Canadian company claims it can 100% recycle Lithium Batteries

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Li-Cycle, a three-year old company headquartered in Mississauga, Ontario recently announced that had developed a method that allows it to achieve a recycling rate of 80% to 100% of materials in lithium-ion batteries.

​It is estimated that 5% of lithium-ion batteries are collected for recycling (i.e. not reuse) globally, with some jurisdictions (e.g. some member states of the European Union) having much more efficient portable battery collection rates of >20%. Once lithium-ion batteries reach recycling facilities today, the existing best available recycling technology uses high-temperature processing (i.e. >1,000°C, also known as smelting, a pyrometallurgical method) to recycle lithium-ion batteries.

Smelting typically recovers 30-40% of the constituent materials in lithium-ion batteries. The residual 60-70% is either volatilized, cleaned and emitted to the atmosphere, or ends up in solid waste (i.e. slag). Smelting specifically targets the recovery of the base metals in lithium-ion batteries – cobalt, nickel and copper – with only proportions recovered thereof. Critical materials such as lithium are not economically recoverable via smelting. Low recoveries result in an impartially closed lithium-ion battery supply chain loop.

Li-Cycle Technology™ uses a combination of mechanical size reduction and hydrometallurgical resource recovery specifically designed for lithium-ion battery recycling. The technology can do so with an unparalleled recovery rate of 80 – 100% of all materials. The recycling process consists of two key stages: (1) Safe-size reduction of all lithium batteries from a charged state to an inert product and (2) recovery of the electrode materials to produce battery-grade end products.

In 2018, Li-Cycle received $2.7 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) to develop its novel process for the recovery and recycling of valuable materials from all types of lithium-ion batteries.

Earlier this year,  Li-Cycle was named as one of the top 100 international start-ups contributing to the energy transition through the 2019 Start-up Energy Transition (SET) Awards competition. This competition is run by the German Energy Agency (dena) and supported by the World Energy Council.

Li-Cycle has completed three research and development programs/physical validation work streams to date. The company is currently operating an integrated demonstration plant and is in the progressed stages of commercial plant development.  Li-Cycle’s physical validation work streams have been premised on a ‘scale-down’ focus, i.e. scaled down relative to commercial scale.  Each scale-down stage has been focused on the validation of specific key performance indicators.

Canadian Government funding for innovative plastic recycling technologies

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The government of Canada is partnering with Canadian businesses to develop innovative solutions to keep plastics in the economy and out of landfills and the environment.

The government recently announced six winners of the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge, a part of the Innovative Solutions Canada program. Dealing with issues related to food packaging, construction waste, and the separation of plastics for recycling, these Challenges are an opportunity to invest in innovative ideas and technologies that could play a role in addressing plastic pollution and moving Canada toward a zero-plastic waste future.

Copol International Ltd., one of the funding recipients located in Sydney, Nova Scotia, is a local small business developing a food packaging solution that would incorporate biodegradable components extracted from marine waste into a cast polypropylene film.

The $150,000 in funding will be used on a research project, in partnership with Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre, to develop and test biopolymer formulations extracted from marine plants and marine waste products and replace the unrecyclable product that is currently being used to make polypropylene film. For example, shrimp shells could be utilized in the manufacture of polypropylene film.

The research project will last approximately six months. If it is successful, then a prototype film will be produced for commercial testing.

Polypropylene (CPP) film products from the Copoal International Ltd. facility (Source: Copol International Ltd. website)

Copol International Ltd. has 54 employees, operates 24/7 in a 90,000-square-foot building. The company began operations approximately 20 years ago. IT currently provides customized mono- and multi-layer films for food and textile packaging, industrial applications, and heath care products for customers across North America 

Copol International Ltd. joins other small businesses from across the country who will each receive up to $150,000 to develop their idea.

Phase 1 recipients, such as the six winners of the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge, who successfully develop a proof of concept will be invited to compete for a grant of up to $1 million in Phase 2 to develop a prototype. The Government of Canada then has the option to be the first buyer of any successful innovation.

