Municipal datacall information for 2006 recently released by Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) indicates that municipal diversion province-wide in Ontario is stalled at about 38 per cent, far below the 60 per cent goal announced by the Liberal government under Premier McGuinty in the 2003 election campaign, and only four percentage points above the rate reported for 2005.
The statistics represent the limits of curbside blue box programs, which make it easy for householders to divert certain kinds of plastic, metal and glass containers — and especially fibre (i.e., old newspapers, magazines and cardboard) but are only really effective for about a third of the waste stream. Experts say that getting the diversion rate higher requires a combination of new programs. Chief among these is source-separated organics (SSO) programs, sometimes referred to as the Green Bin (such as Toronto recently introduced city-wide). Only 23 of 205 municipalities reporting to the WDO have Green Bin programs in place, although many more collect leaf-and-yard waste. If all of them adopted some form of SSO program, the province would likely hit the 60 per cent diversion number, since organics represent about a third of the waste stream. Yet such programs are expensive and the province currently lacks sufficient infrastructure to handle these materials. Some critics have called for regulatory and financial support from the province, and things like land bans to keep organics out of landfills.
The WDO is working to introduce stewardship programs to keep certain materials out of the waste stream in the first place, including a newly approved program for household hazardous waste and a soon-to-be announced plan for waste electronics (“e-waste”). Attempts to introduce programs for scrap tires and used oil faltered when the province determined they would interfere with relatively robust established private sector diversion businesses. The WDO’s proposed e-waste program could fail for the same reasons. The new Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Diversion Program has been heavily criticized for being a sop to industry as it sets a collection target of only 25 per cent by the fifth year of the program, and relies heavily on municipal infrastructure for collection.
Last year, Ontario placed all wine and spirit containers on deposit, with the take-back handled through the province-wide The Beer Store outlets, which has kept a great deal of low-value glass cullet out of the blue box. Environmental groups and municipalities have called for a deposit-refund program for all soft-drink used beverage containers, as exists in most other provinces which enjoy far higher container capture rates. They say that keeping the voluminous materials out of the blue box would free up space for other materials.
To view Ontario waste data, visit www.wdo.ca