COVID-19 Lockdown Measures in Ontario and the Impact on Waste Management

The Ontario government is moving Peel Region and Toronto into Lockdown effective Monday, November 23, 2020 at 12:01am. Durham Region and Region of Waterloo will move to “Red-Control” level (restrictions across multiple sectors).

Lockdown measures and restrictions will largely affect retail establishments, restaurants, bars, sports and entertainment facilities, post-secondary schools, and meeting and event spaces, among others.

Waste Management Services Exempt from Lockdown

Under Section 34(ii) of Ontario Regulation 82/20, services and businesses that include “Collecting, transporting, storing, processing, disposing or recycling of any type of waste” are considered essential and exempt from lockdown measures. Also exempt are other businesses that supply other essential businesses or essential services within Ontario.

Regions will stay in their restriction level for 28 days (to Dec 21st), or two COVID-19 incubation periods, at which time, the government will assess the impact of public health measures to determine if the public health unit should stay where they are or be moved to a different level.

The following regions will be in the following restriction levels effective Monday, November 23, 2020 at 12:01 a.m.:
Lockdown (maximum measures) – GREY
• Peel Region*
• City of Toronto*

Control (stringent measures) – RED
• Durham Region*
• Region of Waterloo*
• City of Hamilton
• Halton Region
• York Region

Restrict (intermediate measures) – ORANGE
• Huron-Perth*
• Simcoe Muskoka District*
• Southwestern Public Health (Oxford, Elgin, St. Thomas)*
• Windsor-Essex County*
• Niagara Region
• Ottawa
• Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph

*NEW
Please read the Ontario COVID-19 Response Framework for details on which regions and which services and businesses are at different restriction levels. If you have questions about temporary measures, including closures and essential workplaces during the coronavirus outbreak, call Ontario’s Business Information Line at 1-888-444-3659.

Regina’s Green Cart Pilot Project showing signs of Success

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The first month results are in on the City of Regina’s green cart pilot project.  Pilot projects participants of the Saskatchewan city of 230,000 have increased the residential diversion rate to 51.7 per cent by using their green carts. These early results show that when fully implemented, green carts will help move Regina closer to our goal of diverting 65 per cent of residential waste from the landfill.

The City launched a one-year residential Food and Yard Waste Pilot in fall 2020 with approximately 2,800 homes across the community to test, evaluate and revise the service before city-wide roll out.  A food and yard waste service will meet current and future waste disposal needs, extend the life of our Landfill and protect the quality of life of future generations.

There is lots of excitement about the new service among pilot participants. In a pre-pilot survey, participating households said:

  • 93% support the Food and Yard Waste Pilot.
  • 84% indicated support for using a third cart for food and yard waste.
  • 82% indicated support for year-round biweekly garbage collection.

Pilot participants are being good sorters. Most of the material collected is on the acceptable items list including food scraps such as meat, bones, dairy and greases, yard waste, soiled paper towel and cardboard. The majority of items we are seeing that don’t belong have been plastic bags and cups.

Every bit of food and yard waste that goes into the green carts makes a difference. It saves landfill space, reduces greenhouse gas emissions and the material collected is turned into compost. The City’s pilot processing site at the Landfill uses the GORE Cover System, a proven model currently operating at over 300 sites around the world. The typical composting process is eight weeks.

Throughout the year, the City will continue to monitor the pilot and work with participants to determine the best options for the city-wide Food and Yard Waste Service in 2023.

Curbside Tune-Up of Organics and Recyclables in Squamish, B.C.

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The District of Squamish, in partnership with Squamish CAN, and Recycle BC, is conducted curbside checks to help improve individual organics and recycling. Auditors will visit all Squamish neighbourhoods for brief inspections of both recycling and organics totes in October.

The Audit

The audit work as follows:

  • Auditors will conduct a brief visual inspection of curbside recycling and organics totes in all Squamish neighbourhoods in October.
  • Visible contaminants may be handled.
  • All auditors wore be wearing identification.
  • Residents received a Recycling Champion sticker or a notice with tips on what goes where. Residents will also receive a notice on their organics bin with tips on what goes in and what stays out.

