Dianne Saxe, environmental commissioner of Ontario, released a new report titled “Beyond the Blue Box: Ontario’s Fresh Start on Waste Diversion and the Circular Economy,” which examines the new Waste-Free Ontario Act, strategy and what the province needs to do next.
The report calls upon the government to get serious about making the new law, which sets an ambitious goal of a circular economy that sends zero waste to landfill, work. The first step to making the law work, according to the report, is to divert food waste from landfill and get businesses to participate.
“The new plan looks great on paper,” said Saxe in a statement. “But we’ve been here before; let’s learn from the past and get it right.”
Ontario is proud of the Blue Box, which recycles paper and packaging from homes. But the Blue Box diverts less than 8 percent of Ontario’s total waste. For real impact, the province needs action on two significant waste streams that have been ignored for far too long.
First, Ontario needs to get all food waste and organics out of landfills. And second, Ontario needs to stop letting businesses and institutions create and landfill so much waste, according to the report. Businesses and institutions only recycle 15 percent of their waste, sending 2.2 million tonnes more waste to landfill than residents do each year. Additionally, lax rules allow businesses to get away with making products and using processes that drive a “take, use once, throw away” mentality; cheaper in the short run, but much more expensive for society over time.
The new law, by itself, won’t be enough, according to Saxe. To achieve a circular economy, government must also change the social and economic causes of Ontario’s wasteful habits and enforce tough standards for waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
“As long as it remains cheaper to buy new stuff and throw it away than to repair, reuse or recycle it, a waste-free Ontario will remain a pipe dream,” said Saxe in a statement. “It will take some adjustment. But research shows the huge economic and employment promise of a low-waste economy.”
The report highlights what Ontario should learn from its past failures, and how to overcome long-standing economic barriers.
“In the long run, what matters most is moving Ontario to a circular economy, which means government must play a leading role driving policy that will foster the self-sustaining markets required to make this a reality,” said Saxe in a statement.