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On March 6, 2019, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks released a discussion paper titled, Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities (the “Discussion Paper”).

As the Introduction indicates, the Discussion Paper is intended to outline in further detail the steps that the government proposes to take to meet some of the commitments of the November 2018 policy document: Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan (the “Environment Plan”).

The Environment Plan outlined a number of commitments to reducing litter and waste, including:

  • Reducing litter in our neighbourhoods and parks;
  • Increasing opportunities for the people of Ontario to participate in waste reduction efforts;
  • Reducing and diverting food and organic waste from households and businesses; and
  • Reducing plastic waste.

This Policy Paper includes a section on each of the commitments above, as well as the following additional goals:

  • Make producers responsible for their waste;
  • Provide clear rules for compostables;
  • Recover the value of resources; and
  • Support competitive and sustainable end-markets.

Within each section, the government has set out in largely aspirational language the next steps proposed to be taken to meet each commitment.

Anyone reading this Policy Paper for specific, concrete actions that the government is committed to taking may be disappointed, but there are a variety of ideas and commitments throughout the document that are worth noting.

For example, in subsection 2.3, the government has clearly indicated that they will continue the work begun by the previous government to transition to “full producer responsibility” under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016. There is also a commitment to “harmonize” the list of materials accepted in Blue Box programs across the province, as these programs are transitioned to full producer responsibility.

In the section on reducing and diverting food and organic waste, the Discussion Paper indicates that the province will develop a proposal to ban food waste from landfills, and will also develop guidelines to promote the safe donation of surplus foods.

The Discussion Paper also signals the government’s support for emerging “Thermal Treatment” technologies to use waste to generate synthetic fuels and other sources of energy. The Discussion Paper commits the government to review how Ontario’s regulatory and approvals frameworks can support the adoption of these technologies while continuing to meet air standards and waste management requirements.

The Discussion Paper also makes a commitment to “provide municipalities and the communities they represent with more say in landfill approvals process”. While this will be a welcome statement to many communities that host such facilities, the Policy Paper is short on details of precisely what form this commitment will take.

What is clear from reading this Policy Paper in the context of the larger Environmental Plan is that a picture of this government’s priorities and approach to environmental stewardship is beginning to take shape, but the details are still in the making.

This Discussion Paper has been posted to the Ontario Environmental Registry for a 45-day commenting period.

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