The waste management and recycling industry in Ontario can make a major contribution to the province’s new policy to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to a new report.
As Ontario gets ready to implement a cap-and-trade policy for GHG, the waste and recycling business can play a significant role through reduction and/or capture of landfill gas emissions, and the reduction of tailpipe emissions from its truck fleet, as well as other methods, according to a news release on the report from the Ontario Waste Management Association.
The industry can benefit by creating offset protocols that facilitate growth in landfill gas capture and organics diversion, through partnerships with capped emitters who value the carbon-free energy generated at waste management operations.
The industry can gain from investment in efficiency and low carbon alternatives in their own operations, and through government partnerships for the direct investment of allowance auction revenue in building the foundation for the circular economy.
The development of a carbon allowance market, including offset protocols for landfill gas capture and organics diversion, will improve the economics of a number of industry options that if implemented would help the province meet its climate change mitigation goals.
Those options include better landfill gas capture; increased rates of organics diversion to composting, digestion and waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities; and increasing recycling rates as well as reuse.
Also with recycling and reuse, the report recommends the industry push for the early development of offset protocols and/or other mechanisms for increasing the reuse and recycling rates of emissions-intensive materials such as paper products, plastics, glass, aluminum, steel and other metals.
The report states that those options have perhaps the greatest growth potential for emission reductions from the industry.
While the waste and recycling industry has reduced GHG emissions by 22 million metric tons annually, landfill gas capture, recycling and organic waste diversion rates are still relatively low. They need to increase dramatically for the province to meet its emission reduction targets, the report states.
The industry should work with government to analyze the impact of the cap-and-trade program on the economics of these options to determine how best to design the related protocols and to identify where direct investment of regulatory income or other policy options may improve the economics or risk profiles of the emission reduction options available.
The waste and recycling industry annually contributes 20 times more to reducing greenhouse gas emissions than its emissions from trucks and other equipment. Government policy should be designed to maintain and increase this positive impact, the report concludes.
In the United States one recent development that looks to benefit GHG is the extension of several federal tax credits aimed to support natural gas and other alternative fuels. President Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.
The biggest development lately in Ontario has been the October purchase by GFL Environmental of TransForce's waste management business in Quebec and eastern Ontario for $800 million. The solid waste business includes landfill, transfer station and recycling operations.