9 steps to block incineration
1 Diversion strategy, what diversion strategy? It was awfully nice of the province to announce a 60 per cent diversion target for waste three years ago, and great that it put out a little discussion paper about its hopes and dreams, but Queen's Park is so damn quiet about how and when it's going to take action, you can hear crickets. Where's the ban on landfilling organics (aka mandatory composting)? Where are the packaging reduction mandates? MPP Peter Tabuns even put in an FOI request to find any proof that a diversion strategy exists, and - nada! We need a firm, overarching diversion plan that's more than just wallpaper. And changing the definition of recycling to include turning ground-up glass into roads, just to boost diversion rates, as the province recently did, doesn't count.
2 Demand deposit return Every province but Ontario and Manitoba has a system for returning drink containers. Ontario's only bright light is the Beer Store's deposit system. It's a good program, but the province needs to seriously push it on the LCBO and pop bottlers (none of this maybe business). Just handing out a nickel for every soda container returned would mean recycling rates would climb from 40 per cent to 80 per cent. Of course, industry fought and won the battle against deposit return years ago, so we'll need boxing gloves (and political will) to get this one moving.
3 Tackling take-back For the longest time, Ontario was the only province that didn't have collection programs for used oil and tires. It finally announced that it would start take-back schemes but recently kicked these to the curb. Enviro Minister Laurel Broten tried to sidestep the issue by re-announcing Ontario's intentions to recycle e-waste on the same day she told the press she was abandoning the tire program. But from the sound of it, our electronic take-back initiative (a potentially fabulous program) is floundering in industry negotiations, and enviros worry it could end up in purgatory along with oil and tires.
4 Battle big biz's big trash Industrial, commercial and institutional sources produce about 1.5 million tonnes of waste a year, and a whopping 80 per cent of it rots in landfill. Although some lovely regs on the books require these mega-trash-generators to implement the three Rs, it's a shame they've never been properly enforced. Sure, the province kicked off an inspection blitz a few months ago, but enviros say fines should be given out as frequently as parking tickets, not just for photo ops.
5 A stronger assessment process In June, the enviro minister announced that official Environmental Assessment Act reforms are in the works. But the reforms aren't expected to exactly boost the act's rigour. Broten has vowed to shorten landfill approval times and let energy-from-waste (aka incineration) pilot projects bypass any assessment process - and that's got enviros sweating.
6 Scrap Waste Diversion Ontario Enough with having an industry-dominated body come up with our recycling and take-back schemes. This non-Crown corporation might have been designated to take the lead on this front but it's clearly bungled every shot it's had. The corp could start by stipulating that at least one rep from an environmental NGO join the board.
7 Apartments are homes, too Tenants need real access to recycling and composting. Diversion rates (at 13 per cent in 2005) are pretty low for a reason: multi-residential properties lack proper support, training, infrastructure and incentives. City planning regs have made it mandatory for new condos and apartments to build recycling facilities; now it's time to get cracking on all residential buildings.
8 Overhaul the blue box system The province finally roped industry into paying for part of this program, but the process is ass-backwards. Instead of penalizing those who produce unrecyclable packaging, the program charges companies that manufacture packaging that can be blue-binned. Talk about a disincentive to do the right thing.
9 Give a hoot. Please reuse. Websites like CraigsList, Freecycle and Kijiji are awesome for helping us unload unwanted couches, cowboy boots or drill bits and are full of great scores for relic hunters. The province should be pushing the concept to every household in Ontario and setting up a formal network for swapping.