A new report from the Conference Board of Canada suggests that Ontario is missing out on the extra jobs and cash that could come from increasing the province’s waste diversion levels.
The May 2014 report, Economic Impacts of Waste Diversion in North America – Opportunities for Ontario’s Waste, estimates that if Ontario could raise its waste diversion rate from the current 23 per cent to 60 per cent, the move would yield some 13,000 jobs and $1.5 billion in gross domestic product (GDP).
“Because all industries are linked on some level, a change in demand from one industry will necessarily change the flow of outputs from other industries, particularly industries that directly supply the one in question,” explains the Conference Board of Canada report about waste systems. “By ‘shocking’ an industry — increasing or decreasing its output in the model — it is possible to determine the effects that this industry has on the wider economy. This, in turn, allows us to estimate the impact on GDP, employment, government revenues, and other measures that may result from a change in the size of an industry,” the report adds.
The most current detailed data on Ontario waste comes from Statistics Canada in 2010. That year, Ontarians diverted just 23 per cent of the province’s 12 million tonnes of waste. About 47 per cent of residential waste was diverted, but only 11 per cent of industrial, commercial, and institutional sector waste.
Even more worrisome, the report notes, is that Ontario’s 32 largest landfills are expected to reach capacity by 2033, according to the Auditor General of Ontario.
The Conference Board of Canada report is based on previous studies by five U.S. states, including a U.S.-wide study and a study of Ontario’s waste system. The Board told EcoLog News that the report is U.S.-centric because “most of the studies that have looked at this topic are from U.S. jurisdictions.”
The February 2012 Ontario study, AECOM Canada Ltd.’s The Economic Benefits of Recycling in Ontario, used an interprovincial input-output (I-O) model developed and maintained by Statistics Canada. The Ontario study considered only three programs: the Blue Box program, which diverts residential packaging and printed paper (PPP); the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) program; and the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) program.
“Overall, the results of our research on waste diversion in North America confirm that increased waste diversion results in job creation and GDP growth,” states the Conference Board of Canada report.
“In terms of job impacts, increased waste diversion supports more jobs than disposal. Studies of North American jurisdictions indicate that it is typical to create at least two jobs in the economy for every thousand tonnes of waste diverted, which is approximately three times as many jobs as are supported through waste disposal,” the report adds.
The Conference Board of Canada report expresses hope that legislative measures to increase diversion could be through Bill 91, the Waste Reduction Act, but the Bill was quashed at second reading debate at Queen’s Park, when the Ontario Parliament dissolved for an election on June 12, 2014.
The Ontario Waste Management Association contends that three priority actions will help put Ontario on the path towards GDP growth and enhanced environmental stewardship:
- fix Ontario’s broken waste diversion framework
- increase waste diversion in areas of low diversion by utilizing economic instruments such as disposal bans and extended producer responsibility
- require direct accountability for achieving environmental outcomes.