Messaging to Residents

The messaging to resident were as follows:

  • Do not bundle, bag or stack your recyclables.
  • Clean and rinse your containers prior to recycling.
  • Get tips on proper recycling at squamish.ca/recycling-collection.
  • Download the Squamish Curbside Collection app for the Waste Wizard materials look-up tool to know what goes where.

 

Ontario’s Proposed Blue Box Transition Legislation: Progress, or doubling down on a broken system?

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Written by Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, Co-Investigator: “The Waste Wiki” – Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University

For much of this past week, I have been asked by a range of stakeholders and media outlets to provide my thoughts on Ontario’s proposed Blue Box transition plan. Generally speaking, the headlines surrounding the province’s announcement have been positive: “Ontario is developing a stronger, more effective Blue Box Program”, and that the proposed changes will be “Good for the environment, good for the economy, encourage investment, job creation and spur innovation in the recycling and resource recovery sector”.

Before I offer my opinion, let us first touch on what changes are being made to the Blue Box program, and what the perceived benefits are supposed to be:

What is being proposed:

  • Standardize and increase the list of materials accepted in the Blue Box, including paper and plastic cups, wraps, foils, trays, bags, and other single use items such as stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates.
  • Transition the costs of the program away from municipal taxpayers by making the producers of products and packaging fully responsible for costs, resulting in an estimated savings of $135 million annually for municipalities.
  • Expand blue box services to more communities, such as smaller, rural and remote communities, including those under 5,000 people.
  • Set the highest diversion targets in North America for the various categories of waste producers are expected to recycle such as paper, glass, beverage containers and rigid and flexible plastic, encouraging innovation such as better product design and the use of new technologies for better environmental outcomes.
  • Expand the steward obligation to include three additional IC&I sectors (long term care/retirement homes, elementary/secondary schools, and private multi-residential buildings)
  • Provide bin “twinning” in all public spaces (increasing density of both garbage and recycling collection points in public spaces and other high foot traffic areas)

What are the (purported) benefits:

  • The transition to 100% producer responsibility will reduce municipal costs by approximately $135 million dollars annually
  • Municipalities will pass this savings on to households, in the form of reduced property taxes or levy-rates.
  • Standardizing the list of materials accepted in the Blue Box makes it easier for Ontarians to understand “what goes in the bin”
  • Expanding the list of materials accepted in the Blue Box makes it easier for Ontarians to participate “Put it in the bin, and we will figure it out”
  • Increasing service coverage to ensure that smaller communities, particularly in the provinces rural and northern areas, are able to receive Blue Box collection
  • A producer lead system is believed to have better control at containing costs, realizing operational efficiencies, and designing more sustainable packaging
  • A producer lead system will be able to invest in sorting/processing infrastructure and develop robust end markets for difficult to recycle light weight and composite materials
  • Investments in recycling infrastructure will lead to job creation and spur the development of new secondary industries.

For all intents and purposes, the province has doubled down on their approach to try and recycle “everything” and “everywhere” – after all, more recycling can’t be a bad thing, can it? This is the question that I find myself grappling with as I consider the scope and potential impact of these changes – telling people that recycling can actually be a bad thing has made me a relatively unpopular figure in Canada’s waste world.

While I have written on this subject extensively in the past, I think the easiest way to start this conversation is: “How much are willing to spend to recycle something?”. Now, the answer to this will depend on the material in question, perceived risks to the environment, available infrastructure and the attitudes/opinions/awareness of the person answering the question, but the purpose behind the question is to gauge at what point is it no longer beneficial (economically or environmentally) to recycle a product? In an ideal world, we would want to recycle everything, but our reality (particularly in Ontario), is that we operate in a resource constrained system. There is an opportunity cost to every decision that we make – a dollar spent on one activity, is one less dollar spent on something else. Which is what makes the government’s announcement so perplexing…. The costs of operating our existing Blue Box program have grown exponentially in the past decade, as waste management infrastructure has become increasingly incompatible with the types of packages that are being used today. This is actually one of the primary concerns expressed by municipalities in Ontario – our households want to recycle and put everything in the Blue Bin, but much of these materials are either not recyclable, or are virtually worthless as a commodity.

