November 19, 2009 | General

Ontario Diversion Vision

BioCycle November 2009, Vol. 50, No. 11, p. 44
Compost Canada
Susan Antler

IN late October, the Honorable John Gerretsen, Ontario Minister of the Environment, released From Waste to Worth: The Role of Waste Diversion in the Green Economy, a review of Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act, 2002. The document includes future forward recommendations to advance waste diversion. Posted on the Environmental Bill of Rights Registry (; EBR Registry 010-8164) with a deadline for comments of January 11, 2010, the report summarizes input from the October 2008 discussion paper, Towards a Zero Waste Future: Review of the Waste Diversion Act, 2002 and launches a public dialogue on the Government of Ontario’s proposal for changes to the waste diversion framework.
The 2002 Waste Diversion Act (WDA) was put forward by the province to promote waste reduction, reuse and recycling, as well as provide the authority to establish waste diversion programs. Since 2002, a number of diversion programs have commanded the focus of both the government as well as the Waste Diversion Organization (WDO), the not-for-profit organization responsible for overseeing the development, implementation and operation of waste diversion programs in Ontario. These programs include:

Blue Box, covering 11 percent of waste generated in Ontario and serving the residential sector;

Municipal Hazardous & Special Waste, accounting for 0.7 percent of Ontario’s total waste generated and covering the residential sector as well as a small portion of the institutional, commercial and industrial (IC&I) sectors;

Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment, accounting for 0.7 percent of Ontario’s total waste generated and covering both the residential and IC&I sectors; and

Used Tires, covering all tires and accounting for 1.8 percent of Ontario’s total waste generated.
With a current overall diversion rate of 22 percent in Ontario (39 percent by households and 12 percent by IC&I) and the province’s target of a “Zero Waste Future,” organics residuals recovery and compost programs – accounting for approximately 40 percent and 32 percent of residential and IC&I “waste/resources” respectively – are well positioned to provide the significant diversion solutions that Ontario is seeking. This opportunity, combined with the considerable discussions that have ensued since the Compost Council of Canada (CCC) released the results in 2005 of industry-wide input regarding the diversion potential of our industry and key support requirements (the CCC’s Household Organics Recovery in Ontario), provide our Compost! team with the policy-creation momentum required to blast through existing program development barriers.

The Ontario Ministry of the Environment’s (MOE) From Waste To Worth report focuses Ontario’s diversion intent on four outcomes: Increased waste diversion; Innovations in sustainable product and packaging design; Investments in green processes and technologies to grow Ontario’s reuse and recycling sector; and Opportunities for all Ontarians to meaningfully participate and contribute to increasing waste diversion.
The report states that changes to Ontario’s waste diversion framework need to reflect a zero waste vision and be guided by the principles of producer responsibility, flexibility, accountability, transparency, competition and predictability.
The proposed concept of diversion is being defined as the recovery of physical constituents or elements through or in a process or technology, including thermal treatment, for subsequent use. Recovered materials would need to be used as is, replace other elements in a product or be incorporated in the production of new products with resultant products not being burned or landfilled. The report cites compost as an example of demonstrated beneficial use for potential land application of recovered material or resultant products and acknowledges anaerobic digestion as a process example through which compost can be recovered from organic material.
To create an investment climate for the building of diversion infrastructure and technology, the province is proposing development of a long-term waste diversion schedule that would designate materials for diversion, setting consistent timelines and milestones for each, as well as suggesting disposal bans effective at a reasonable time after waste diversion plans have been in place and when viable alternatives to disposal exist for the designated material. Branded organics (yet to be defined by MOE) are identified as a designated diversion category in the long term (five years).
From a plan development and management perspective, the Ministry proposes three main roles:
1) MOE would set the policy framework and be responsible for enforcement;
2) WDO would carry out plan oversight and plan compliance, being given authority to charge fees on a cost-recovery basis to producers and programs for registration and compliance checks of waste diversion plans and annual progress updates;
3) Producers would be charged with the responsibility to meet the diversion and management obligations set out in the WDA, registering and submitting diversion plans and data annually to ensure compliance.
Included as a proposal is the setting of a disposal levy on each metric ton of waste to narrow the price gap between diversion and disposal. Citing the results of other jurisdictions that have already undertaken this action, the expected result is to encourage waste generators to change existing behavior, with the collected revenue being used to support a range of diversion activities, “all designed to improve Ontario’s capacity to reduce waste, increase waste diversion, and foster a green economy.”

Our many years of work with Ontario to introduce updated regulations, direct increased attention and resources to organic residuals recovery and provide the investment environment that will allow for program sustainability is now being presented with the opportunity to become a cornerstone in the future-forward diversion vision of the province. From Waste To Worth has stated the province’s intent to achieve incremental diversion results to catapult Ontario into a leadership position in the green economy. It will be the Compost! vision of our members and their current and ensuing programs that will make this a reality.
Your input to our Council’s comments and submission to the consultation report, From Waste to Worth, is always welcome and needed ( As well, we would encourage your individual submissions to the EBR process, recognizing that the deadline for comments is January 11, 2010 (; enter EBR Registry Number 010-8164).

Susan Antler is Executive Director of the Compost Council of Canada, which is gearing up to start its 20th Anniversary celebrations in 2010.

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