Rather than do that, I will declare upfront: I might bore you with details. So unless you are interested in “Waste-Free Ontario”, stop reading right now.
In Ontario there is a law being designed to compel the creation of less waste from those who make consumer goods. I had occasion to respond to Bill 151 before the public consultation process closed for this so-called Waste-Free Ontario Act on February 29.
The legislation had recently received Second Reading. Politicians doled out opinions galore. But I felt they had missed something – a big something. How can a bill that deals with waste in the Province of Ontario fall silent on the matter of litter?
If I haven’t lost your readership, here’s your chance to pretend you are the bureaucrat at the receiving end of the following submission. Would you concede a point or two, or bury this brief at the bottom of a tall stack? (This is where a mustard-yellow flag may wave: ‘caution, may be boring’. My hope is for otherwise as
I unload onto you my Litter Prevention Program’s three-page online submission to the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
Question, where would you rank litter as an issue – at the top or the bottom of the pile, or somewhere in between?
Reference: EBR Registry number 012-5834
Re: Bill 151, “Waste-Free Ontario Act”.
While laudable in its aims this legislation as written can never live up to its name.
I question the use of the term “end of life” waste in the legislation. This is the loophole language that has enabled a significant segment of waste in Ontario to be ignored. What I’m referring to is litter, an unlawful behaviour that is pervasive and growing, evident to anyone who casts an eye to the ground while travelling highways and byways of this province.
“End-of-life” has come to mean waste that is placed in a bin for recycling or disposal. The province of Ontario has no strategy for dealing with waste that is not at the end of its life. This is hugely problematic in an era when everyone from Pope Francis and Charles, through his Prince’s Trust, to the European Commission and EU is sounding alarm about the need for litter reduction and behavioural change. How can Bill 151 be amended to address a longstanding omission to its waste management legislation?
Ontario producers, provincial agencies and the Ministry itself use the “end-of-life” jargon to excuse their lack of action on litter. Keeping in mind that total recycling equates to zero litter, and that 80 per cent of all litter in waterways had its origin on land, does it not make sense to go after this orphaned piece of the waste-free Ontario dream?
Existing laws in place to promote waste management best practices and bolster recycling rates in the Industrial, Commercial, Institutional (ICI) sector are not followed.
I refer you to Reg. 103/94 2.1.3, more than two decades on the books and zero evidence of required practices ever having been put into play.
To reiterate what was confirmed to this writer by the Ministry of the Environment several years ago, this is a legal requirement in Ontario. Yet it is little known, routinely ignored and not enforced. Quoting:
A Guide to Source Separation of Recyclable Materials for Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (ICI) Sectors and Multi-Unit Residential Buildings
As Required under Ontario Regulation 103/94
2.1.3 Information to Users
To promote awareness of the source separation program and ensure its continuing success, information must be provided to those who will use the program (e.g. employees, patrons, students and tenants).
This information can be in the form of yearly or more frequent progress reports that show the amount of materials collected, cost savings or other waste reduction achievements. These reports serve as reminders and motivational tools to encourage participation by providing feedback to users.
The program should be communicated to employees, tenants, students and patrons to ensure that source separation procedures, responsibilities and equipment use are properly understood. New employees should also be informed of the program and trained in its operation as soon as is practical after being hired. Also, information about modifications to the program, such as the addition of new materials to be separated, must be conveyed. Communication can be through newsletters, signs, group meetings or other methods available to the owner or operator.
Employees should be trained in the proper use of source separation equipment and program procedures. Training should enable employees to recognize what materials must be source separated, the desired quality, locations of collection containers, and how to contact program coordinators. Training can take place through meetings, information sessions, newsletters or pamphlets. End quote.
The point I’d like to make both about the abovementioned regulation and the proposed Bill 151, legislated directives for better waste management are meaningless without follow-up: scrutiny and enforcement that is vigilant and well-communicated along with budgeted resources for funding reasonable measures for the initiative’s success.
Case in point: Had the ministry budgeted for a program to ensure that ICI partners had filed their annual reports at least once a year since 1994, the public would be far advanced in its understanding of the importance of using bins for waste. Education and awareness do result in higher recycling participation rates and litter level reductions. It can be argued that Ontario’s diversion rates would be much higher than where they stand today, at 25% overall and 13% in ICI.
