At the Sept. 24 session of legislature, the Honourable Jim Bradley, Minister of the Environment, moved Bill 91, An Act to establish a new regime for the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste and to repeal the Waste Diversion Act, 2002 for second reading.
In doing so, Mr. Bradley outlined the state of waste diversion in the province and key aspects the Waste Reduction Act in his speech:
- While we are deriving some of the benefits of recycling under the current Waste Diversion Act, we are missing many more environmental and economic opportunities to recycle.
- While Ontario’s waste diversion programs recycle just over a million tonnes of waste every year, our overall waste diversion rate lags behind other jurisdictions in Canada and around the world. The industrial, commercial and institutional sectors generate the majority of waste in the province but recycle only a small portion of it—a mere 11%.
- The proposed Waste Reduction Act is needed to fix what essentially, in my belief and I think the belief of many, is a broken system. We need the Waste Reduction Act to attract new investment, create new jobs, foster innovation, conserve resources and better protect our environment.
- The new proposed Waste Reduction Act, if passed, would make individual producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products and the packaging. It would also reintroduce competition into the recycling market, spurring much innovation.
- Under the proposed act, producers would have a financial incentive to develop products that are designed, manufactured and distributed in ways that reduce their impact on the environment. Their recycling costs would be, in fact, lower. The act would also allow us to kick-start recycling in the IC&I sector by designating waste for diversion. The place to start would be to designate paper and packaging supplied to the sector.
- The proposed act recognizes the important role that municipalities and property taxpayers play in recycling waste by lifting the 50% funding cap on producers’ contribution to the blue box program.
- If the proposed bill becomes law… we intend to roll out the new waste reduction framework in an integrated fashion that will maximize opportunities to engage with stakeholders.
- The proposed act would provide authority to make individual producers legally obligated to meet the waste reduction objectives for their products. The changes we are proposing will have a positive impact on the marketplace: It will free up and unleash the innovative energies of competition.
- At the same time, we also know that as we look to the future we may need to think about better, more efficient ways to deliver and fund the blue box. Coming up with those solutions needs to be a collaborative effort between producers, municipalities, service providers and the provincial government. These solutions have to be fair and balanced and reflect the unique advantages and strengths that different stakeholders bring to the table. This may require stakeholders to work together to discuss what, if any, changes may be made to the existing provisions of regulation 101 to reflect their proposed solutions.
- I understand producers feel that if they pay more, they should be more involved in how their money is spent and managed. I recognize those concerns. No one wants to write a blank cheque. I do not believe municipalities are asking for a blank cheque, and it is certainly not the intention of the proposed legislation to provide one. Under the proposed act, municipalities and producers are free to negotiate agreements that reimburse municipalities for their reasonable costs incurred when collecting designated wastes.
In support of the bill, parliamentary assistant to the Minister of the Environment, Peter McNeely lent his support and expanded on other key aspects:
- Our strategy is based on achieving six key results:
- drive economic and environmental innovation by holding individual producers responsible for waste reduction outcomes;
- transform Waste Diversion Ontario into a strong oversight and compliance authority;
- use all-in pricing to ensure consumer protection and incent improved product designs;
- increase support for municipal recycling;
- increase the diversion of a wider range of wastes; and
- transition existing programs in a timely and smooth manner.
- The Waste Reduction Authority (WRA) would have inspection powers and be able to issue compliance orders and administrative penalties to producers and to other intermediaries that failed to achieve outcomes.
- The WRA would have a number of key responsibilities, including:
- receiving and storing information from producers;
- assessing producers’ performance;
- taking graduated compliance and enforcement action against individual producers who perform poorly or don’t comply;
- overseeing integrated pricing by undertaking inspections and taking action against non-compliance, false or misleading representations;
- advising governments on specific waste diversion issues;
- facilitating the resolution of disputes between producers and municipalities;
- developing formulae to address municipal compensation;
- educating the public about the act; and
- reporting to the minister and public annually on results.
Opposition parties' response:
Jonah Schein: Environment Critic, NDP:
- The legislation as it stands is not perfect, which is why we need to have this conversation and this debate. But we have heard a real commitment to reduce the amount of waste in our environment and that stakeholders are willing to do that.
- There are legitimate concerns raised by all parties. As the legislation goes forward, we must work to balance and address these concerns. We should work to ensure that Bill 91 works for producers, for service providers and for municipalities.
- It’s clear that the system is broken. It needs to be fixed. It’s also clear that we can’t wait another 10 years to fix it. We need to get down to business and to make this work. The people of the province of Ontario deserve a healthy environment, they deserve good, green jobs, and they deserve timely action from this government.
Michael Harris, Environment Critic, PC Party:
- First, the minister said that his bill will introduce individual producer responsibility, or IPR. You’ll hear a lot of acronyms, but IPR will be one of them going forward. But anyone, or everyone, actually, following Bill 91 knows this statement simply isn’t true. In fact, first, the bill sets up a convoluted process for businesses to join collectives called intermediaries. After joining, the individual business is no longer held responsible; the intermediary is. So the minister’s claim about IPR actually contradicts the very system the bill seeks to set up.
- Second, IPR would mean, as it has been defined in other jurisdictions, that businesses would be required to actually manage the recycling. Again, Bill 91 does not allow this to happen; in fact, it actually creates a massive bureaucracy to prescriptively manage the entire system.
- We know this bill will be bad for consumers, who will have to continue to pay eco taxes and will also be forced to pay new taxes.
- We know this bill will be bad for Ontario businesses, which will have to raise prices at a cost of driving consumers to make more purchases perhaps online or even across the border.
- We know this bill will be bad for our environment because it focuses more on perpetrating a fight between municipalities and businesses over money rather than setting priorities to reduce the amount of waste actually going into our landfill.
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