Landfills are one of the most glaringly obvious examples of human waste, holding over 2.6 trillion pounds of trash worldwide per year. Over half of this garbage is organic waste, which can be composted. Many other sources of ‘garbage’ can be recycled or reused. Something needs to be done to reduce waste and Ontario is taking steps towards a zero-waste future.
Ontario’s Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario is an initiative that will introduce a circular economy to begin the process to become zero-waste in the province. The strategy is a creation of the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and is a welcome addition to Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan. The circular economy is a model that would divert waste from landfills by changing from a make-use-dispose landfill system to a re-using products until they are truly not useful any longer. This will lower levels of waste substantially and will promote the use of the three R’s, reduce-reuse-recycle.
In 2014, Ontario generated 11.5 million tonnes of waste, nearly a tonne of waste per person every year. Approximately 75 per cent of this waste goes to the landfill. It is definitely time for a massive change when it comes to managing waste. If Ontario increases organic waste diversion from landfills by 10 per cent, from 38 per cent to 48 per cent, it will prevent 275,000 tonnes of green gas emissions. According to the Ministry of the Environment, this is the equivalent of removing nearly 64,000 cars from Ontario roads per year.
In order to implement steps towards building a circular economy, Ontario will use the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, which establishes full producer responsibility and makes them environmentally accountable for recovering resources and reducing waste. Producers are described as importers, wholesalers, retailers and e-tailers. The ministry will also create a Resource Productivity and Recovery Registry to oversee producer performance and will monitor progress of the producers’ waste reduction strategies.
The province plans to lower waste 30 per cent by 2020, 50 per cent by 2030 and 80 per cent by 2050. The zero-waste plan has a relative timeline to meet these goals and in 2017, the province plans on developing the Food and Organic Waste Action Plan, and establishing the Resource Productivity and Recovery Registry. The ministry also plans on making amendments to 3R regulations, implementing the Organic Waste Action Plan and transitioning the Used Tires Program. All of these changes should make it possible to lower waste 30 per cent by 2020.
Zero-waste in Ontario sets the stage for the province to be a leader in creating a green economy that focuses on the financial gains of recycling and reusing items. It will save producers’ money to enact the 3R’s when disposing of used products and will reduce waste in the province. It is time for the green economy to become the mainstream way of making money in the western world, and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is taking important steps to making that a reality.