A bill introduced in Ontario would implement full extended producer responsibility for paper and packaging products as the province pushes to increase diversion rates and combat climate change.
Since 2002, producers and municipalities in Ontario have split the cost of providing curbside recycling for paper and packaging products. Under the Waste Free Ontario Act, unveiled in November by Glen Murray, a member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament and the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, producers would be the sole funding source.
“Currently, Ontario is generating too much waste, and not recycling enough,” according to a press release from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change at the time of the bill’s introduction. “As a result, the province has introduced the new Waste Free Ontario Act that would encourage producers to turn more of their waste into new products by requiring them to take full responsibility for their products and packaging.”
While packaging brand Unilever Canada has voiced support for the measure, also known as Bill 151, neither producers, currently organized under Stewardship Ontario, nor municipalities, organized under the Associated Municipalities of Ontario, have arrived at a position on the matter.
Both groups supply about $100 million annually to feed the current program and are set to meet with their respective boards early in 2016 to discuss Bill 151. A 90-day public consultation for the bill, which also reshapes current producer responsibility for hazardous waste and electronics, will run until mid-February, at which point there would be a second reading by Ontario legislators.
Ontario’s Blue Box curbside recycling program, as it has been called since the 1980s, was originally funded by the province’s government as well as municipalities and producers. In 2002, the Waste Diversion Act created the current funding and operational system, with oversight provided by the quasi-governmental body Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO).
Data compiled by WDO show the weighted amount of recyclables collected annually by municipalities since 2009 has essentially remained unchanged. Between 2013 and 2014, tonnages dropped by 1.7 percent.
In its current form, Bill 151 would make producers responsible for paying all costs associated with running the Blue Box program, which at present reaches about 95 percent of Ontarians. It would also set recovery goals for products and encourage producers to explore product design to enhance product longevity, reusability and recyclability.
Jo-Anne St. Godard, the executive director of the Recycling Council of Ontario, which advocates for waste reduction and recycling activities in the province, told Resource Recycling the legislation has been a long time coming.
“We’ve waited for new legislation for the better part of a decade and the fact that government is moving forward with this, is an important first step,” she said. “We may request changes but fundamentally we’re very pleased with what they’ve put forward.”
According to St. Godard, the bill will allow producers to meet new recovery targets for their products in a variety of ways. That flexibility, she says, could lead to substantial progress.
“You’re going to see new innovative approaches to recycling and you’re also probably going to see some pretty efficient programs as well. Whether they individually do it or they go ahead and invest in a separate program shared by a group of producers, they’re going to have the choice and they’re going to be accountable for their performance,” St. Godard said.