Innovative Solutions Canada consists of over $100 million in dedicated funding to support the scale-up and growth of Canada’s innovators and entrepreneurs by having the federal government act as a first customer for innovation. Twenty participating federal departments and agencies have set aside a portion of funding to support the creation of innovative solutions by Canadian small businesses.

A total of seven Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenges were put forward as part of the Innovative Solutions Canada program, each encouraging innovative solutions to a different problem area in addressing plastic waste.

The seven plastics challenges are sponsored by Environment and Climate Change Canada, Transport Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and Natural Resources Canada; who each oversee the selection of the winning projects for their respective Challenges.

Polystyrene foam recycling returns to two Ontario Municipalities

Two Ontario municipalities recently began recycling polystyrene foam. The Town of Brockton and the Town of Hanover now recycle polystyrene foam, in part due to $9,700 in grant money received from the Foam Recycling Coalition.

Brockton, Ontario is located Bruce County, approximately 200 km northwest of Toronto. As of 2016, the population was 9,461. Hanover, approximately 20 km east of Brockton, has a population of of approximately 7,600.

Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is a type 6 plastic that is also known as the trademarked brand Styrofoam.  It is used in in food and beverage packaging (i.e., coffee cups), insulation, and for protection of materials during shipping.  It has very low density as it is over 95 percent air.

Although 100% recyclable, EPS’s low density means transporting any quantity of it for recycling proves prohibitively expensive.

The municipalities began collecting post-consumer polystyrene foam in 2007, but the popular recycling program was suspended 10 years later due to changing markets for the material. The recycling services will resume with the help of a polystyrene densifier, which compacts collected materials into condensed polystyrene bricks. End markets then recycle the bricks into new products.

“The discontinuation of the agreement to transport materials in 2017 was sudden and unexpected. With this grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition, we found a solution that allows us to begin collecting polystyrene again and bring back this service to our residents,” said Ron Cooper, director of public works for the Town of Hanover, Ontario.

Brockton and Hanover’s waste management departments will operate the program through the use of community drop-off depots. Businesses and residents can bring foam cups, take-out containers, egg cartons and meat trays, as well as protective foam packaging often found around shipped electronics. The material will then be sent to a central location for densification and turned into new products as varied as crown molding, picture frames and receipt spools.

Foam Recycling Coalition

In 2014, the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC) was launched to support increased recycling of foodservice packaging made from foam polystyrene. In order to meet this objective, the FRC shares general information on foam recycling, provides technical resources and offers funding assistance to programs ready to start or strengthen post-consumer foam recycling.

In addition to encouraging the recycling of foam foodservice packaging (i.e. cups, plates, bowls, clamshells and cafeteria trays), the efforts of the FRC also extend to other foam food packaging like egg cartons and meat trays.

Other Polystyrene Recycling Projects in Canada

Nova Scotia

The Solid Waste Management Department of Colchester County, Nova Scotia is responsible for providing solid waste and recycling service to 130,000 residents across several communities.  In 2015, the Solid Waste Management Department estimated that foam polystyrene comprised one percent—620 tons—of the annual municipal waste stream. However, at the time, the county did not possess the equipment to efficiently recover foam products at their MRF, so the material still went to a landfill. To begin recovering this “lost” material, Colchester County applied for and was awarded a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition (FRC) that the county used to purchase a foam densifier for installation at their MRF. 

Unless it is densified, foam polystyrene is very lightweight. This makes the product inefficient and expensive to ship. Densifiers help compact foam into smaller, heavier, and more manageable bricks that can be easily transported in full truckload quantities. The MRF installed the new densifier in April 2016 and began densifying the foam that MRF employees captured at the end of the container line.

Densified foam polystyrene is a valuable commodity and tens of thousands of pounds can be trucked to end markets in a single load. Once the material is shipped from the MRF to plastic recycling facilities, the facilities grind, wash, and then pelletize the polystyrene which manufacturers can use instead of virgin plastic.

Quebec

Pyrowave, a pioneer in catalytic microwave depolymerization of plastics, has received a $50,000 grant from the Foam Recycling Coalition in 2017 to purchase equipment to allow for in-house processing of recycled polystyrene.

