The Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act, the Waste Free Ontario Act & the Waste Diversion Transition Act – What They Mean for You, Your Business & The Province

Looking towards the future of waste and its direct correlation to natural resources in Ontario, the provincial government has designed & released a Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act, the Waste Free Ontario Act, as well as the Waste Diversion Transition Act, which will significantly affect the way business and residential waste is handled. In addition to these acts, the provincial government has designed a “Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario,” which outlines key goals and details that are excluded in the acts. We thought it might be beneficial to our readers to outline exactly what this legislation aims to do and what/who they will affect. They are vague in some areas and very detailed in others, but this should give you an outline of exactly what the future holds for waste in Ontario.

Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act

The Ontario provincial government initially created the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act as a declaration that there is value in protecting the natural environment through innovative waste disposal & reduction methods. It is the aim of this act to decrease the need for waste disposal through various methods of waste reduction, including but not limited to: recycling programs, increasing product life cycle, decreasing packaging & even decreasing hazardous/toxic substances in products/packaging.

One of the most interesting pieces to this act is that Ontario government aims to “hold persons who are most responsible for the design of products and packaging responsible for the products and packaging at the end of life.” This means that the Ontario provincial government aims to place responsibility on those producing packaging and products on the recyclability, reusability and life cycle of products in comparison to those in their industry. This establishes legislation for government-enforced compliance for producers to consider end of life, and incorporate recovered materials. By putting the onus on the companies that design, produce and market these products and packages, the provincial government is targeting the source of the problem.  This holds the producers of these goods environmentally and financially responsible. This alleviates some of the pressure of recycling, reusing and reducing from the consumers and waste disposal facilities, while establishing a circular economic framework. This will also allow for industry consistency and innovation. 

The Waste Diversion Transition Act

To accompany the above act, the provincial government released The Waste Diversion Transition Act. The Waste Diversion Transition Act is an act that’s purpose is to promote the reduction, reuse and recycling of products and goods in the Ontario marketplace in conjunction with the other two acts. It also provides guidance for the operation of waste diversion programs, as well as outlines available funding.

The Waste Diversion Transition Act outlines a lot of the funding available for the diversion programs that need to be in place in order for strategy’s in the act to go live. This is where the word ‘transition’ is key in the acts title name, as it is providing a way for businesses, waste industry leaders and environmental stewards to transition to waste efficient facilities through government funding. This is a great tool for waste diversion programs that need the extra funding to set up new machinery or markets for the incoming/outgoing recyclable waste.

The Waste Free Ontario Act

Further to the above two acts, The Waste Free Ontario Act is an act that has been created to enact the details within the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act and the Waste Diversion Transition Act (and to repeal the previous Waste Diversion Act of 2002). Therefore, these acts are intrinsically connected and aim to meet similar goals in order to protect the natural environment in relation to waste reduction.

The Waste Free Ontario act provides further detail into the responsibility of corporation holders that design, produce and market products or packaging to sell in Ontario, including that of convenience packaging and waste generated from the transportation of goods. It details and incorporates most of the key goals that are included in the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act in relation to increasing recyclability, reusability & life cycle of products and packaging. All in all, the Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act & The Waste Free Ontario Act are constructed to meet the same goals, with the Waste Free Ontario Act setting the details of the goals.

Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy

However, along with these three acts comes a “Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy,” released in conjunction to the acts to reinforce the provincial commitment to reducing waste across Ontario for the betterment of the environment. The strategy provides a more detailed description of the acts, including key strategies & goals that directly build off of the Waste Free Ontario Act. This is certainly a great piece to accompany the acts and provides more insight into the rationale in the creation of these acts.

The ultimate goal of all three acts and the strategy is to one day achieve zero waste and zero greenhouse emissions for the waste sector in Ontario. As the Ontario government focuses on producer responsibility they are tackling the current waste problem directly from the source.

As the strategy states, the current waste diversion rate is only about 25% of about 11.5 billion tonnes annually. With the acts and strategy in place, the Ontario government is aiming to divert 80% of waste by 2050. They aim to then establish a zero waste goal continuing from 2050. To achieve this goal, they have steady milestones between now and 2050 to ensure they are meeting their diversion & reduction targets. This strategy even provides an outline of 15 different actions to achieve these waste diversion and reduction goals.

One action that we find particularly interesting is – “Implement an action plan to reduce the volume of food and organic wastes going to landfill.” At the center of what we do here at Davidson Environmental, keeping food out of the landfill is our main objective. Given this, we find this action extremely interesting as it could mean big things on the horizon for us as an organics service provider, and for the environment. In this strategy, the Ontario government has committed to banning organic waste from landfills starting in 2022 and is creating “The Food and Organic Waste Action Plan.” We will be sure to have an entire blog post on this action plan alone, but for now, this is seemingly something that needs to be noted and is a huge step forward in the waste management industry.

Conclusion

As the provincial government continues to put funding and support into waste reduction and diversion, Ontario residents and businesses alike should expect a shift in their current recycling practices as we transition into a waste free province.

Residential

Residents in Ontario, for the most part, already participate in recycling programs and therefore the paradigm shift should not be too major. For those cities, like London, Ontario, that do not currently have organics recycling, there may be a learning curve and transition period for those who are not familiar. However, recycling has become pretty standard for most Ontario residents and therefore, these acts likely won’t affect current recycling programs.

Businesses

At all levels, these acts really do directly affect businesses. Whether the business produces products/packaging, or disposes of products/packaging from retail stock, transportation packaging or returns, strong waste diversion and reduction programs need to be implemented. This would include blue box recycling programs, along with organics recycling. For smaller sized businesses this may not be difficult but for large based corporate businesses, this may take time to transition into.

Needless to say, this is an exciting time for the waste industry!

Summary

The Resource Recovery & Circular Economy Act is based on a producer responsibility framework and establishes:

  1. Provincial interest in the environment through waste reduction strategies.
  2. Producer responsibility (environmentally & financially) for end of life materials (including recyclability and reusability)
  3. Resource productivity & recovery authority to closely monitor and enforce producer compliance

The Waste Diversion Transition Act has been designed to create a transition from the current waste diversion programs to the new ‘producer responsibility framework’ and establishes:

  1. That there is funding available for environmental stewards, waste management leaders and businesses alike to ensure a seamless transition
  2. The need for promotion, marketing and education to assist in altering the current residential mind set regarding waste in Ontario

The Waste Free Ontario Act was created to enact the above two acts and repeal the former Waste Diversion Act of 2002 and establishes:

  1. Provincial interest in the environment through waste reduction strategies.
  2. More detail into the producer responsibility framework

The “Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy” provides a more developed rationale and understanding of the current waste reduction goals and establishes:

  1. Goals and milestones for waste diversion rates in Ontario, with the goal reaching towards 80% diversion by 2050
  2. 4 objectives and 15 actions to reduce waste in Ontario

This strategy is available for reading here: https://files.ontario.ca/finalstrategywastefreeont_eng_aoda1_final-s.pdf