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The Ministry of the Environment made two significant waste management policy announcements this week

First, the Ministry has issued a proposed Policy Statement on Waste Management Planning.  This is apparently esoteric topic will give direction to municipalities in the contentious and difficult area of waste management.  All municipalities with populations over 100,00 must develop 20-to-25-year municipal waste plans within two years; smaller municipalities will have an extra six months.

The waste plans must include maximum diversion of materials from disposal and management of waste close to where it is generated.  Waste is to be recognized as a “resource” which presumably will encourage energy from waste plants. “Producer responsibility” is be included, although it is not obvious how municipalities can do this. According to the MOE, “the Province expects the principles articulated in the policy statement will guide the waste management decisions of those municipalities and the private sector.”  Public comments on the document may be made until July 27 at EBR No. 010-0420.

Second, the Minister wrote to the Chair of Waste Diversion Ontario directing her to develop a waste diversion program for electronic waste, especially desktop and portable computers, monitors, printers and peripherals, and audio-visual equipment such as televisions.  The plan must be submitted to the Minister by February 1, 2008, in co-operation with a new Industry Funding Organization. Brand owners, first importers and/or assemblers of non-branded products will be expected to pay for waste electronics take-back/disposal programs. Waste Diversion Ontario must build on what the Minister calls “legitimate diversion activities including … reuse organizations that collect, refurbish and distribute used electronic products for community and charitable purposes, and take back programs organized by electronic product manufacturers.”

It is not yet clear what the Ministry expects the take-back programs to do with the collected electronic waste, other than keep it out of domestic landfills. At present, there is a thriving trade shipping waste electronics to places like Hong Kong for disassembly and reuse/recycling. Will the collected electronics continue to be shipped overseas, and, if so, under what conditions?

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