The Montreal, Quebec, company commercializes microwave-based equipment modules to perform fast depolymerization of mixed plastics and is focusing initially on post-consumer polystyrene. According to Pyrowave, the machines can depolymerize (or break down) post-consumer polystyrene materials into a styrene oil with up to 95 percent yield, which is then shipped to styrene buyers. 

Italian companies developing waste to fuel technology

Eni, a large energy company headquartered in Italy, recently signed an agreement with NextChem, Maire Tecnimont’s green chemistry subsidiary headquartered in Italy, to collaborate on the development of a technology that can turn waste into new energy, hydrogen, and methanol.

The two companies have signed a partnership agreement to develop and implement a conversion technology, which uses high-temperature gasification to produce hydrogen and methanol from municipal solid waste and non-recyclable plastic with minimal environmental impact.

Together, Eni and NextChem will assess the technical and financial impact of the new technology, which could be implemented at Eni’s industrial sites in Italy. Eni has already expressed interest in evaluating the “Waste to Hydrogen” project at its bio-refinery in Porto Marghera, Venice, and carried out a feasibility study in collaboration with NextChem.

The agreement will position Eni as co-developer of NextChem’s technology. This will contribute to environmental sustainability at Eni’s industrial sites, forming part of an increasingly integrated and efficient system designed to contain and reduce atmospheric emissions of CO².

“This partnership will see Eni acquire highly innovative technology. When this technology is combined with the rich technological assets that Eni has accumulated over decades of refining, it will help to establish a tangible circular economic process whereby fuel is produced from waste with low environmental impact”, said Giuseppe Ricci, Eni’s Chief Refining & Marketing Officer.

Maire Tecnimont Group’s CEO, Pierroberto Folgiero, stated: “This technological partnership with Eni, a leader in the sector, is an exceptionally important step for our green acceleration project. Energy transition requires the industrialisation of new transformation processes, and with NextChem we are ready to respond to the growing demand for change”.

Myths vs. Facts on Recycling in Canada

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With major headline in newspapers and newscasts on recycling in Canada, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) deemed it necessary to publish a fact sheet that dispels the myths and state the facts on recycling in Canada.

The Fact Sheet addresses one of the most persistent myths surrounding recycling, which is that no one knows how to address the challenges that the industry is currently facing. SWANA wanted it to be known that solutions are being implemented. Recycling facilities are embracing new technologies such as robotics to keep up with changing market requirements and material streams. New facilities are opening and existing ones are expanding, providing more demand for recyclables. Organizations are considering redesign, reuse and repair to address hard-to recycle items.

SWNA Fact Sheet of Recycling Myths and Facts

“Although the recycling industry is currently having some difficulties marketing some of their materials, the industry isn’t broken,” says Art Mercer, SWANA’s Incoming International Secretary. “Materials are recycled into new products and this has many benefits, such as energy and resource conservation. Just because it is temporarily difficult to market some of the items, this is no reason to stop recycling and throw these items away, often filling up landfills. Also, we need to remember that we all have a responsibility to reduce the items we buy and throw away. Recycling is not the only solution.”

SWANA is an organization of more than 10,000 public and private sector professionals committed to advancing from solid waste management to resource management through their shared emphasis on education, advocacy and research. For more than 50 years, SWANA has been one of the leading associations in the solid waste management field. SWANA serves industry professionals through technical conferences, certifications, publications and a large offering of technical training courses. 

Jet fuel production from waste plastics

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Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) recently published a paper in the Journal Advanced Energy in which they describe a research study they conducted turning waste plastics to jet fuel through catalytic pyrolysis with activated carbons.

WSU’s Dr. Hanwu Lei and colleagues melted plastic waste at high temperature with activated carbon, a processed carbon with increased surface area, to produce jet fuel.

“Waste plastic is a huge problem worldwide,” said Lei, an associate professor in WSU’s Department of Biological System Engineering. “This is a very good, and relatively simple, way to recycle these plastics.”