I have personally been part of conversations advising municipalities about what does and does not belong in the Blue Bin – overwhelmingly, the sentiment was that many composite and light-weight materials shouldn’t be collected, and the challenge was educating households (and city councils) that some things are better off not being recycled -a daunting task given Canadians love affair with recycling)

Catalyst for change

So, what has changed? Why do we suddenly want to expand the list of materials accepted in the program, including materials we know cannot be readily recycled in our current system? The answer as it turns out, is who pays the bill. In the transition to full producer responsibility, packaging producers (often referred to as stewards in Canada), will be financially and physically responsible for end of life packaging waste. The transition to 100% EPR has been a long time coming, but the decision to expand the list of approved materials and include three additional IC&I (Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional) sectors came as a surprise to many. The province has repeatedly said that the costs associated with these changes are relatively minor ($15 million dollars in their original estimates) – however, when faced with push back on these estimates and questions were raised regarding the methodology used to calculate them, the province acquiesced and revised their estimates to $115 million dollars (please see attached regarding the university’s cost model critique that served as the basis for the revised numbers). This is in addition to the $135 million that producers will now have to pay because of the transition to 100% EPR.

Regardless of these cost increases, the sentiment shared by many advocates of the transition plan is that if a producer makes it, they should pay for it. Even if it cannot be recycled now, then producers will have to find ways to develop the necessary infrastructure and end markets to make their packaging recyclable in the future. It is these investments in the recycling system that will not only lead to increased diversion but spur economic growth in the sector. This is a very easy message to get behind and sell to the public – multi-billion dollar CPG companies have shirked their responsibilities for too long, and they must pick up the tab for keeping packaging waste out of landfill. But let us dig a little deeper into the implications behind transitioning the costs to producers, as well as what it means to expand the scope and scale of the Blue Box program.

Right off the bat, we know that the minimum bill that producers will face is $250 million dollars annually, as estimated by the MOECP. But this paints an incomplete picture of the broader situation – We must consider the costs of developing the collection and sorting infrastructure to effectively capture new materials (something that has yet to be modeled). If Ontarians are now able include plastic cutlery, foil trays, wrap and bags etc. in their Blue Box, our waste management system will require a massive overhaul.

As of today, most of the items listed above are treated as contamination, screened out at material recycling facilities, and ultimately landfilled. Municipalities don’t want to collect these materials due to the difficulty (and cost) associated with recycling. End markets do not want them either as they have little to no value, and limited end use applications. If anything, the presence of these materials in the recycling system increases the costs of managing all other materials – something that the university has attempted to explain using the endogeneity hypothesis: “the “endogeneity hypothesis” refers to a situation where the cost of one material is dependent on the presence of other materials being managed in the system.  As a crude example, a hypothetical material mix of just newsprint and cardboard may take minutes to sort one tonne, but a mix of newsprint, cardboard and film would take substantially longer to process the same amount. There is a collinearity in the impact on costs that materials have on one another that are virtually impossible to predict.

While there have been no formal attempts to model the marginal costs associated with infrastructural investment, it is a fair assumption to say that it will not be $0 – the $250 million dollar estimate made by the MOECP fails to capture the financial impact of developing, operating and maintaining new infrastructure. These are costs that will not be absorbed by industry, as (in my opinion) costs will be transferred to consumers and ultimately manifest in the form of higher prices for packaged goods. While many have vehemently disagreed with this assertion, arguing that EPR will save households money as a result of a decrease in municipal taxes, the math says otherwise.

