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My comments on the Waste-Free Ontario Act

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Feb 22nd, 2016
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The deadline for comment on  is next Monday, February 29, 2016. Comment online or send to Shari Sookhoo, Senior Policy Coordinator – Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Climate Change and Environmental Policy Division – Resource Recovery Policy Branch 40 St. Clair Avenue West, Floor 8, Toronto ON M4V 1M2

Here’s what I sent in to the government:

Re: Bill 151 Waste-Free Ontario Act – EBR Registry Number: 012-5832

If provincial liberals are successful, long-awaited improvements to waste regulations will finally relieve municipal taxpayers of the financial burden of managing waste, and will help Ontario to reduce waste, gain economic and environmental benefits and meet climate change commitments.

Proposed changes call for producers to pay for products/packaging at end-of-life, rather all taxpayers. With strong leadership this majority government should be able to move sustainable waste reduction programs forward in Ontario without delay.

TWO STEPS ARE BEST SUITED FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION:

1. Designate disposable diapers, incontinent pads and sanitary products for diversion. Diapers, often wrapped in human feces, are disposed of into landfills, where human feces are not permitted because of the obvious risk to human health and the environment. This multi-billion dollar industry is able to set up and finance collection of its waste products at nursing homes, hospitals, daycare centres, etc. and municipal curbside programs. Technology exists to separate fibers from sewage and plastic waste to develop a sustainable recycling program. These products DO NOT belong in municipal compost programs.

2. Require a Deposit-Return system on containers. Deposit-Returns, with sufficient returns rates, will help Ontario quickly divert containers from disposal. Ontario’s high return rates on alcoholic beverage containers provide evidence that financial incentives work. These programs also work effectively in conjunction with curbside programs. Evidence-based data is readily available to show the effectiveness of Deposit-Return systems, such as:
– producers/consumers are financially responsible for what they make/use (instead of all taxpayers!)
– financial incentives motivate people to take action to reduce waste – higher diversion rates are achieved
– less contamination = higher quality materials for reuse or recycling
– prevents litter, thereby reducing municipal clean-up costs
– increases job opportunities

DIVERTING FROM DISPOSAL

“Although EFW and alternative fuels are permitted as waste management options, they will not count as diversion”.

To obtain accurate diversion results data from all waste disposal options must be measured, i.e. landfill, incinerators, cement kilns (even though cement kilns should not be used to dispose of waste!). A tracking system should report volumes/weights and final destinations of all materials – reused, recycled, composted, or disposed of, with special attention to materials shipped overseas to monitor facility standards and track materials to determine if they are actually being recycled.

STOP INCINERATION

To ensure the best use of resources, reduced greenhouse gases, and protection of the air, land and water incineration of waste must end. Municipal waste often contains hazardous materials i.e. fluoridated materials, smoke detectors, mercury, etc., which ends up in incinerators, releasing toxins that cause adverse health effects. Incineration is outdated and too expensive. It causes greenhouse gases and destroys resources that could otherwise be reused, recycled or composted. Incineration is not sustainable and does nothing to advance waste reduction and diversion. It also destroys evidence of materials that need new designs for easier reuse.

Incinerating wasted resources to produce energy is a charade that is making a few companies rich, while negatively impacting public finances and the environment. Data shows that more energy is saved through effective 3R’s and composting programs. While phasing out incineration all operating incinerators must be included in any cap and trade program. The taxpayer-funded subsidy of 8¢ per kilowatt hour of energy produced by incinerators must be eliminated. This subsidy undermines provincial efforts to build a circular economy and sustainable programs that protect the economy, human health and the environment.

EDUCATION

“Under the proposed legislation, the government would establish promotion and education requirements to ensure that consumers are provided with necessary information to properly participate in diversion efforts.”

Government must be wary of industry claims to “educate and promote”, E.g. the beverage recycling association has promised to donate $30 million a year to municipalities for bins to divert containers in public places, $12 million would be spent on “education” to promote recycling – and, of course, their products. This approach is obviously a shrewd marketing scheme but it also intensifies Ontario’s seriously flawed throw-away society.

The beverage industry has a history of making, and breaking, financial promises, which pledge a small token compared to true costs to taxpayers to manage their products. The industry seems determined to stop Deposit-Returns, not only in Ontario but around the world, recent examples include – https://theferret.scot/3234-2/ and http://startsatsixty.com.au/current-affairs/news/coca-cola-fights-against-a-recycling-scheme-that-could-put-money-back-in-your-pocket.   Government must stop this corporate welfare program and require Deposit-Returns.

DEPOSIT-RETURN SYSTEMS

One of the most effective tools to raise awareness, increase participation and divert higher quantities and better quality materials is to offer financial incentives. Benefits of Deposit-Return programs are well documented. Deposit-Return systems work well to divert containers from disposal, but can be just as effective to divert other products, such as fluorescent light bulbs, batteries, electronics, tires and other items.

