Ontario report: Province is landfilling jobs across the border

Ontario report: Province is landfilling jobs across the border

By Editorial Staff, Resource Recycling

June 4, 2014

A study investigating the economic potential of waste diversion in Ontario argues the province should focus on more than just lifting recycling rates — it also needs to stop sending so much material to the U.S.

The report, written by nonprofit research group The Conference Board of Canada on behalf of the Ontario Waste Management Association, extrapolated data from a number of other North American studies to determine that increasing Ontario's overall diversion rate (including residentitial and commercial sources) to 60 percent from its current 23 percent level would lead to an additional 13,000 full-time jobs in the province and increase GDP by $1.5 billion.

The research indicates curbing the export of waste would be a major driver in those economic gains. From 2003 to 2008, the amount of solid waste sent from Ontario to New York landfills increased more than three-fold, according to the report, from 250,000 to 800,000 metric tons. The report also says significant tonnages of recyclables end up being shipped to Michigan for disposal.

"[Policy-makers] should consider the fact that a substantial amount of recyclable materials is exported, rather than processed locally and used to supply domestic manufacturers," the report reads.

The study comes roughly a year after Ontario's environment minister first proposed a revamped policy called the Waste Reduction Act that, among other strategies, opened the door to the expansion of extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems in the province.

The study notes analysis of EPR implementation in other areas shows that those systems can benefit local economies as they increase the tonnages of diverted materials. However, the report also raises a concern about the economics of EPR, arguing that as producers are forced to cover the costs of collection and processing, consumers may end up confronting higher prices when they shop.

"If the resulting increases in prices is substantive," the report states, "it could lead to a reduction in consumption, which could have a negative impact on the economy."

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