Impact to industry and households

In a previous post, I mentioned that York University had conducted a study examining the impact of the Blue Box transition plan on packaging prices (and subsequent effect on households). This study found that depending on locality, the increase in “basket of goods” prices resulting from the proposed legislation would range between 6% and 12% (a number that has been criticized by transition advocates). However, even if we are to set aside assumptions surrounding the direct, indirect and induced effects resulting from the proposed legislation; and assume that municipalities reduce property taxes/levies in direct proportion to the $135 million dollars resulting from the transition to 100% EPR; we are still adding (at minimum) an additional $115 million dollars in annual program costs as a result of service expansion. If we begin to add in the costs associated with building additional infrastructure, end market development, P&E and administrative expenses, it quickly becomes apparent that producers will be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars over and above what they pay today. Even if people disagree with whether these costs will be downloaded onto the consumer, costs internalized by industry can result in numerous unintended and unwelcome outcomes. Perhaps it is best to think of the issue as reducing investment in the province by $115 million dollars – can these costs be readily borne by industry, and if not, what will the outcomes be? (job loss, operational contraction etc.).

These proposed changes would be much more palatable if it resulted in superior environmental, economic, and social outcomes for Ontarians. However, the benefits of trying to recycle many of the materials that are being added to the Blue Box are highly questionable. In addition to the technical difficulties associated with trying to recycle these materials, the costs to do so are enormous. To make matters worse, the carbon savings resulting from recycling are nominal relative to the benefits of high impact materials like aluminum, OCC/OBB etc. As a result, producers are going to be paying a huge bill for the Blue Box, but to what end?

What are we trying to achieve?

Returning to the topic of opportunity cost, the primary issue is trying to determine what we want to achieve with the Blue Box. Based on what the province has put forward under the transition plan, it appears as though Ontario’s goal is to recycle more, expanding the list of accepted materials and setting the highest material specific diversion targets in North America. The Blue Box transition plan is trying to eliminate the barriers to recycling, making it simpler, easier to understand, accessible and convenient to all households. But there in lies the problem – despite Ontario’s fixation on recycling, it is not, nor has it ever been, the preferred end of life scenario. It seems a touch ironic that the Blue Box transition was announced during waste reduction week. We continue to conflate recycling with sustainability, reinforcing the narrative to households that recycling is our primary goal.

In many ways, the proposed legislation can do more harm than good – even if we are to set aside the costs of operating the system – what is it are we asking Ontarians to do? Based on the government’s announcement, we are making it as easy as possible for households to participate. While this can certainly encourage participation, it can also lead to complacency and confusion. Households (as much as possible) need to understand that not all recycling is created equal, and that waste reduction, reuse and composting are additional strategies that may be more appropriate depending on the waste in question. Our goal should not be to trying to maximize the quantity of material being put in the bin – it should be about achieving the best environmental outcome at the lowest possible cost. What good is it to have households put plastic wrap and foil trays in the Blue Bin, only for it to get tossed as residue, or downcycled at an exorbitant cost.

Proponents of a “recycling first” approach will make an argument that recycling will help maximize the full use value of a material, and ultimately help keep these materials out of landfills and our environment. I don’t disagree – however, I do think that we need to remember “what did I have to give up doing it?”.  Over the past 10 years, Ontario has spent almost 3 billion dollars on the gross costs operating the Blue Box program. During this same period, recycling rates have stalled and are trending downwards, year over year increases in operating costs are in the double digits and changes in the packaging mix have rendered existing infrastructure dated and incompatible. Was this money well spent? Could it have been better utilized on other sustainability initiatives? Could we have used that money to invest in end of life technologies that do not rely on recycling to divert material? Despite my criticism of the program, I do not have an answer for this. In hindsight, the province could have done things differently, but nobody could have predicted package light weighting, the Chinese sword and collapses in commodity prices etc. Considering these unexpected challenges, Ontario should be commended for what it has accomplished with the Blue Box. However, now is the time that we should be moving away from our reliance on recycling, not  doubling down on it.

