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Waste-Free Ontario Bill – the Devil in the Details

Ontario has a bold new plan to transform how we manage waste that encourages the development of products that are never discarded. Instead, they are reintroduced into a system to be reused, refurbished, recycled or reintegrated into new products-this is called the circular economy. This also provides business with the incentive to design innovative ways of turning what is considered a waste into a resource.

“Managing our resources more effectively will benefit Ontarians, our environment and economy and support our efforts to fight climate change.”

Glen R. Murray
Minister of the Environment and Climate Change

In November 2015, the province of Ontario introduced the new Waste-free Ontario Act, the purpose of this new legislation is to divert more waste from landfills, create jobs, and help fight climate change. The province of Ontario also posted a draft Waste Free Ontario strategy for public and stakeholder feedback. The draft strategy is meant to be a roadmap for Ontario to transition to a province that produces zero waste and zero greenhouse gas pollution from waste.

Currently, the bill (151) status is second reading debate and the comment period for the Waste –free Ontario strategy ends on February 29 2016.

If passed, Bill 151, the proposed Waste-Free Ontario Act will enact the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and the Waste Diversion Transition Act. The proposed legislation is intended to enable a shift to a circular economy that would increase resource recovery and waste reduction in Ontario.

Ontario will be following other governments including Scotland and the European Commission creating new policies that incorporate circular economy mandates with waste reduction and generation.

While the Waste-free Ontario strategy speaks of an action plan towards a “zero-waste future” there is in fact no definition of Zero Waste, certainly to achieve internationally recognized standards for Zero Waste, Zero Waste Canada recommends that both the internationally recognized definition of Zero Waste and the Zero Waste Hierarchy are used as guidelines.

The strategy is a plan to achieve two stated goals: a zero waste Ontario and zero greenhouse gas emissions from the waste sector. The three objectives that are outlined in the draft strategy are:

  1. Increase Resource Productivity and Reduce Waste: Resource productivity is the process of using resources as effectively as possible in order to reduce or avoid waste. As increasing resource productivity is a new way of thinking in dealing with waste in Ontario, there is the need for a clear provincial direction and an agenda to support this objective. Ontario would use a variety of tools and actions to encourage Ontario producers’ to show leadership and innovation in resource productivity to prevent waste.
  2. Enable an Efficient and Effective Recycling System: Empowering producers with full responsibility for their products and packaging could bring about improved ways to recover, manage, recycle and reintegrate materials into the economy in a manner that reduces costs. Enhanced generator and service provider requirements could help produce clean waste streams, help direct more wastes to recycling and help extract maximum value from these streams.
  3. Create Conditions to Support Sustainable End-Markets: To make recycling economically viable, the government will need to emphasize the development of markets for recovered materials. This would require co-ordinated actions using multiple tools to capitalize on the economic opportunities associated with collection, transportation, processing and re-integration of resources into Ontario’s economy.

This new legislation holds promise but it will not just words but actions that will fulfill this new directive. There is a need for clear timeframes and goals, continuous review, involving all stakeholders including small business, existing repair, reuse, recycling and waste sector businesses, and an action plan for both short-term and long-term goals.

While in the draft stages until the questions of who, what, how, how much and why are answered, it is difficult to predict the impact this legislation could have on the economy and the environment.

As the saying goes” the devil is in the details”.

Zero Waste Canada feedback Waste- Free Ontario bill    logo-70px   Zero Waste Canada Ltd

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