Listen Up Ontario – Put a price on a product and it won’t be ditched – if it is someone will retrieve it to return it for the refund = from waste to worth! Consider the number of seniors that dispose of hearing aid batteries – a financial reward would inspire diversion, especially for those on fixed incomes! Young and old would be happy to return cell phones and many other products for a refund.

Deposit-Return programs can offer a smooth transition from current diversion programs and will improve and standardize programs across Ontario. People could choose to return items for a refund or use curbside programs and pass the refund onto the municipality.

EXTENDED PRODUCER RESPONSIBILITY (EPR)

Government mandates are needed to motivate industry to adhere to the 3Rs hierarchy in production and reprocessing and ensure that true costs are reflected in product prices. Refill and Reuse, by the same industry for the same purpose, should be the desired system, then compostable products (with serious consideration of what is truly compostable), and finally recycling. Innovative incentives, such as Deposit-Returns, will achieve this.

ORGANIC WASTE

Backyard and neighbourhood composting programs can effectively service single dwellings and multi-use residential communities and are best options to educate and revitalize local soil. Successful voluntary initiatives already in place should be encouraged and supported. However, mandatory composting programs are necessary to complement those voluntary actions. Disposable diapers and pet waste DO NOT belong in these programs!

DISPOSAL BANS

As long as ‘mystery bags’ (black/green garbage bags) are collected there is no way of knowing if banned or hazardous materials are disposed of – clear bags or garbage cans can help to reduce this problem. Innovative strategies are needed for the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector to develop a solution to large waste bins filled with mixed waste and even household waste from owners, employees, or illegal dumpers. Deposit-Return systems compliment disposal bans by offering a financial return to divert products from disposal.

IC&I SECTOR

Mandatory programs are needed to “improve awareness of diversion opportunities to help drive larger volumes of waste to diversion in the IC&I sectors”. Ontario’s 3Rs Regulations have been in place for decades, offering waste audits, waste reduction work plans, and source separation requirements, yet there has been little to no enforcement. All IC&I facilities need to be mandated to participate, with enforcement to ensure compliance – voluntary programs are not fair or effective. “Effective waste reduction and diversion will only occur where actions are implemented in a coordinated and consultative manner to ensure that all available tools are implemented in a way that reflects the unique considerations of particular waste streams or sectors.” AND ONLY WHEN MANDATORY POLICIES WITH ENFORCEMENT ARE IN EFFECT!

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

The provincial government’s existing procurement policy requires all ministries to consider environmental factors such as waste reduction, reuse and recycling measures for all contracts worth more than $10,000”

CONSIDER?? Again, policies need to be mandatory!

Government must lead by example – adopt strong green procurement policies and model effective waste reduction and diversion. The responsibility for effective diversion at government funded facilities must not be released to service providers like the Ontario Reality Corporation or other agencies. Complicated contracts with service providers stall innovative diversion programs. As a result many facilities still have limited or ineffective diversion programs in place, i.e. OPP Headquarters where composting has been delayed, and educational facilities with open garbage barrels, mystery bags dumped in large waste bins and no composting programs.

LANDFILL

“The province has groundwater protection limits to safeguard drinking water and design requirements for leachate collection systems unsurpassed by any other jurisdiction in North America.”

Without enforcement progressive requirements are useless! E.g. An operating landfill in the City of Orillia, in a wetland on the shore of Lake Simcoe, still has no leachate collection system even when expert evidence, presented at an EA Hearing in 1990, estimated that 78 million litres of leachate spills directly into the lake every year. Lake Simcoe is a source of drinking water for many and home to a variety of wildlife.

Even though regulations under the Environmental Protection Act set guidelines that include “… requirements for design, operation, closure, post-closure care, and financial assurance” these requirement don’t come with enforcement. Orillia could soon be so deep in debt that financial assurances will be impossible, and few finances will remain to build the much needed leachate collection system to reduce the flow of contaminants into the lake.

“Ontario has mandatory landfill gas controls set out in regulation to capture methane from landfills. Requirements are in place requiring landfill gas collection and controls for all new or operating landfills larger than 1.5 million cubic metres in size.”

While this may be true for other Ontario landfills, it is not true for the City of Orillia’s operating landfill. There is no methane collection system to capture greenhouse gases from this active waste dump, to protect the air, land and water – only monitoring. Again, without enforcement even mandatory regulations are useless!

ZERO WASTE FUTURE

Every few years Ontario goes through the motions of getting serious about waste. Unfortunately, lobbyists with a vested interest in maintaining our throw-away society stall actions. Political will and power are needed to establish strong policies and to oversee and enforce actions so Ontario can finally resolve the problem of waste and move into a Zero Waste future. Let’s hope this government has the leadership needed to achieve success.

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