Waste Hierarchy

Background:

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

Waste Management Hierarchy – Activities in Descending Order of Preference1

The Issues:

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
the province.

OWMA Recommendations:
  1. Redefine the waste management hierarchy within Ontario’s waste diversion framework to maximize material and energy recovery.

 

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