilities in 16 Ministry districts within all types of businesses covered by the regulations.

The non-compliance rate was attributed almost entirely to lack of knowledge about the regulations. Accordingly the MOE adopted a progressive compliance approach, starting with voluntary abatement: 241 of the companies found to be non-compliant were issued letters asking them to take action to achieve compliance. By June 2007, 203 of these 241 had achieved compliance and the remaining 38 are reported to be approaching compliance.

The MOE issued provincial officer's orders to 15 companies that did not comply with the requests made in the initial letters; five of these have since come into compliance. Three of the remaining ten have been referred to the MOE's investigation and enforcement branch.

The report outlines the next steps planned by the Ministry, starting with meetings with IC&I sector associations to convey the results of the inspection sweep and increase their awareness of regulations 102 and 103. The sector compliance branch will also inspect waste transfer stations to gather more data on the final disposition of waste. This information will be shared with the MOE's waste management policy branch.

The inspection sweep report may be viewed in the publications section of the MOE Web site, www.ene.gov.on.ca.

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