Moving forward

When reviewing the proposed changes to the Blue Box program, I am reminded of the quote “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

For almost 20 years, we have seen the growth, maturation and success of the Blue Box, as well as the more recent challenges that have called into question its long-term viability. The current narrative surrounding Blue Box legislation is that the transition to 100% EPR producer run system will somehow be able to overcome these issues. According to the government, the Blue Box transition will usher in an era of reduced taxes, more sustainable packaging choices, new processing technology, increased accessibility, and improved diversion. Based on research done to date and experiences from other jurisdictions, it is questionable as to whether any of these things will happen.

What I find truly perplexing is the insistence that packaging producers will somehow be able to operate the system more effectively than municipalities and find solutions to the problems that plague our existing system. How exactly will producers be able to sort, process and market materials that currently have no end markets (film, multi-resin plastic, coated fiber etc.)? How will producers be able to effectively provide service to rural and northern municipalities under 5000 residents? How do we expand the steward obligation to include certain IC&I sectors, when we do not know how much waste is being generated and who is managing it? If municipalities have historically struggled to address these issues, why would producers be able to?

Handing producers the keys to the system and saying, “You figure it out”, is absolving the province of the responsibility to develop legislation that is effective, economic and equitable. It will also negatively effect Ontarians, as they will be the ones left having to pay the tab for any costs borne by industry. There are literally hundreds of millions of dollars at stake annually, so it is prudent that we make informed and reasoned decisions.

It has taken Ontario the better part of a decade to adopt a 100% EPR model for packaging waste, and now the province wants to introduce a slew of additional changes, without fully understanding the potential impacts. This was aptly highlighted when the MOECP revised their estimates surrounding the cost of the proposed changes, as they were an order of magnitude off (factor of 10). As we move forward with the new legislation, I think it is critical that the province approach any proposed change with caution, evaluating the full range of impacts to all affected stakeholders.

At a more general level though, I think it is time we re-evaluate the role of recycling in both our society and in promoting sustainability. For the better part of 30 years, we have been inundated with the message to recycle – it has been a fixture in many of our lives, and my earliest memories as a budding environmentalist was putting kraft paper in the Blue Bins in elementary school. The act of recycling makes us feels good, because we think it does good (for the environment and the economy). But that does not mean that we can’t be doing better. I do not want people to misconstrue this post or my opinion as being anti-recycling or anti-EPR – I think both can play a significant role in helping achieve our diversion and carbon abatement goals. What I do want to emphasize is that recycling will not always yield the best outcome – it is merely one tool in our tool box, and the decision to recycle something will depend on a multitude of factors that are site and situation specific. Waste reduction, reuse, composting, energy from waste and even landfilling may be preferred to recycling depending on the circumstance.

In my opinion, the Blue Box transition plan is a new coat of paint on a dated strategy – while it does move the province towards a 100% producer responsibility model, it is premised on a prescriptive “recycling first” approach. It is time for the province to start thinking “outside of the Blue Box” and identify new end of life strategies to help Ontario achieve its sustainability goals in the long run.

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About the Author

Calvin Lakhan, Ph.D, is currently co-investigator of the “Waste Wiki” project at York University (with Dr. Mark Winfield), a research project devoted to advancing understanding of waste management research and policy in Canada. He holds a Ph.D from the University of Waterloo/Wilfrid Laurier University joint Geography program, and degrees in economics (BA) and environmental economics (MEs) from York University. His research interests and expertise center around evaluating the efficacy of municipal recycling initiatives and identifying determinants of consumer recycling behavior.

