Environment Commissioner's report confirms Ontario's growing waste problem

TORONTO, Nov. 30, 2011 /CNW/ - The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) applauds the Environment Commissioner for making a series of recommendations in a Report released yesterday that will help deal with Ontario's growing waste problem. According to Statistics Canada, Ontario generates more than 1000 kg of waste per person per year, despite having several policies and regulations that mandate more recycling.

"The Ministry of the Environment has many policies and regulations that it can use to solve Ontario's waste problem and support a growing recycling industry," says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Executive Director of the RCO. "However, more needs to be done to utilize these tools and drive better outcomes."

Ontario has had regulations that require businesses and institutions to reduce their waste and increase recycling since the early 1990s, but there is a general lack of compliance. As a result, that sector has a very low diversion rate hovering at just over 20%. Ontario residents, on the other hand, are doing better, with many municipal waste management programs having diversion rates of over 60%.

In 2002, the Blue Box Packaging program and other recycling programs got a boost through a new regulation called the Waste Diversion Act (WDA). This law obligates companies that sell products and packaging into Ontario to be financially responsible for ensuring these are safely recovered and recycled. Companies can do this by either paying municipalities to service residents, or by creating new consumer-based programs like retail 'take-back' initiatives.

The law requires targets and reporting mechanisms to make sure they are performing. The resulting financial investments by industry have greatly supported municipal programs and expanded the recycling industry in Ontario. Under the new producer responsibility law, the Minister of the Environment targeted many materials including paper and packaging products, electronics, scrap tires and selected household hazardous products out of landfill.

"Many new and important programs were developed under the Waste Diversion Act. Millions of tonnes of materials were safely recovered and recycled, and new investments in the recycling industries grew our ability to recycle more in Ontario. Jobs in the industry were also starting to grow," says St. Godard.

"Producer responsibility is an important policy tool in reducing waste in Ontario. Many recommendations have been made to improve and expand its use," says St. Godard.

One of the recommendations of the waste framework review was the introduction of a disposal levy to help lessen the economic gap between recycling and disposal; a concept RCO has supported for decades. Currently it is generally cheaper to landfill than to recycle. This means that economics drives valuable materials to disposal where there are no programs or policies to support more diversion.

"Jurisdictions that have introduced disposal levies have seen positive results in their diversion rates. Some have gone even further to add disposal bans of some potentially hazardous products and valuable resource materials," stresses St. Godard. "This Commissioner's report, with its focus on waste reduction, is on the mark. Government has made good progress. It has invested in all of the right tools, it just needs to refocus and recommit to its original 60% waste diversion goal."

About The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO)
The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization committed to minimizing society's impact on the environment by eliminating waste. RCO's mission is to inform and educate all members of society about the avoidance of waste, efficient use of resources, and the benefits and/or consequences of these activities. For further information, please visit: www.rco.on.ca.

SOURCE Recycling Council of Ontario

For further information:

For more information or to schedule an interview with Jo-Anne St. Godard, please call Lucy Robinson at 416-657-2797 ext.1 or email Lucy at lucy@rco.on.ca.

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