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Waste Reduction Week 2017: An Ontario Perspective

Since 2001, “Waste Reduction Week” (October 16-20) has been coordinated by non-governmental organizations across Canada to highlight the national need to reduce the volume of waste being generated in communities and sectors throughout the country.

During this annual event, factsheets, videos and public service announcements are disseminated in order to assist Canadians in making informed choices and taking meaningful steps to reduce waste, conserve natural resources, divert valuable materials from disposal, and otherwise decrease our ecological footprint.

In Ontario, this clarion call for waste reduction progress has been amplified in 2017 by the recent release of a special report by the province’s independent Environmental Commissioner.

In her detailed report Beyond the Blue Box (October 2017), Dr. Dianne Saxe makes the following findings and recommendations:

  • each Ontarian produces almost one tonne of waste per year, most of which ends up in landfills or incinerators;
  • Ontario’s existing Blue Box system for collecting certain recyclables (e.g. paper and packaging) from private residences is laudable but only diverts 8% of the overall waste stream;
  • Ontario’s current waste diversion approach is largely limited to recycling programs, but the government’s focus should shift to waste reduction and reuse initiatives;
  • while the province’s newly enacted Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016 (and associated Strategy) is “significant” and “ambitious,” the Ontario government must implement the new regime in a timely and effective manner in order to transition to a “zero waste” circular economy; and
  • in the short-term, the Ontario government must take all necessary steps to divert food and yard waste (organics) from landfills, set clear and enforceable recycling standards, and develop mandatory diversion programs within the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector.

CELA concurs with the report’s important and well-founded conclusions, which are consistent with CELA’s views expressed over the years about the need to enhance waste reduction programs in general, and to address the implementation challenges facing the Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016 in particular.

Accordingly, we join the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario in calling upon the provincial government to move well beyond the Blue Box, and to implement long-overdue measures to reduce the amount, nature and toxicity of waste that is needlessly created by Ontarians.