Canada: Environment Minister Bradley: What He’s Done And Doing On Waste

Last Updated: March 21 2013
Article by Dianne Saxe

Last week, Ontario Minister of the Environment, Jim Bradley, spoke to the Ontario Waste Management Association. He summarizes his Ministry's considerable achievements of the last year on the waste file, and promises a new program for end of life vehicles, plus new framework legislation on waste. Here are his remarks (headings added):

Ontario Waste Management Annual General Meeting

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013 6:30 p.m

"...The past few weeks have been a very busy time for us at Queen's Park as we get back to work with our new Premier and cabinet.

One thing that has not changed is our commitment to taking action on the issue of waste.

When I stood before you last year, I announced a new waste action plan, a plan that would put us back on track and refocus attention on our major waste management goal: diversion.

Producer Responsibility

Our plan was and continues to be based on the fundamental principle that producers must take responsibility for the waste from products and packaging they sell into the Ontario marketplace. 

Producers have a pivotal part to play in ensuring waste, particularly hazardous waste, is collected and managed properly, and kept from polluting our land and water.

Over the last 12 months, considerable progress has been made on our waste action plan. 2

We have implemented a regulation making industry responsible for ensuring that consumers are able to return their waste pharmaceuticals and sharps to retailers for proper management.

We approved a compost framework that will provide more opportunities for diverting organic waste from landfills and finding new and beneficial uses for it.

The new framework supports municipal efforts to increase organics diversion and supports the development and operation of robust, sustainable composting facilities.

It also opens the door to further investment in green technologies and improves Ontario's environmental management of organic waste.

Municipal funding

We implemented a municipal funding program, managed by the Recycling Council of Ontario, for the proper management of fire extinguishers, rechargeable batteries, fluorescent light bulbs and tubes, and mercury-containing devices, as well as pharmaceuticals or sharps dropped off at municipal depots.

This ensures municipalities are not burdened with additional costs related to managing these wastes.

The next step will be to consider moving these products fully to an extended producer responsibility model.

Waste Diversion Ontario

We made changes to the governance model for Waste Diversion Ontario to better reflect modern governance practices and assist in improving Waste Diversion Ontario's oversight of the province's waste diversion programs.

We promulgated regulations for the household hazardous waste and used tire programs that require producers to pay the actual cost of waste diversion, instead of using estimates that resulted in large surpluses and deficits.

In addition, we approved changes to the waste electronics program to enable Waste Diversion Ontario and Ontario Electronic Stewardship to implement a similar cost recovery approach.

I know municipalities were concerned about timely payment for waste diversion programs.

My ministry has worked closely with Waste Diversion Ontario and industry funding organizations the past few months to ensure compensation flows as it should.

I understand municipalities are now receiving payments as scheduled.

End of Life Vehicles

Ministry staff are working with automotive recyclers and automobile manufacturers to improve the end of life management of vehicles in Ontario, with the objective of putting in place a consistent set of environmental standards that will apply to this activity.

We also continue to work with partners to highlight innovative approaches to waste diversion.

Environmental Activity and Sector Registry

The government is also continuing to look for ways to make it easier for businesses to innovate while maintaining our strict standards for environmental protection.

For instance, as part of our effort to modernize our environmental approvals process, businesses transporting non hazardous waste by truck are now able to self-register through the streamlined Environmental Activity and Sector Registry, which covers activities considered routine and with limited environmental impact.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

I am also pleased to inform you that, in response to an EBR application, my ministry is undertaking a review of the Environmental Protection Act regulations governing the industrial, commercial and institutional sectors.

Ministry staff will also examine the other 3Rs regulations as part of this review.

I have been encouraged by the discussion that has been generated over the past year as we have taken these important and necessary steps.

Extended Producer Responsibility

In particular, the recent roundtable discussion hosted by the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario on the future of extended producer responsibility in Ontario was valuable and instructive.

That roundtable, attended by a range of stakeholders as well as staff from my Ministry, highlighted a shared desire for improvement and identified a great deal of common ground on some of the key waste diversion challenges in our province.

I would like to thank Gord Miller for hosting the roundtable, and for writing a helpful summary report.

I note that the Environmental Commissioner's broad stakeholder roundtable strongly supported the idea that the current legislation inadequately supports its central concept: extended producer responsibility.

Stakeholders have identified numerous concerns with the existing system and many ideas have been put forward on how we can improve our approach to extended producer responsibility and the management of waste.

This includes the OWMA which released its "Blue Print for Managing the Resources in Ontario's Waste" report today. 4

I want to acknowledge the leadership the OWMA continues to play in promoting a new extended producer responsibility framework for Ontario.

I look forward to reading your report and its recommendations.

New legislation

At this point, we need to consider the possibility that we have accomplished as much as we can under the current framework.

Moving forward and making the improvements we need to further drive resource recovery requires more fundamental changes.

That is why we are working towards introducing new legislation that will address the issues raised through the roundtable and consultations staff at my ministry have had with stakeholders.

We are going to do this differently.

It is too early to get into specifics, but we know that a new framework must deliver in three key ways.

First, increased diversion and recovery of value from Ontario's waste.

Second: greater transparency, including effective monitoring, oversight, compliance, and enforcement.

Third: greater accountability.

We remain committed to examining every tool available to keep more waste out of our landfills and waterways, including measures such as bans.

Roles, responsibilities and expectations must be clear within a new framework.

Our stakeholders and partners will have a key role to play in the development and execution of any new waste framework.

This includes the waste management industry, municipalities, and producers who continue to have important roles in ensuring the success of our waste diversion system.

We want to open up new businesses opportunities in the green economy and move forward on our overall waste diversion objectives as quickly as possible.

I want to assure you that you will be part of the discussion on how we can establish a model for extended producer responsibility that delivers the results we need.

All of us — government, municipalities, businesses and the public — need to do our part to improve diversion and as the OWMA has termed it, harness "the economic value of waste as a resource".5

I want to thank you all for the work you do to deliver new and innovative ideas on diverting and recycling waste.

I look forward to continuing to work with your organization to build a healthy environment and prosperous future for Ontario.

Thank you. "

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Dianne Saxe
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