In­dus­try to cover the full cost of curb­side re­cy­cling pro­grams

New On­tario leg­is­la­tion makes pro­duc­ers re­spon­si­ble for the life­cy­cle of their goods, re­liev­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties of the ex­pense

The Woolwich Observer - - VENTURE - FAISAL ALI

WITH THE PAS­SAGE OF the Waste-Free On­tario Act last Novem­ber, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties all over the province are pre­par­ing to tran­si­tion to a new waste man­age­ment sys­tem, one that places the re­spon­si­bil­ity for On­tario’s blue box pro­gram fully in the hands of pro­duc­ers.

The idea is that since pro­duc­ers cre­ate waste prod­ucts such as pa­per and pack­ag­ing that even­tu­ally find their way into peo­ple’s blue bins, they ought to take charge for how those prod­ucts are dis­posed off. How this will af­fect the re­gion’s waste col­lec­tion is still up in the air.

“Go­ing for­ward, that en­tire [re­cy­cling col­lec­tion] process, the pro­duc­ers will be fully ac­count­able for op­er­a­tional and fi­nan­cial con­trol of that,” said Jon Ar­se­nault, Water­loo Re­gion’s direc­tor of waste man­age­ment.

This means that mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will no longer be re­spon­si­ble for pick­ing up your blue box off the curb on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. In­stead, that job will fall to waste pro­duc­ers, who will have to pay for the pro­gram and or­ga­nize re­cy­cling col­lec­tion for the res­i­dents.

“The way the leg­is­la­tion is writ­ten ... it’s very clear in that the re­spon­si­bil­ity to re­cover and to man­age end-of-life des­ig­nated prod­ucts and pack­ag­ing is with the pro­ducer. So it will be with that brand owner or that first im­porter or that re­spon­si­ble party has that obli­ga­tion,” ex­plains Dave Gor­don, se­nior ad­vi­sor at the As­so­ci­a­tion of Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties On­tario (AMO).

AMO has been con­sult­ing with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties across the province about the changes, says Gor­don, not­ing they have been sup­port­ive of plac­ing full re­spon­si­bil­ity for waste man­age­ment on the pro­duc­ers.

Ar­se­nault ex­plains that cur­rently, the cost for re­gion’s re­cy­cling pro­gram is split 50/50 be­tween the mu­nic­i­pal­ity it­self, and the pro­duc­ers that cre­ate the waste. The re­gion con­tracts its re­cy­cling col­lec­tion re­quire­ments to pri­vate com­pa­nies – Miller Waste Sys­tems and Hal­ton Re­cy­cling, which han­dle col­lec­tion in the cities and town­ships, re­spec­tively – that come by and pick up re­cy­clables on a bi-weekly ba­sis. Tax­pay­ers then split the cost with busi­nesses, charg­ing them a fee de­pend­ing on how much garbage they pro­duced.

With the adop­tion of the Waste-Free On­tario Act, that cost will be en­tirely borne by the busi­nesses, who will also be re­spon­si­ble for han­dling the waste man­age­ment op­er­a­tion. This could mean that busi­nesses sell­ing prod­ucts in On­tario could join col­lec­tives, like Stew­ard­ship On­tario, which al­ready han­dles re­cy­cling re­quire­ments on be­half of pro­duc­ers. The col­lec­tive would work with pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions and mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to en­sure peo­ple were still get­ting their re­cy­cling, award con­tracts, and pay the ap­pro­pri­ate costs.

Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, in turn, have a few options avail­able to them about how they han­dle re­cy­cling col­lec­tion. One op­tion is to sim­ply keep do­ing as they have been do­ing. The Water­loo Re­gion could con­tinue to han­dle col­lec­tion by con­tract­ing to pri­vate com­pa­nies - the mu­nic­i­pal­ity would then charge busi­ness to re­im­burse them­selves of the cost. Or, in other words, pro­duc­ers would be pay­ing the re­gion to han­dle waste col­lec­tion.

Al­ter­na­tively, the re­gion could stop of­fer­ing waste col­lec­tion all to­gether. The colour of the iconic re­cy­cling bins could change, or the waste col­lec­tion trucks could be new. But the qual­ity of ser­vices, how­ever, should re­main the same, said Ar­se­nault.

“The caveat to all that is no mat­ter who’s do­ing, from a province’s point of view, the stan­dard level of ser­vice can’t be re­duced from what it is to­day,” he ex­plained.

Ul­ti­mately, though, the mu­nic­i­pal in­volve­ment will de­pend a great deal on busi­ness. One of the key el­e­ments be­hind this ini­tia­tive is to let the free-mar­ket de­cide how re­cy­cling is han­dled.

“If pro­duc­ers want to con­tract with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to con­tinue to pro­vide that ser­vice, but ul­ti­mately it is go­ing to be up to pro­duc­ers. Pro­duc­ers have the re­spon­si­bil­ity to now pro­vide those ser­vices,” said Gor­don.

By the same mea­sure, as pro­duc­ers will be ex­pected to field the full costs of waste man­age­ment, the province hopes this will spur them to cut down their waste pro­duc­tion. Gor­don ac­knowl­edges though that busi­nesses are likely to pass some of in­creased costs onto the con­sumer.

Water­loo Re­gion coun­cil will re­ceive a report out­lin­ing how it will tackle the tran­si­tion to the new sys­tem un­der the Waste-Free On­tario Act.

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