How it works

In the experiment, Lei and colleagues tested low-density polyethylene and mixed a variety of waste plastic products, like water bottles, milk bottles, and plastic bags, and ground them down to around three millimeters, or about the size of a grain of rice.

The plastic granules were then placed on top of activated carbon in a tube reactor at a high temperature, ranging from 430 degree Celsius to 571 degrees Celsius. The carbon is a catalyst; a substance that speeds up a chemical reaction without being consumed by the reaction.

“Plastic is hard to break down,” Lei said. “You have to add a catalyst to help break the chemical bonds. There is a lot of hydrogen in plastics, which is a key component in fuel.”

Once the carbon catalyst has done its work, it can be separated out and re-used on the next batch of waste plastic conversion. The catalyst can also be regenerated after losing its activity.

After testing several different catalysts at different temperatures, the best result they had produced a mixture of 85 percent jet fuel and 15 percent diesel fuel.

Environmental impact

If operated at a commercial scale, the process would go a long way to addressing the world’s plastic waste problems. Not only would this new process reduce that waste, very little of what is produced is wasted.

The pyrolysis process itself is considered to have low environmental impacts as it does not involve the combustion of plastic which subsequently requires the air pollutants to be treated.

“We can recover almost 100 percent of the energy from the plastic we tested,” Lei said. “The fuel is very good quality, and the byproduct gasses produced are high quality and useful as well.”

He also said the method for this process is easily scalable. It could work at a large facility or even on farms, where farmers could turn plastic waste into diesel.

“You have to separate the resulting product to get jet fuel,” Lei said. “If you don’t separate it, then it’s all diesel fuel.”

This work was funded under program initiated by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Ontario looking to revamp recycling and plastic waste programs

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The Ontario government recently appointed a special advisor to assist in revamping the Province’s recycling programs.

The Ontario government has engaged David Lindsay, currently the President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, as a Special Advisor on Recycling and Plastic Waste prepare a report by the end of the summer on how to tackle plastic waste and litter, improve recycling, increase products that can go into the blue box, and ensure producers are responsible for managing plastic and other packaging at end-of-life.

Ontario Environment Ministry, Rod Phillips, stated in the news release that he was engaging Mr. Lindsay in an effort to find solutions to the Province’s languid recycling rates. The current Blue Box Program has been in place since the 1980s and had world-renowned success in recovering residential printed paper and packaging for recycling. However, Ontario’s waste diversion rates have stalled at just over 60 per cent for the past 15 years.

“Ontario families take pride in doing their part for the environment. In fact, our own city of Kitchener was the birthplace of the world’s first Blue Box program,” said Minister Phillips. “Knowing this, I was disappointed to learn that, while Ontario families work to sort and recycle properly, government and industry are failing them. Ontario’s recycling rates have been stalled for 15 years and up to 30 per cent of what is put into blue boxes is sent to landfill. Not to mention, recent stories highlight how some of Ontario’s plastic waste is being unsustainably shipped across the ocean to the Philippines and Malaysia.”

In the open-facing letter to the Special Advisor, the Environment Minister has requested that work be guided by the following public policy objectives:

  • Standardization across the province of what can be recycled in offices, parks, public spaces and homes;
  • Improve diversion rates and increase what materials can be recycled;
  • Reduce litter and waste in communities and parks;
  • Improve Ontario’s Blue Box Program by requiring producers to pay for the recycling of the products they produce, through achieving producer responsibility;
  • Maintain or improve frequency of Blue Box collection; and
  • When increasing diversion in the residential sector, consider how these policies can also enable diversion in the institutional, commercial and industrial sector.

As Special Advisor, Mr. Lindsay has limited direct experience with waste issues. Prior to his current role as the President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, he was President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada and of Colleges Ontario, an advocacy organization for the province’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology. Mr. Lindsay has experience in the Ontario Public Service previously holding the position of Deputy Minister for the Energy and Infrastructure, Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Natural Resources, and Tourism and Culture portfolios.

