Europe’s Mandatory Circular Economy Rules: Lessons for Canada

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As part of its continuous effort to transform Europe’s economy into a more sustainable one and to implement the ambitious Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission recently adopted a new set of measures, including:

  • A Europe-wide EU Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy and annex to transform the way plastics and plastics products are designed, produced, used and recycled. By 2030, all plastics packaging should be recyclable. The Strategy also highlights the need for specific measures, possibly a legislative instrument, to reduce the impact of single-use plastics, particularly in our seas and oceans.  To reduce the leakage of plastics into the environment, the Commission has adopted a new proposal on Port Reception Facilities, to tackle sea-based marine litter and published a report on the impact of the use of oxo-degradable plastic, including oxo-degradable plastic carrier bags, on the environment.
  • A Communication on options to address the interface between chemical, product and waste legislation that assesses how the rules on waste, products and chemicals relate to each other.
  • Monitoring Framework on progress towards a circular economy at EU and national level. It is composed of a set of ten key indicators which cover each phase – i.e. production, consumption, waste management and secondary raw materials – as well as economic aspects – investments and jobs – and innovation.
  • Report on Critical Raw Materials and the circular economy that highlights the potential to make the use of the 27 critical materials in our economy more circular.

As part of the Circular Economy package, Member States will have to ensure that, all biowaste (including food waste) is either collected separately or composted by 2023.  The requirement for separation of collecting biowaste separately is seen as a huge boost for the composting and anaerobic digestion industries.

In Canada, Ontario is one province that appears poised to require mandatory separation of organic waste at the curbside.  In late 2016, Ontario proclaimed the Waste Free Ontario Act, comprising the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and the Waste Diversion Transition Act.  Specific regulations under the new Act has yet to be promulgated but it is speculated by some that a ban on landfilling source separated organics (also referred to as green bin waste) will be part of the new regulations.  In the Spring, the Ontario government finalized the Food and Organic Waste Framework after consultations with stakeholders.  The Framework includes actions and policies that seek to prevent and reduce food and organic waste, rescue surplus food, collect and recover food and organic waste, and support beneficial uses.

A burning question with respect to the Waste Free Ontario Act and any new regulations is what action the new Progressive Conservative Government will take.  The Progressive Conservatives were voted into power in Ontario in a Spring election, taking over from the Liberals who had run the province for 15 years.  The new Ontario government has already scrapped Greenhouse gas cap-and-trade program in Province.

Source: Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016