For decades, government agencies have relied on recycling programs in the residential sector to drive their waste diversion results. In fact, very few Canadian jurisdictions have regulations in place that mandate recycling outside of the home. As a result, diversion rates in the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector are low and there is little reliable information to help policymakers make informed policy and program decisions. It’s estimated that more than 65 per cent of the solid waste disposed in Ontario (for example) each year is generated by the province’s IC&I sector. Like many other jurisdictions, the province currently relies on a voluntary survey conducted biannually by Statistics Canada to gain knowledge of IC&I waste compositions and quantify any diversion results.
Despite this, there’s growing interest within the IC&I sector to do more. Many organizations want the recognition of being perceived as an environmental leader; others are coming to understand there may be bottom-line benefits to knowing the wastes they generate and in maximizing the opportunity to eliminate them.
To address this issue, the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) has introduced the 3RCertified waste diversion certification initiative. This innovative program, which opened for applications in October of 2011, is designed to offer support and recognition to businesses, institutions and industries that want to be recognized by as waste reduction leaders and have made a commitment to improve. The benefits of the program include:
• Meaningful and credible public recognition; organizations will be proud to display the 3RCertified logo;
• Access to a sophisticated database to track waste reduction and diversion performance;
• Access to industry best practices and other performance-improvement tools and resources; and
• Certified organizations will be in full compliance with Ontario’s 3Rs regulations.
The central element of the 3RCertified program is the set of criteria that participating businesses and institutions are required to meet. These performance criteria touch on all aspects of the way an organization manages its solid waste — from policies and waste audits through operations, procurement of products and services, management reviews, and many other categories. The applicant organization earns a specified number of points for each criterion that it meets; certification is awarded at one of four levels based on the total number of points earned.
In conjunction with 3RCertified, the RCO has developed a number of tools and resources to support IC&I organizations as they seek to manage their solid waste in a more sustainable way. A key resource that will be of significant value is the RCO’s Registered Waste Auditor program.
In the past, it’s been difficult for organizations to be fully confident in the results of their waste audits. There has been no recognized standard methodology for performing waste audits, and virtually anyone could self-declare as a professional waste auditor. The RCO has developed a series of waste auditing principles and methodologies, and beginning in the spring of 2012, it will offer an intensive training course on how to deploy these principles and methodologies in the context of an accurate, reliable waste audit. Candidates who complete this course successfully will be eligible for the RCO’s Registered Waste Auditor designation. The RCO’s registry of professional waste auditors will make it much easier for client organizations to locate and engage a waste auditor displaying the highest standards of skill and objectivity.
Another important feature that sets 3RCertified apart from many other environmental certification programs is its focus on third-party verification of claims. After an organization applies for certification, a trained RCO evaluator reviews the application and conducts a rigorous and detailed onsite evaluation to confirm the organization’s performance. This evaluation adds a high degree of credibility and objectivity to the certification process; stakeholders can be assured that any business or institution displaying the 3RCertified brand is a legitimately high performer in the areas of solid waste reduction and diversion.
“The program is built on the principles of best practices and accountability, but is flexible enough to accommodate any size or type of facility or building,” says Jo-Anne St. Godard, RCO’s Executive Director and creator of the program. “The program elements and processes are fully adaptable and could be transferred anywhere. In fact, we’re exploring opportunities to expand it to other jurisdictions in hopes it can recognized as the global standard.”
3RCertified is now open for applications. For more information (including a complete description of the evaluation criteria), please visit www.3rcertified.ca
David Hanson is Program Manager, 3RCertified Waste Diversion Certification Program, for the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO). Contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com Jessica Wilkinson is Technical Manager for the RCO. Contact Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org