Canadian Survey On Organic Waste Reduction

Colin Isaacs

Colin Isaacs
Online Exclusive

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment, a body composed of environment ministers from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, has recently published a report, “National Survey Results: Identification of Stakeholder Views of Opportunities and Barriers for Organics Waste Reduction and Diversion.” The report indicates that despite fairly extensive diversion efforts across the country large quantities of organics waste, especially food waste, are still being disposed at landfill.

The survey and subsequent stakeholder interviews, both conducted and analysed by international consultancy GHD and London, Ontario, based consultancy 2cg, identified the following Canada-wide barriers for end markets in the organics waste sector: Low market value for compost (in many processing facilities the ratio of revenues is as high as 90% tipping fees and as low as 10% end products); Inability to add value to compost; Difficulty having compost specified for various established uses; Challenge in removing all contamination from compost; Competition from other products (particularly from unregulated products); and Poor understanding/appreciation of compost value in the marketplace.

One particularly interesting part of the report is a synopsis of some of the work of the Quebec Working Group on Organics Waste Recycling. The Working Group, established in 2012, is composed of about 30 participants representing all the links of the value chain of Québec organics waste recycling, as well as environmental and government representatives. The Working Group has identified obstacles to implement activities to support organics waste management. These include:

• Administrative challenges involved in issuing authorization certificates

• Need to strengthen ties between municipal bodies and the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sectors in their territory

• Specific ICI needs in order to promote implementation of residual materials management

• Challenges of collecting from multifamily residential units

• Data standardization and accessibility

• Importance of identifying the information available and making it readily available

• Collection equipment, solid waste organics processing technology and decision aids

• Social acceptability and importance of information, awareness and education

• Need for knowledge of fertilizing residual materials (FRM), including quality, quantity, etc., in relation to inputs, processing methods, procurement and storage conditions, to ensure their best use (right product in the right place)

• Agricultural potential for product recycling

• Quality certification tools for agricultural products and development of markets

• Uncertainty regarding application of the ban on organic waste disposal

• Interpretation of certain requirements in the guidelines on composting activities

The authors concluded that the key Canada-wide barrier to organic waste diversion is a lack of provincial/territorial policies to stimulate program development, coupled with cost, with other barriers essentially ancillary to the primary barriers. While lack of government regulations and policies was conveyed as a barrier, it was also viewed as an opportunity to assist in implementing a more robust organics diversion program.

The authors also concluded that development of a tool kit on how to reduce and divert food waste, in order to educate the various sectors, would assist in addressing some of the common barriers identified. Further, providing a summary of best practices from other jurisdictions, including policies, programs and regulations, would assist in setting the overarching framework for increasing reduction and diversion nationally. Setting policies that support the organics diversion program, which take into consideration the full cycle of the system — reducing at source (generation), collection, processing, end markets — and providing funding, are key opportunities to address common barriers.

Overall, the report indicates that there is a strong opportunity for increased organics diversion in Canada, even in jurisdictions with established and relatively comprehensive diversion programs. The report is available on the CCME website: View PDF.

Colin Isaacs, an Ontario-based Chartered Chemist, is a consultant and analyst in the field of sustainable development for business.

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