David Lindsay

“I’m looking forward to helping Ontario’s municipalities and producers work together to address plastic litter and improve recycling in our province,” said David Lindsay. “Having stakeholders come together to identify concerns and find solutions will be integral to reinvigorating the province’s Blue Box Program and solving the problem of plastic litter and waste.”

In the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, Ontario committed to transitioning the costs of the Blue Box Program away from municipal taxpayers to make the producers of products and packaging fully responsible. Shifting to producer responsibility will obligate producers across the province to pay for and manage their materials. Based on 2017 costs, municipalities would save about $125 – $175 million annually once full producer responsibility for the Blue Box Program is put in place.

Reducing plastic waste and litter and making producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products is a key part of Ontario’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.

U.S. EPA Announces New Version Of An Interactive Excess Food Opportunities Map

The USDA Economic Research Services estimates that 133 billion pounds of food at the retail and consumer level in the United States goes uneaten every year. The accumulated total value of that loss and waste from three main food groups consists of $48 billion worth of poultry, meat, and fish, $30 billion of vegetables, and $27 billion in dairy products.

The U.S. EPA recently announced a new version of a mapping tool designed to assist in the reduction of food waste by displaying facility-specific information about potential generators and recipients of excess food. 

According to the U.S. EPA, the Excess Food Opportunities Map serves as an online “matching” service, linking, for example, owners of anaerobic digestion facilities with people looking to dispose of organic waste, including excess food. These anaerobic digestion facilities control organic decomposition in an oxygen-free, sealed tank to produce bioproducts and biosolids for on-site use or sale.

The updated interactive map identifies and displays facility-specific information about potential generators and recipients of excess food. For example, with additional follow up by the user, it may work as a kind of online matching service linking those who own and run anaerobic digestion facilities with those looking to dispose of organic waste, including excess food. In an anaerobic digestion facility, the process of organic decomposition is controlled in an oxygen-free, sealed tank so that the byproducts—biogas such as methane, and biosolids, which can be used as fertilizers—can be collected and sold or used on site.

The interactive and easy-to-use map was initially designed in 2014 by the Office of Research and Development’s (ORD) Regional Sustainability and Environmental Sciences Research Program (RESES). Since then, it was taken over by the Office of Land and Emergency Management (OLEM) and has evolved from a regional tool to a national one.

The recently updated version 2.0 now includes nearly 1.2 million potential excess food generators, including correctional and educational facilities, healthcare operations, food wholesalers, restaurants, and more. Some 4,000 recipients are identified including composting facilities and food banks.

About the Interactive Map

The U.S. EPA Excess Food Opportunities Map supports nationwide diversion of excess food from landfills. The interactive map identifies and displays facility-specific information about potential generators and recipients of excess food in the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors and also provides estimates of excess food by generator type.

The map has been updated to Version 2.0 and now displays the locations of nearly 1.2 million potential excess food generators. These include:

  • correctional facilities.
  • educational institutions.
  • food banks.
  • healthcare facilities.
  • hospitality industry.
  • food manufacturing and processing facilities.
  • food wholesale and retail.
  • restaurants and food services.

The map also displays the locations of communities with source separated organics programs, as well as more than 4,000 potential recipients of excess food. These include:

  • anaerobic digestion facilities.
  • composting facilities.
  • food banks. 

The mapped establishments and their locations are provided for informational purposes only. The Agency does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided as it has not been verified.

Developing Recycling Solutions for Fiberglass

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KWI Polymers, headquartered in Boisbriand, Quebec, recently received $150,000 in funding under the Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge to develop a possible solution for recycling fiberglass. The CPIC is funded by the Innovative Solutions Canada program. The end result could potentially turn transformed materials into street furniture, railings, sidewalks and decking.

There are few options for recycling and disposing of boats made of glass fiber-reinforced plastic, commonly referred to as fiberglass. Most of these boats end up in a landfill, or worse, abandoned on land or in the water. To address this issue, Transport Canada issued a challenge to Canadian small and medium-sized businesses to develop innovative solutions for recycling or reusing fiberglass in an energy-efficient way which recovers as much material as possible. KWI Polymers was a Canadian company that took up the challenge.