In-vessel Composter for Sale in Ontario

 is selling an in-vessel digestor (composter) purchased new from Brome Compost inc. in Sept ’19. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

Asking: $45,000 • Brome In-vessel Composter Model # 516:

• Purchased new in Sept 2019
• Interested in more info, please email: [email protected]
• Located in Orangeville, Ontario

Canadian Government Proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products to Prevent Waste and Pollution

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A Canadian federal government recently released a Discussion Paper entitled A Proposed Integrated Management Approach to Plastic Products to Prevent Waste and Pollution.  The purposed of the discussion paper is to seek input on a proposed integrated management approach to plastics to take a number of actions, including regulations which would be developed under the provisions of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

According to a recent study conducted by Deloitte,1 over 3 million tonnes of plastics were discarded as waste in Canada in 2016, and only 9% was recycled. Plastic waste burdens our economy, representing a $7.8B lost opportunity. When leaked into the natural environment, plastic threatens the health of our wildlife, ecosystems, rivers, lakes and oceans. In 2016, 29,000 tonnes of plastic waste entered the Canadian environment as pollution.

Action is needed to eliminate plastic pollution at its source by reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills or the environment. This can be achieved through greater prevention, collection, innovation and value recovery of plastic waste and transitioning to a more circular economy for plastics.  The development and scaling up of new forms of plastic and new technologies provides opportunities to incentivize and support improved recovery of resources from products and packaging at the end of their useful life. Retaining materials and products in a circular economy not only reduces greenhouse gases
emissions and pressure on the environment, but also has significant economic benefits. The transition to a more circular economy would save costs, increase competitiveness, stimulate innovation, support prosperity by creating new jobs and reduce the amount of plastic entering the environment.

The Government of Canada is taking steps toward eliminating plastic pollution in Canada, including potentially banning or restricting certain harmful single-use plastic products, where warranted and supported by science.  For example, under Canada’s G7 presidency in 2018, the Government of Canada championed the development of the Ocean Plastics Charter,2 which commits to a more resource-efficient and lifecycle approach to plastics stewardship, on land and at sea.

In October 2020, the Government of Canada released a Science Assessment of Plastic Pollution. The Science Assessment presents a thorough scientific review of the occurrence and potential impacts of plastic pollution on human health and the environment.  The Science Assessment recommends pursuing actions to reduce macroplastics and microplastics that end up in the environment, in accordance with the precautionary principle, which states that “where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation”.

In order to take action as recommended in the Science Assessment, the Government of Canada has proposed using enabling authorities under CEPA to regulate certain plastic manufactured items. This will allow the Government to enact regulations that target sources of plastic pollution and change
behaviour at key stages in the lifecycle of plastic products, such as design, manufacture, use, disposal and recovery in order to reduce pollution and create the conditions for achieving a circular plastics economy.

Next steps and sending comments

The Government  of Canada recognizes the importance of balancing environmental protection and clean growth with the economic importance of plastic and its role in protecting human health, in particular during this COVID-19 public health emergency.

Taking into account lessons from the current pandemic and mindful of continued constraints brought about by the pandemic, Canadians and Canadian businesses will be given the opportunity to participate meaningfully in informing any measures taken.

Next steps for ECCC will include engagement with provincial and territorial governments, Indigenous Peoples and stakeholders on the design of the regulatory instruments and the approaches outlined in this discussion paper.

Parties wishing to comment on any aspect of this paper, including the categorization of single-use plastics and proposed management approaches, are invited to provide written comments to the Director of the Plastics and Marine Litter Division of ECCC by December 9, 2020 at [email protected]

 

 

Ontario’s blue box transition: Bringing individual producer responsibility to packaging

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Written by Jonathan Cocker, BLG and Denisa Mertiri, Green Earth Strategy

On October 19, 2020, Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks released a proposed regulation to govern the Ontario blue box program under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (the RRCEA). The regulation will transition Ontario’s blue box recycling program, covering paper products and packaging (PPP), to full extended producer responsibility (EPR).

Since 2002, Ontario has operated a shared responsibility framework for EPR, with municipalities and producers each bearing half the cost of municipal blue box programs. Municipalities, however, have remained in charge of operating recycling systems. The new regulation transitions both financial and operational responsibility to producers. It also aims to refine EPR using the innovative policy mechanism of individual producer responsibility (IPR), making each individual “producer” of PPP directly and individually responsible for resource recovery of the PPP placed onto the market in the province.

