The Government of Ontario has released the Food and Organic Waste Framework, which takes a systems approach to food and organic waste generation, management, and recovery; and recognizes that all stages of supply and production have a role to play in moving the province toward a circular economy. It is divided into two components:
Part A: Food and Organic Waste Action Plan: strategic commitments to be taken by the province to address food and organic waste, which includes four overarching objectives:
- Reduce food and organic waste
- Recover resources from food and organic waste
- Support resource recovery infrastructure
- Promote beneficial uses of recovered organic resources
Image source: Government of Ontario
Part B: Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement: direction to the province, municipalities, the IC&I sector, owners and operators of resource recovery systems and others to further the provincial interest in waste reduction and resource recovery as it relates to food and organic waste.
This is the first Policy Statement made under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, and includes:
- Ontario Food Recovery Hierarchy that consists of the following steps in order of importance:
1. Reduce: prevent or reduce food and organic waste at the source
2. Feed People: safely rescue and redirect surplus food before it becomes waste.
3. Recover Resources: recover food and organic waste to develop end-products for a beneficial use.
- A 50% or 70% target for waste reduction and resource recovery of food and organic waste for municipalities, multi-residential buildings, IC&I facilities, and educational institutions and hospitals by 2025.
- Promotion and education, which includes retail establishments to provide sector-based promotion and education to promote operational best practices that can prevent and reduce food waste.
- All retail shopping establishments, retail shopping complexes, office buildings, restaurants, hotels and motels and large manufacturing establishments, subject to O. Reg. 103/94 under the Environmental Protection Act, that generate 300 kilograms or more of food and organic waste per week shall source separate food and organic waste.
- Persons or entities that are brand holders of or market compostable products and packaging should ensure they are certified according to international, national or industry standards and meet environmental standards in Ontario.
Recycling Council of Ontario supports and commends the Government of Ontario for prioritizing food and organic waste, which is the single largest waste stream lost to disposal and leading cause of methane emissions from landfills. The Action Plan and Policy Statement support the ongoing advancement of the circular economy, and takes the necessary steps to reduce the amount of food and food waste lost to disposal.
RCO has also long been active in addressing food and food waste, especially in education and for the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (IC&I) sectors.
Our Work on Food Waste
On April 19 we announced the launch of an innovative pilot that will trial collaboration between the various types of non-residential generators that manage organic materials and their waste/recycling service provider to co-ordinate collection, transport, and consolidation. In doing so, RCO will test a method and model to better manage edible food so it maintains and maximizes highest value, while optimizing organics recycling and food recovery in a system that can be scaled and replicated in cities and towns across Canada.
Other RCO initiatives that support food and organic waste includes our long-standing education program, the Waste-Free Lunch Challenge, which inspires and empowers students, educators, and parents to minimize food and packaging waste in school and at home. It focuses on avoidance through awareness; prevention through 3Rs; reduction through better management; and proactive and informed purchasing.
As part of Waste Reduction Week in Canada celebrations we encourage Canadians to take the Food Waste Pledge as part of Food Waste Friday, and commit to a series of important measures to encourage reduction: planning meals and making a grocery list; storing fruits and vegetables properly so they last longer; getting creative with leftovers; and thinking about expiry dates. For the inaugural Food Waste Friday in 2017 more than 28,000 schools, groups, communities, and individuals took the Food Waste Pledge, which indicates that Canadians are serious about food waste.
In the spring of 2011, RCO launched 3RCertified to offer incentive for businesses and institutions to make a meaningful commitment to the principles and practices of waste diversion. Waste generators that are successful in achieving 3RCertified status receive a third-party verification of their waste management system through compliance with 3Rs Regulations.
The centrepiece of 3RCertified is a comprehensive set of criteria that serves as a collection of performance standards that considers all aspects of an organization’s waste management procedures, including organics.
In 2017 RCO also convened an IC&I Advisory Committee populated by organizations that own and manage some of the largest real estate portfolios in Canada – and more than 2.5 billion square feet worldwide – to add to a knowledge base that can be leveraged in a variety of ways. The committee members represent the diverse IC&I sector and work in a collaborative and non- competitive fashion. During ongoing discussions food and organic waste was identified as a priority and problematic waste stream, which further underscores industry awareness on this issue.
This policy initiative will play an important role in advancing the circular economy in Ontario. We look forward to working with government to support and implement key deliverables that are outlined, as well as continue driving waste reduction with our own programs and services.