Better management of waste can pay significant dividends in terms of climate change; energy
conservation & resource conservation; and reduce environmental impacts on land, water, and
air. The solid waste management hierarchy of the U.S. EPA and the European Union provide a
general framework for waste management policy where the focus is on reduction of waste
generation, reuse, and recycling. The primary objective should be the reduction of waste.
Once waste is created, each material should be managed based on the fundamental principles
of sustainability and life cycle assessment. For the materials remaining after reduction and
reuse, material and energy recovery should be the preferred option. This material and energy
recovery could be manifested in many forms including: recycling, traditional EFW technologies;
new and emerging conversion technologies; anaerobic digestion; or landfill gas recovery. Each
of these technologies has the ability to capture inherent resource value and should be
considered in the context of maximizing resource recovery (material or energy resources).
Waste Management Hierarchy – Activities in Descending Order of Preference1
Ontario’s current waste diversion framework does not reflect this waste management hierarchy.
The majority of Ontario policies focus on recycling with little attention on reduction and reuse
and energy recovery. Energy recovery is treated within the current framework as equivalent to
disposal. Higher orders of recycling are not acknowledged within the Waste Diversion Act and
its programs, with the exception of Ontario’s used tire program which pays increased financial
incentives for higher orders of recycling.
Some recycling activities generate by-products that cannot be reutilized (i.e. used tire
processing residue) and not all materials recovered will be recyclable. In such cases, these
non-recyclable or residual materials could be managed through Energy Recovery facilities
which could capture value.
Currently, no incentive exists under the current framework for this value to be captured. The
lack of clarity around what counts as diversion, especially regarding residual waste remaining
after diversion processes, discourages companies from investing in emerging technologies in
Redefine the waste management hierarchy within Ontario’s waste diversion
framework to maximize material and energy recovery.