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Government Failing to Reduce Ontario’s Waste

(Toronto, November 29, 2011) The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario has called on the new government to make waste diversion one of its top environmental priorities. In his 2010/2011 Annual Report released today, Gord Miller says progress on this issue has stalled and the government is sitting on solutions to reduce the more than 9 million tonnes of waste that are landfilled and incinerated every year.

"The Ministry of the Environment has identified many problems with Ontario’s waste diversion framework, and compiled a laundry list of possible solutions to address them," says Miller. "But for whatever reason, the government is failing to act on these progressive solutions."

Currently, only about 23% of the province’s waste is recycled and diverted from landfill and incineration. "Ontario’s diversion rate has hovered around 20% for the past decade, which is well below the government’s commitment to achieve 60% diversion by 2008," says Miller. "At the same time, the amount of waste generated each year has grown, which means that more waste is going to landfill."

The Environmental Commissioner says the causes of this failure are well known, and outlined in four discussion papers and reports issued by the Ministry of the Environment (see page 91 of the Annual Report). In the reports, the Ministry of the Environment acknowledges that: it is still less expensive to put waste in landfill than to recycle it; the Waste Diversion Act fails to make waste reduction and reuse a priority; and there is no direct financial incentive for manufacturers to reduce the waste their products create when they are thrown out, or to design products that are easier and cheaper to recycle.

Fortunately, these papers and reports also identify potential solutions for these problems, including:

  • Imposing a surcharge on waste that is sent to landfill.
  • Banning materials such as paper and electronics from landfill.
  • Requiring retailers to take back products at their end-of-life.
  • Establishing deposit/return systems for certain products and packaging.
  • Charging manufacturers lower environmental management fees if their products are easier and cheaper to recycle and dispose of.
  • Making individual manufacturers rather than their industry organizations responsible for meeting waste diversion requirements.
  • Requiring manufacturers to internalize the environmental management costs of their products, and prohibit manufacturers and retailers from showing these costs as separate charges on the receipt at point of sale (i.e. “eco fees”).

"The Ministry of the Environment clearly knows what it needs to do to reduce the amount of waste generated and discarded in Ontario,” says Miller. “Now the government needs to find the political will – and courage – to actually do it."

Read the chapter “What a Waste: Failing to Engage Waste Reduction Solutions”

Download the Environmental Commissioner’s full 2010/2011 Annual Report, “Engaging Solutions.”

Accompanying media releases

MOE and MNR Can’t Handle Core Responsibilities

Ontario Government Failing Endangered Species

For more information, contact:
Maria Leung
Communications and Outreach Coordinator
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario
416-325-3371 / 416-819-1673

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