A 2007 report by the International Council of Marine Industry Associations estimates that a well-kept fiberglass boat easily can last 50 years, during which time it likely will change owners several times. But “even the best-constructed craft someday will have to end its life,” the report notes.

Statistics from 2016 compiled by the National Marine Manufacturers Association estimates there are 8.6 million boats in Canada. Most of the boats are constructed from fiberglass.

KWI polymers is a company that manufactures polymers from from both virgin and recycled materials. This includes thermoset, thermoplastic, elastomer and rubber polymers.

One aspect of the business of KWI polymers is regrinding. Regrind is material that has already undergone a process such as extrusion or molding and then is chopped up to the appropriate size for repurposing. KWI Polymers offers regrind of consistent quality that can be separated by color and reach a purity level of 95%. These purity levels that are rarely, if ever, attained by other companies in North America. The advantage of using regrind is that it generally comes at a lower cost, and reduces stress on the environment because of the reuse of existing material as an alternative to creating new material.

milled plastic goods with color sample plates (Source: KWI Polymers)

The Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge

The Canadian Plastics Innovation Challenge is a $12.85-million initiative supporting research projects that aim to address plastic pollution through new and innovative technologies. This initiative is funded by federal departments and agencies, through the Innovative Solutions Canada program, and invites Canadian small and medium-sized businesses to develop innovative solutions in response to specific challenges related to plastic waste.

Innovations Solutions Canada

There are 20 participating federal departments and agencies that will issue challenges through the Innovative Solutions Canada program. These challenges are designed to seek novel solutions and not commercially available products or services. Together, the funding from federal departments and agencies represents a $100-million investment for each of the next three years, to fund innovative challenges focused on various issues across all sectors including pollution from plastics.

Survey suggests some Ontario Municipalities are open to hosting a landfill

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A recent survey of municipal politicians and Chief Administration Officers commissioned by a coalition of over 70 Ontario municipalities has found that four in ten municipalities are open to the idea of acting as a host to a new landfill.

The coalition was formed to lobby the Ontario government into allowing more municipal control on the approval process for landfills in the Province. The coalition calls itself the Demand the Right Coalition of Ontario Municipalities. It commissioned Public Square Research to conduct the survey.

The survey involved a random selection process, with 325 participants. Invitations to participate in the survey were sent to a list of over 1,700 Mayors, Reeves, Councillors and chief administrators in Ontario.

Currently in Ontario, a private sector company is required to go through an environmental assessment process and then a technical environmental approval process before being permitted to develop a landfill site. Both of the processes are managed by the Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks (MOECP). No municipal approval is required.

The current timeline for approval for a new landfill in Ontario is anywhere from five to ten years. Extensive public consultation is required as part of the process as is discussions with municipal government officials. Many private sector proponents would likely see another level of government approval for landfill development as an added time and cost burden with very limited environmental benefit.

In November 2018, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation, and Parks published its Made-in-Ontario Environmental Plan. The plan included a proposal to provide municipalities with the right to approve new landfills. Further details of the proposed change were released for public comment in the follow-up Discussion Paper on Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities, published in March 2019.

The results of the survey found that the chief concerns of municipal leaders for new landfill approvals are environmental (27%), site location (19%), and financial considerations (15%). Other issues of importance included resident opinion (9%), odour controls (9%), and public safety (8%).

“We can now confirm that municipal approval will improve landfill operations, not eliminate them,” said Ted Comiskey, Mayor of Ingersoll and Chair of the Demand the Right Coalition. “By placing municipal governments on a level playing field with private waste management companies, councils and staff can negotiate for enhanced environmental protections, better site selections, and improved financial considerations on costs such as tipping fees and municipal services.”

Comiskey said, “Municipalities want the right to say yes or no, as we do with casinos, cannabis stores, and nuclear waste sites. This will be good for all concerned, as it means that communities will be given real choices. There will also be a cost impact on waste management. If the cost of landfill goes up, there will be a financial incentive for everyone to reduce their waste. Currently, there is none.”

70 Ontario municipalities are members of the Demand the Right Coalition