Ontario's Environmental Commissioner Delivers Straight Talk on Waste
Diversion

TORONTO, July 27 /CNW/ - The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) applauds the Environmental Commissioner Gord Miller's Special Report on Ontario's Plan for Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste. Released today, it provides straight talk on the urgent need to divert hazardous household waste from landfills, and the wisdom of holding industry stewards - not taxpayers - responsible for the disposal costs of what industry produces.

"Ontario's Environmental Commissioner has delivered a clear message that this is the right policy for the right time," said Peter Hume, AMO President. "It is just plain common sense that producers - not property taxpayers - pay for handling this material - whether it be in the blue box or hazardous household waste."

Waste that poses risks to our environment and to human health must be disposed of safely and responsibly. Tossing it in a garbage bag may be convenient, but it's not very smart. Waste diversion makes far more sense. However, waste diversion only works when consumers and producers accept greater responsibility for the waste they create.

People used to think that Ontario's Blue Box program was a strange idea. Today it is a simple and effective program that diverts more than two million tonnes of recyclable material each year. It could divert even more if industry had clear incentives to use recyclable material and consumers could get clear information about which products are better for the environment.

"The Government of Ontario deserves full credit for having the courage to show leadership on waste diversion as it is about change," Hume said. "Holding industries accountable for the waste management costs related to their products and packaging is the most practical and effective means of reducing the amount of waste we create as a society. It is greener, cheaper and safer than digging and dumping. Ontario needs to be progressive, not regressive, in its approach to the environment."

AMO believes that the costs of managing hazardous household products should not be borne by municipal property taxpayers. The association has long advocated for a program that will encourage a better designed product at the front end of the process, and more easily recyclable products at the end of the lifecycle. We also believe that consumers should have the power to make better informed purchasing choices.

As Ontario's Environment Commissioner has pointed out, Ontario's current waste diversion strategy has followed a decade worth of consultation.

"This issue is so critical that we are counting on all political parties to work together and support this strategy," said Hume. "Given that it takes a full generation and a willing community to build a landfill site, there are serious consequences to abandoning Ontario's waste diversion strategy."

Ontario municipalities share the Environmental Commissioner's opinion that the only practical way to reduce waste and recycle more is to hold people responsible for the waste they create. You make a mess you clean it up. It's that simple.

AMO is a non-profit organization representing almost all of Ontario's 444 municipal governments. AMO supports strong and effective municipal government in Ontario and promotes the value of municipal government as a vital and essential component of Ontario and Canada's political system.

    
    BACKGROUNDER                                               July 27, 2010
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                       Waste Diversion: Divert or Dig?
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Burying waste is a centuries old waste management strategy that cannot possibly address the reality of modern life on a crowded planet. There is no question that we have to put less waste in landfills and recycle more. The only question is how?

Blindly tossing harmful materials in garbage bags may seem convenient, but it costs us dearly. It makes it harder to dispose of hazardous materials safely, increases waste management costs and poses risks to environmental and human health.

All taxpayers, property or provincial, need to recognize that they are left holding the bill and costs will only get higher if producers are left out of the environmental equation. It takes about a generation and a willing community to build a landfill and not surprisingly, Ontario is running out of room for them.

For years, the Ontario Government has been working with municipalities and industry to find solutions that divert more waste from landfill and produce less waste in the first place.

The goal of all waste diversion programs (electronics, tire and hazardous wastes) is to ensure that producers are held responsible for managing disposal of their products once they've reached the end of their natural life - known as extended producer responsibility. Although this is standard practice in some countries, the McGuinty government is showing strong leadership in North America by taking this approach.

Here are some of the facts about Ontario's waste collection and diversion programs:

    
    -   Ontario has 81 landfills, down from 730 in operation in 1989.
    -   Only a handful of landfills have been approved in the last 10 to 15
        years
    -   Ontarians generate more than 12 million tonnes of waste annually.
        That's the equivalent of 34,000 fully loaded Boeing 777 jets.
    -   Almost 80 per cent of waste is disposed. Because the amount of waste
        requiring disposal outstrips available landfill capacity, we send
        about 4 million tonnes to landfills in the United States. Only 22 per
        cent of Ontario's waste is being diverted from disposal.
    -   Up until the Waste Diversion Act, property taxpayers footed the bill
        for disposal and diversion of waste, including the high costs of
        safely disposing of hazardous materials. Many municipalities will
        continue to provide the service to their residents, but those that
        produce the waste, the stewards, will provide the funds for disposal.
    -   The household hazardous waste diversion program currently diverts
        over 20,000 tonnes annually from Ontario landfills. That is expected
        to increase to over 54,000 tonnes with the new product categories
        that came into effect on July 1st.
    

SOURCE Association of Municipalities of Ontario

For further information: For further information: Brian Lambie, AMO Media Contact, 416-729-5425, Email: lambie@redbrick.ca


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