The current buzz in the Canadian waste and recycling industry is all about Ontario Environment Minister John Gerretsen’s discussion paper Toward a Zero Waste Future (see extended entry below that reproduces our news announcement) which proposes to move the province away from the current blue box recycling model (in which industry “stewards” pay 50 per cent of net municipal curbside recycling costs) toward Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) — the Holy Grail of environmentalists who feel that society has emphasized the wrong “R” (recycling) in the waste management hierarchy, the first two being Reuse and Reduction (and even “redesign” in some savvy circles).
If Gerretsen does anything like what’s proposed in the discussion paper, he will earn himself a rightful place as one of the most important environment ministers in Ontario history, taking the lifetime work of his predecessor Jim Bradley to the next logical level. (Hint: When the industry lobbying gets fierce, as it no doubt will when producers learn they are to pay for all the costs of managing their wastes, Gerretsen might want to steel himself for battle by having a drink or two with Bradley and listen to some of his old war stories.)
Waste reduction expert Usman Valiante waste no time coming up with a practical scheme to turn the EPR vision hinted at in the minister’s discussion paper into reality. In a presentation (that you can download below) at the recent Fall conference of the Association of Municipal Recycling Coordinators (AMRC, whose name has just been changed to the Municipal Waste Association [MWA]), Valiante painted a picture of a new system that builds on the blue box history in Ontario and envisions Stewardship Ontario (the blue box funding organization) becoming a sort of equivalent body to that which operates the Dualles EPR system in Germany.
I thought readers might enjoy seeing Valiante’s Power Point presentation directly for themselves, and have uploaded an Acrobate PDF version for you to download here:
Please note that this topic will be the subject of my Cover Story in December/January edition of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine, where I will again summarize some of Valiante’s ideas, in addition to quoting other experts.
And here’s the news item:
Ontario shifts toward Zero Waste approach
The Ontario Ministry of Environment has released Toward a Zero Waste Future — a discussion paper that moves Extended producer Responsibility (EPR)from being a conceptual idea to possibly a practical reality in the province.
It has concurrently issued a letter to Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) requesting a review of the existing Blue Box Program Plan (BBPP).
The WDA review discussion paper has been issued as the first step in a statutorily mandated review of the WDA.
The WDA discussion paper identifies several important concepts associated with Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) as an approach to Zero Waste.
Specifically, the paper discusses producer versus shared responsibility, the economic implications of individual producer responsibility versus collective producer action on waste diversion, the issue of stewardship costs manifesting themselves as “visible fees” applied over and above the price of products and the impact of stewardship program design on competition in waste service markets.
In this context the discussion paper then proposes the following:
1. A clear framework built upon the foundation of EPR. The paper identifies key elements of this framework:
— The concept that, “…waste diversion programs should shift more financial responsibility onto producers”, while allowing, “…producers to discharge responsibility for their products and packaging in the way that best suits their needs, has the fairest impact on existing markets and meets the public’s demand for successful diversion activities that strive for zero waste and foster a green economy.”
— The concept of differentiating between producers’ products based on the environmental profile of those products (including waste and non-waste factors such as energy efficiency, toxics reduction, greenhouse gas emissions profile etc.);
— A prohibition on “visible fees”;
— Application of stewardship fees to materials to materials that are not currently recyclable;
— A more flexible approach to allowing producers to discharge their existing or future stewardship obligations through individually crafted approaches such as pre-existing schemes, or individual producer-run programs.
2. A greater focus on the first and second of the 3Rs – waste reduction, and reuse.
3. Increasing reduction and diversion of waste from the industrial, commercial & institutional sectors. Alternatives proposed include revising existing 3Rs regulations, extending responsibility for IC&I wastes to producers or
designating IC&I wastes on a material-by-material basis.
4. Governance and administration of EPR programs — i.e., greater clarity around roles, responsibilities, and accountabilities, to ensure that all players are contributing to a common goal.
“This discussion paper moves from EPR as a conceptual model to discussing the policy and practical issues that have to be addressed to make EPR a functional and meaningful approach,” says Usman Valiante, a waste reduction expert and contributing editor to Solid Waste & Recycling magazine, adding, “As proposed, a policy régime that has individual producers bearing the full and fully differentiated costs of their products is profoundly different than what is commonplace in Canadian waste diversion programs today. The discussions precipitating from this paper are going to have relevance in the broader Canadian context and not just Ontario.”
Some of the concepts enunciated in the discussion paper are reflected in the BBPP review letter as issued to WDO by Minister Gerretsen. Most notably, the letter states that,
“The BBPP does not reflect full Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) funding since the WDA requires Blue Box stewards to fund 50% of municipal program costs, with municipalities funding the rest.”
The Minister then requests WDO to, “Recommend how to move the BBPP towards full EPR funding. Since different collection and processing systems for Blue Box wastes are the result of decisions made by local municipalities, in your review and recommendation, please consider the potential impact to the management of municipal recycling programs as industry moves to full EPR funding.
The Ministry has posted Toward a Zero Waste Future on the Environmental Bill of Rights registry at:
The comment period ends on January 15, 2009.
Waste Diversion Ontario has been tasked to report back to the minister regarding the BBPP review by March 20, 2009.
The next December/January edition of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine will contain an in-depth analysis of the new discussion paper and its implications.