We asked our expert panelists how new environmental legislation will impact our readers in the coming year. More dynamic thinking will be required from municipal and commercial waste management companies, Ray Fillion observed. But Tom Hennessey commented that the impact really depends on where you are looking.
“As an industry participant involved with consumer products and packaging, the impact will focus on the financial responsibilities associated with residential waste management programs,” he said.
“As a person who is also involved in the waste management business, there will be changes in the development and implementation of new collection and waste-resource processing infrastructures. For governments, the impact will be in supporting the advancement of these infrastructures and their associated financing.”
Mr. Hennessey hopes that consumers will be offered incentives to comply and participate in reduction, recycling and composting efforts.
Mario Laquerre agreed with Irwin Kew that various regions need to use innovative environmental technologies, and that industry will be involved in the financing of this.
“The implementation of the Qubec Action Plan for Waste Management will require involvement by the producer of goods,” said Mr. Laquerre. “For example, as of January 1, 2001, the paint industry has to set up and finance a system to recover used paint.” He added that other materials such as used oil will be target by legislators next year.
Geoff Rathbone pointed out that the Ontario government intends to introduce legislation to create a permanent Waste Diversion Organization (WDO). This will be supported by a field-leveling regulation that will put financially sustainable recycling within the grasp of all Ontario municipalities.
“This agreement could become a model for other jurisdictions,” he said.
Christina Seidel was a bit more skeptical, noting that the lack of new environmental legislation is most likely to impact solid waste management as progress towards waste reduction continues to be slow in most regions.
Next, we asked our panelists what programs are the best bets to ensure industry stewardship?
Ms. Seidel’s point of view was consistent with that of many in Western Canada. She argued that true industry stewardship successfully integrates the full cost of waste management into the product price and thereby provides a market signal to the consumer of that product.
“To meet this criteria a stewardship program must provide complete funding, while also avoiding cross-subsidization of materials,” she said. Ms. Seidel pointed out that some provinces, most notably Alberta and B.C., have been successful in introducing effective stewardship programs for materials such as tires, oil, paint and beverage containers. “The challenge we now face is expanding this concept from individual specialized materials into the broader multi-material reality of municipal recycling programs,” she stated.
Mr. Fillion said that recycling is definitely going to be the top issue for this decade. Mr. Hennessey observed that the legislative route can be taken, but that the feedback received at The Composting Council of Canada is that many indus- tries would be interested in pursu- ing organics diversion through composting once the infrastructure exists.
Mr. Laquerre reminded the group of the effectiveness of deposits (“It recovered 76 per cent of bottles and cans last year,” he said) and pointed out that Recyc-Qubec’s scrap tire program recovered more than 85 per cent of discarded tires.
Mr. Rathbone didn’t promote deposits, but commented that “The most important programs are those that promote direct dialogue between municipalities and industry.”
“True industry stewardship successfully integrates the full cost of waste management into the product price and thereby provides a market signal to the consumer of that product.”
Our panel members were then asked to comment on what new treatment technology or waste management strategy impressed them in 2000. Mr. Rathbone was intrigued by the potential for overall diversion from new anaerobic digestion concepts such as those of Canada Composting Inc. and Super Blue Box Recycling (SUBBOR), as well as the aerobic system in Edmonton.
“Now it’s essential to gather factual information about these systems, especially regarding their yield, compost quality and costs,” he said, noting that this would provide a base for new policy discussions.
The courage and vision shown by Nova Scotia in aggressively tackling its waste management issues head-on impressed Ms. Seidel. “It’s the first province to achieve 50 per cent waste diversion from landfill,” she said, “and is apparently the only province that took the goal seriously in the first place.”
Mr. Fillion was pleased to see more cities and haulers embracing automated curbside collection, which he said can save enormous amounts of money. Regarding composting, Mr. Hennessey observed that the industry is in the midst of a two-pronged focus — waste diversion and product manufacturing/ marketing. “There’s a lot of exciting work being done in developing markets for compost,” he said. “If markets are tapped correctly, the revenue stream from the sale of end product will be very large.”
The panelists then commented on what they thought was the most over-blown or under-represented issue last year.
“The implementation of the Qubec Action Plan for Waste Management will require involvement by the producers
For Mr. Fillion, the Adams Mine project was the most over-blown.
“It’s not so much the project, but Toronto not taking care of its trash in its own back yard,” he said. “Not taking care of our own trash was the ‘under-represented’ issue.”
Mr. Rathbone felt that many waste industry participants continued to overlook how important it is to foster stewardship initiatives that are applicable nationwide. “Patchwork programs weaken the overall fabric and make it harder to fashion a national approach that would be beneficial to governments, industry and the consumer,” he said.
Mr. Hennessey was pleased to see composting and organic waste diversion get more centre-stage focus. Mr. Kew was disappointed with Canada’s failure to live up to commitments it made under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
We asked the experts what their top priorities would be if they could be the federal or provincial environment minister for 2001.
Mr. Rathbone commented that, on the provincial front, he would prioritize getting the “backdrop” legislation in place to support residential recycling.
“Nationally,” he said, “I’d dedicate more resources to examining the link between efficient waste management practices and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Municipal waste policy decisions should factor in these sort of environmental effects in addition to diversion and cost considerations.”
Ms. Seidel’s top priority would be to raise public environmental awareness and bring environmental issues back onto the public radar screen. On the waste management front, she’d like to see increased harmonization between provinces. Mr. Fillion also wanted to see harmonization and “streamlining” of recycling legislation. He would introduce new landfill legislation that would, in effect, promote recycling. Mr. Kew and Mr. Laquerre were also frustrated with the fact that landfilling remains the “default” waste management strategy across the country and would promote alternatives.
Mr. Hennessey commented that, as minister, he would focus more on organics diversion and establish a stronger connection between various ministries (e.g., agriculture, natural resources, municipal affairs, industry, etc.) to capture their potential synergies on this issue.
Finally, we asked the experts what group has shaped public policy in a way that is not in the public interest that they’d like to see redressed, and also what they thought about current regulatory enforcement levels.
Mr. Kew complained that environmental groups seemed to operate according to a “group t
hink” mentality without the technical knowledge. Mr. Rathbone agreed, saying, “I do not believe it is in the public interest for any individual or group to misrepresent or obscure factual information in order to fire up public sentiment to influence public policy.”
“For example,” he added, “the public and general media have been giving an unrealistic message regarding the ease of getting beyond 50 per cent residential diversion.”
Ms. Seidel said, “The Government of Ontario deserves the award for the least progressive waste management policies. Its continued inaction and reluctance to implement provincial stewardship programs is a sad statement for Canada’s most populous province.”
Mr. Rathbone was also concerned that higher diversion goals could only be attained if “all sectors pull their weight.”
“A good example of effective enforcement is the practice in some municipalities of refusing to collect waste at multi-family buildings that do not participate in recycling programs,” he said.
Guy Crittenden is editor-in-chief and Connie Vitello is editor of this magazine.