It appears that Bill 151 offloads enforcement to a third party. This removes a level of direct accountability that the public deserves to have. Implicitly, a citizen should have direct link to the enforcement arm through government to have breaches to the Act investigated and a certain transparency to the process.
The public needs a clear reporting line to the proposed new oversight body, the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, deemed responsible for enforcement.
Turning attention to Section 70, then, an opportunity exists in Bill 151 to promote and educate.
Responsibility for promotion and education
70. (1) For the purpose of increasing the collection, reuse, recycling or recovery of material in a designated class, a regulation may provide that a person mentioned in section 61 or 62 is responsible for implementing a promotion and education program in respect of the collection system or management system for that class in accordance with the prescribed requirements.
(2) For the purpose of increasing the collection, reuse, recycling or recovery of material in a designated class, a regulation may provide that persons performing an activity that relates to resource recovery or waste reduction in Ontario other than a person described in subsection (1) are responsible for implementing a promotion and education program in respect of the collection of material in a designated class in accordance with the regulations.
I believe these sections of the bill should be a requirement -- non-discretionary. This regulation should be crafted so as to ensure that there is absolute follow-through. The language in 70 (1) indicates a regulation may provide for this, but does not say “shall” provide. That in itself creates wiggle room enough to possibly replicate the inert status of Reg. 103/94 2.1.3 where promotion and education failed to materialize.
Among questions prompted by Bill 151, will the legislation be sufficient to hold tobacco companies responsible for cigarette butt litter, chewing gum manufacturers for gum litter strategies, waste management companies and haulers for flyaway litter escaping their cabs, people and corporations from dumping? Will there be education concerning the proliferate tossing of coffee cups, lids, straws and bottles?
Tobacco is federally regulated. How will tobacco manufacturers be bound by Bill 151? Will they be “required to implement a promotion and education program in respect of the collection system or management system for that class in accordance with the prescribed requirements”?
The goal of achieving a circular economy and waste-free society in Ontario hinges upon the availability of sustained education for all age groups. Despite this province’s extraordinary Blue Box infrastructure and introduction of the 3R approach 35 years ago, participation rates remain tepid and flat. That’s why a Section 70 with teeth is crucially important to the success of this legislation.
Again, moving to a waste-free culture demands that we deal with waste that defies the “end-of-life” definition. The Ontario Legislature should engage itself in the issue of waste that is not at the “end-of-life” as the British Parliament did last year when it held committee hearings, fact-finding and outreach for UK’s Litter Inquiry.
Witness Belgium’s recent pledge, aiming to have 20 per cent less litter by 2022 compared to 2014 levels. In Belgium (population 11.2 million) producer groups are committing to fund a national litter prevention program, estimated by Clean Europe Network to be worth about €17 million annually.
Bill 151 can be viewed as an excellent beginning. One would hope to see a committed time frame for the implementation and meeting of all objectives, and public reporting on an ongoing basis. Shown below in italics are my responses and questions re Bill 151’s objectives.
Divert more waste from disposal by
collecting data and putting performance measures in place to enable the province to make evidence-based decisions and measure progress towards zero waste, including a litter audit and provincial litter index
using disposal bans to facilitate resource recovery and waste reduction; Study the impact of disposal bans and fee hikes on dumping rates
integrating multiple tools to foster collaboration allowing parties to work together to deliver a seamless system, to include an umbrella Keep Beautiful or Keep Clean agency to deal with non-end-of-life waste.
Helping people reduce, reuse and recycle and not litter by increasing awareness of and participation in diversion activities through education and promotion. A must-do. (Who will be responsible for approving education and promotional activities aimed at increasing awareness?)
Stimulating markets for recovered materials by implementing modern environmental standards; and demonstrating provincial leadership through green procurement and undertaking litter prevention education and broader recycling of products within government ministries through Ontario companies such as TerraCycle.
In closing, I submit that:
- The bill should be subject to public hearings to receive more input and promote greater awareness.
- The term end-of-life waste in the bill is problematic and needs to be addressed.
- Education and promotion must be required by the legislation, not a discretionary item.
- Ontario should lead in the establishment of a review of non-end-of-life waste.
Still with me, friends? Thanks for reading! - Sheila