Using IPR, the province aims to hold individual producers accountable for the entire lifecycle of their own products – a watershed event in the development of a circular economy for PPP.

There are a number of notable requirements in the draft regulation implementing an IPR framework for PPP in Ontario.

Expanded list of materials

Currently, the blue box system includes paper products and packaging materials. The new regulation expands this list to include “packaging-like products” and certain single-use items. By including packaging-like products, the regulation targets items that so far have been free riders in Ontario’s blue box system. These include aluminum pie plates or bags bought in bulk. These items are indistinguishable from many considered packaging, such as aluminum plates used to package pies sold in supermarkets. With respect to single-use products, the regulation targets products such as straws, cutlery, plates used to consume food, and drink containers that are “ordinarily disposed of after a single use, whether or not they could be reused.”

Ontario’s choice to include these items aligns Ontario’s list of materials with those regulated as PPP in British Columbia. BC recently announced plans to include single-use and packaging-like products in its list of obligated materials under its EPR system by 2023. Perhaps this is a sign of more cross-country harmonization on PPP regulation, consistent with the federal initiatives in this area.

Special rules for compostables

Citing challenges with determining proper management approaches for compostable materials, the new regulation imposes registration and reporting obligations with respect to compostable materials, but does not mandate collection or management requirements.

It is hoped that these lowered obligations will provide policymakers with the information necessary to determine how these materials are used in Ontario, and to suggest better approaches to their management. Only a few facilities in Canada may be able to manage compostable materials. Optical scanners at most material recovery facilities cannot sort these materials, while manual sorters cannot easily tell the difference between certain types of compostable and conventional plastics.

This arguably reflects the ongoing uncertainty around the role that bioplastics and alternatives to plastics will play in Canada’s management of PPP.

New definitions targeting online free riders?

Online retail is growing rapidly worldwide, particularly during COVID-19 when physical stores are, at times, inaccessible. Ontario is no exception to this trend. This heightened online retail activity is, however, introducing in Ontario’s market products by producers that have no presence in Ontario or Canada and may not be registering as producers or paying fees to fund Ontario’s recycling system. This scenario has exacerbated the quantities of free riders in most EPR systems, whose products are collected by local recycling systems that they do not fund. Past product stewardship laws in Canada have reinforced this divide by only obligating resident sellers.

The draft regulation appears to address this challenge by designating “marketplace facilitators” that contract with “marketplace sellers” as producers if they are resident in Canada. The regulation defines “marketplace facilitator” as a person who,

(a) contracts with marketplace sellers to facilitate the supply of the marketplace seller’s products by,

(i) owning or operating an online marketplace or forum in which the marketplace seller’s products are listed or advertised for supply, or

(ii) transmitting or otherwise communicating the offer or acceptance between the marketplace seller and a buyer, and

(b) provides for the physical distribution of a marketplace seller’s products to the consumer, such as by the storage, preparation, or shipping of products

This definition appears to capture many online retailers who make the products of many sellers available to Ontarians.

Annual allocation table

Most surprisingly, the regulation also sets out a number of rules that will govern the creation of an “annual allocation table,” the first of which should be submitted as early as March 31, 2022. These rules help to determine which producers will be responsible for collecting from which sources, notionally allocating to them specific residences, facilities or public spaces each year.

The rules also set out the factors to be considered in the making of these allocations. Although the regulation leaves allocation decisions with producers and their producer responsibility organizations (PROs), once in force, the rules will have a regulatory effect over all producers and PROs in the system.

The allocation method is a novel approach to regulating producer responsibility and appears to run counter prior provincial commentary that the new blue box regulation under the RRCEA would be outcomes-focused and not prescriptive as to the manner in which producers chose to fulfill their obligations. The possibility that the Minister might either police existing rules, or even make rules for producers and/or their PROs should they fail to successfully do so themselves, appears to deviate from the free market foundations of this IPR model.

Conclusion

The new blue box regulation under the RRCEA is innovative in its decisions to implement a policy as complex as IPR for PPP. In addition to the novel approaches already discussed, many others bear mentioning, including reducing management requirements for use of recycled content in products, and joint and several liability between and among producers and their PROs for certain obligations under the regulation.

