On September 1, Ontario’s Waste Diversion Organization (WDO) released its final report to provincial Environment Minister Dan Newman. After extensive analysis, the WDO reduced its original 50 per cent diversion target to 44 per cent, deeming the higher goal too expensive to achieve in five years.
“The diversion calculations presuppose that waste generation rates will stay the same.”
The WDO recommends three provincial backdrop regulations targeted at brand owners, importers of consumer packaging, producers of HHW and printed materials. These would require businesses to recover their own consumer packaging or participate otherwise as a WDO member. Municipal legislation is proposed to mandate the expansion of organic waste diversion and other programs. The WDO proposes landfill bans on organics plus an obligation for municipalities that fail to divert 50 per cent of waste from landfill by 2005 to implement bag limits or user fees (or forfeit funding). Industry would refund to municipalities 45 per cent of the net cost of residential solid waste and recycling programs. (Some funding will be “in-kind” advertising.)
The recommendations seem reasonable, but a close inspection shows that “the devil is in the details.”
There are no incentives or mechanisms to mandate industry to reduce and reuse, or to use recycled content in consumer packaging. This contradicts WDO’s principle that funding “be structured to provide incentives for municipal and industry to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of waste diversion programs and overall waste management system.” In fact, the diversion calculations presuppose that waste generation rates will remain. The industry “funding formula” will be a simple sales-based levy; brand owners who sell less packaging will in effect subsidize those that sell more (or that sell packaging that’s costly to recycle).
None of the recommendations prohibit non-recyclable packaging, encourage recycled content, or promote waste reduction at the point of generation. (Packaging prohibitions exist in several other provinces.)
Because the diversion calculation is based on weight, the WDO will concentrate on the heaviest materials (organics and fibre) to get a better bang for their buck, even though this may have no environmental merit.
In its report, the WDO argues that it should maintain certain roles. The WDO would like to have the authority to audit municipalities, gather data, calculate costs and determine material revenue estimates. The organization wants to decide which brand owners or importers (big or small) will pay levies and what amount, even if their packaging is not part of the residential stream. Given that the WDO is industry-weighted with its own business interests, these aspects present difficulties that the environment minister will have to examine carefully.
See www.solidwastemag.com for a link to the full report.
Clarissa Morawski is principal of CM Consulting, based in Toronto, Ontario.