Ontario's new 'zero waste' strategy geared toward circular economy model
- Ontario's Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has released a 15-point strategy for achieving a major shift in the Canadian province's waste policies that puts a significant focus on extended producer responsibility (EPR) in an effort to achieve 80% diversion by 2050.
- Plans include requiring manufacturers to "take full responsibility for the environmental and financial management of their products and packaging." Covered items are set to include small appliances, electrical tools, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, mattresses, carpets, clothing and furniture. Items such as beverage containers, corrugated cardboard and fluorescent bulbs and tubes will also be banned from landfills.
- An organic waste action plan will also address ways to reduce food waste in the supply chain, recover material from high-rise buildings and develop processing infrastructure that can generate renewable natural gas.
These ambitious goals are spurred by the Waste-Free Ontario Act and the Climate Change Action Plan, both enacted last year. According to the ministry, Ontario sends an estimated 8 million metric tons of waste to landfills each year and 16 new landfills could be needed by 2050 if this amount isn't decreased. The local waste sector is responsible for 6% of the province's greenhouse gas emissions, which has increased in recent years.
In order to turn this around, Ontario has big plans for both per capita waste reduction and higher diversion rates. This involves interim goals of 30% diversion by 2020 and 50% diversion by 2030, with a detailed year-by-year plan for how new policies will be rolled out. By comparison, many U.S. cities have set big "zero waste" goals by 2030 or 2040 without a clear roadmap of how to achieve them.
The concept of a circular economy has become a popular talking point among government officials, manufacturers and recyclers but they often differ on how this should work in practice. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries recently testified against proposed EPR legislation in Connecticut on the basis that recycling markets could be disrupted by government interference, among other factors. While many U.S. states have EPR laws for items such as electronics, appliances or mattresses, the concept of packaging regulation has been a non-starter so far. According to Ontario's plans the next couple years are focused on development and consultation, but some of the EPR policies kick in relatively soon. It will be interesting to see how manufacturers, and recyclers, respond to the requirements.
- Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Ontario Taking Next Step to Go Waste-Free
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