Environment Minister Releases Ontario’s New Environment Plan

Today, Environment Minister Rod Phillips released Ontario’s Environment Plan. The plan is broad in scope and includes the government’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The plan outlines the government policy direction on waste management for Ontario. Specific action items that will be of interest to OWMA members include:

Reduce and divert food and organic waste from households and businesses

  • Expand green bin or similar collection systems in large cities and to relevant businesses.
  • Develop a proposal to ban food waste from landfill and consult with key partners such as municipalities, businesses and the waste industry.
  • Educate the public and business about reducing and diverting food and organic waste.
  • Develop best practices for safe food donation.

Reduce plastic waste

  • Work with other provinces, territories and the federal government to develop a plastics strategy to reduce plastic waste and limit micro-plastics that can end up in our lakes and rivers.  
  • Seek federal commitment to implement national standards that address recyclability and labelling for plastic products and packaging to reduce the cost of recycling in Ontario.
  • Work to ensure the Great Lakes and other inland waters are included in national and international agreements, charters and strategies that deal with plastic waste in the environment. 

Reduce litter in our neighbourhoods and parks

  • Our environment plan reflects our government’s commitment to keep our neighbourhoods, parks and waterways clean and free of litter and waste. When Ontarians walk their dog or take their children to the park they expect their time outdoors to be litter-free.
  • Work with municipal partners to take strong action against those who illegally dump waste or litter in our neighbourhoods, parks and coastal areas.
  • Develop future conservation leaders through supporting programs that will actively clean up litter in Ontario’s green spaces, including provincial parks, conservation areas and municipalities.
  • Connect students with recognized organizations that encourage environmental stewardship so they could earn volunteer hours by cleaning up parks, planting trees and participating in other conservation initiatives.

Increase opportunities for Ontarians to participate in waste reduction efforts

  • Work with municipalities and producers to provide more consistency across the province regarding what can and cannot be accepted in the Blue Box program.
  • Explore additional opportunities to reduce and recycle waste in our businesses and institutions.
  • Make producers responsible for the waste generated from their products and packaging
  • Move Ontario’s existing waste diversion programs to the producer responsibility model. This will provide relief for taxpayers and make producers of packaging and products more efficient by better connecting them with the markets that recycle what they produce. 

Explore opportunities to recover the value of resources in waste

  • Investigate options to recover resources from waste, such as chemical recycling or thermal treatment, which have an important role – along with reduction, reuse and recycling – in ensuring that the valuable resources in waste do not end up in landfills.
  • Encourage increased recycling and new projects or technologies that recover the value of waste (such as hard to recycle materials).

Provide clear rules for compostable products and packaging 

  • Ensure new compostable packaging materials in Ontario are accepted by existing and emerging green bin programs across the province, by working with municipalities and private composting facilities to build a consensus around requirements for emerging compostable materials.
  • Consider making producers responsible for the end of life management of their products and packaging.

Support competitive and sustainable end-markets for Ontario’s waste

  • Cut regulatory red tape and modernize environmental approvals to support sustainable end markets for waste and new waste processing infrastructure.
  • Provide municipalities and the communities they represent with a say in landfill siting approvals. While we work to reduce the amount of waste we produce, it is recognized that there will be a need for landfills in the future. The province will look for opportunities to enhance municipal say while continuing to ensure that proposals for new and expanded landfills are subject to rigorous assessment processes and strict requirements for design, operation, closure, post-closure care and financial assurance.

Make it easier and safer to reuse excess soil

  • Recognize that excess soil is often a resource that can be reused. Set clear rules to allow industry to reduce construction costs, limit soil being sent to landfill and lower greenhouse gas emissions from trucking by supporting beneficial reuses of safe soils.

The full Environment Plan can be downloaded here: https://prod-environmental-registry.s3.amazonaws.com/2018-11/EnvironmentPlan.pdf

Also the Ministry will accept comments and feedback until January 28, 2019, here: https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/013-4208?_ga=2.167399160.79234127.1543353781-1372984251.1537383657

OWMA Position:
The Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) is a strong proponent of recycling and waste diversion in Ontario. OWMA supports actions that will help Ontario become an environmental and economic leader in waste and resource management. Fair competition and open markets are vital principles that will drive value to taxpayers in managing the province’s waste. It is important that any instruments employed to drive waste diversion ensure fair competition and open markets, with direct accountability to individual parties for achieving environmental outcomes.

We are pleased that a legislative framework for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is in place, and that the government is proposing movement in areas that are in need of action, such as food and organics waste diversion. OWMA supports the government’s intention to transition Ontario’s existing waste diversion programs into the new extended producer responsibility legislation.

Ontario’s Environment Plan, by reducing food and organic waste, expanding green bin programs, and identifying relevant businesses that should be diverting organic waste, will drive efficiencies, improve organic waste management and provide value in terms of economic and environmental benefits.

The OWMA supports the government’s focus on regulatory and economic instruments, including Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), that reflect competition and open markets to encourage diversion.  EPR is an economic instrument and policy approach in which the producers of products and packaging bear responsibility for ensuring those products and packages are properly managed at the end of their life cycle. Producer responsibility will help achieve waste reduction and environmental protection in an efficient manner and deliver optimal economic and environmental outcomes.

Regulatory burden, and an inconsistent application of rules and misallocation of resources based on risk, have acted as barriers to investments in Ontario. Ontario’s waste sector needs the right conditions for investment. The OWMA supports the government’s efforts to modernize the approvals process for waste processing facilities in an appropriate manner that reflects and manages risk, and is pleased that the government recognizes the continuing important role of landfills.

We look forward to working with the government on the best way to provide municipalities with an enhanced say on landfill siting, while also addressing Ontario’s current landfill capacity shortage and challenges related to the large amount of waste being exported to the U.S. for disposal.