The proposed regulation is available for public comment for 45 days (until December 3, 2020). In addition, the province is also looking for feedback on amendments to Regulation 101/94 under Ontario’s Environmental Protection Act. Regulation 101/94 sets rules for recycling and composting municipal waste and standards for blue box waste management systems, including collection, acceptance, transportation and processing. As much is changing, stakeholders may have a lot to say before Ontario finalizes the new PPP regime.

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About the Authors

Jonathan Cocker, a partner at BLG, provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environmental and product compliance matters, including extended producer responsibilities, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, and contaminated lands matters. He assisted in the founding of one of North America’s first Circular Economy Producer Responsibility Organizations and provides advice and representation to a number of domestic and international industry groups in respect of resource recovery obligations.

Denisa Mertiri J.D., is the founder of Green Earth Strategy. Green Earth Strategy advises industry, cities and government on how to create and maintain practical and effective circular economy and waste management strategies with staying power.

Woolwich Bio-En Inc. expands Anaerobic Digestion Operations

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The Ontario Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) recently amended the renewable energy approval for the Woolwich Bio-En Inc. Anaerobic Digestion Facility. This Class 3 Anaerobic Digestion facility generates 2.85 megawatts of electricity and 3.02 megawatts of heat from the biogas produced from a variety of organic materials, including, but not limited to the following:

  • source separated organics
  • organics from food processing facilities, grocery stores, food distribution companies, and milling facilities
  • livestock manure
  • glycerol
  • kitchen waste
  • fats, oil, and grease
  • renewable energy crops (i.e., corn silage)
  • organic solids skimmed from dissolved air flotation tanks

The facility includes an operations building and a processing building. The operations building houses the reciprocating engines and other equipment to perform facility operations and control. The processing building receives organic materials and contains equipment to prepare and blend the organic material prior to being fed into the anaerobic digestion equipment.

The facility uses three pre-treatment tanks, two main digester tanks and one repository tank to generate and store biogas. The biogas is combusted in reciprocating engines to produce renewable heat and power.

The facility is expected to emit air contaminants including products of combustion, volatile organic compounds and potentially odour; however, the facility has been designed with state-of-the-art emissions control equipment (i.e. a biofilter) to mitigate the potential emissions of air contaminants and odour from activities including organic unloading, processing and digestate loading.

The following changes have been approved as part of the amendment:

  • Increased annual tonnage from 70,000 tonnes to 110,000 tonnes per year although there has been no change to the approved maximum daily tonnage of 750 tonnes per day.
  • Increased production rate of biogas purification from 127 m3/h to 1,000 m3/h.
  • Change in truck movements from 80 trucks to 160 truck movements per day.
  • Comprehensive approval with operational flexibility to allow Woolwich Bio-En Inc. the ability to make minor modifications that improve operations without any significant environmental impact.
  • Allowance to ship cleaned, de-packed slurry to another anaerobic digestion facility.
  • Changes to allow some flexibility of feedstock materials received.Being able to accept new types of biomass increases the flexibility of waste received at the facility.

The October 29, 2019 amendment application also proposed the addition of propylene glycol to the allowed feedstock list; however, this addition has since been removed from the amendment application. The applicant is no longer requesting propylene glycol as a feedstock.

The ministry requested that Woolwich Bio-En Inc. hold a public meeting to consult on the proposed changes. A public meeting was held in Elmira on January 29, 2020.

This amendment has been approved in accordance with the requirements of Part V.0.1 of the Environmental Protection Act and the Renewable Energy Approvals Regulation (Ontario Regulation 359/09).

Fun with Waste: Using Tik Tok for Waste Management Messaging

The Town of Bromsgrove in England has used TikTok to help get the message out on waste pick up days.  The father and daughter duo of Paul and Kim provide the entertain and information on the brown bin collection schedule in the town.

Click here to watch the video.