Ontario’s new strategy for a “waste-free” province includes a proposal to ban food waste from disposal, instead finding “creative strategies” to recycle it.
The province on Wednesday announced its new “Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy,” which calls for industries to divert more of the waste they produce away from landfills, and in some cases to require manufacturers to take “full responsibility” for management of their products and packaging.
Other items to be banned from landfills under the strategy would include beverage containers, corrugated cardboard and fluorescent bulbs and tubes, the province said.
The strategy calls for Ontario to start consultations this fall on a policy statement on reducing and recovering food and organic waste. A stakeholder working group is already being set up, the province said in its strategy document.
A food and organic waste action plan would then be implemented, and consultations on disposal bans would begin, in 2018. In the “medium to long term” — 2019 and beyond — those bans would be put in place, while “providing time for industries to prepare.”
The province said it has “committed” to banning food waste from disposal — including both landfills and incinerators — to “increase diversion of these wastes and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Such a ban, the province said, “will require extensive consultation and coordination with our partners and will be implemented once infrastructure capacity is adequately developed.”
While producing energy from waste and generating alternative fuels are permitted as waste management options, those methods “will not count towards diversion in Ontario,” the province said. However, “the recovery of nutrients, such as digestate from anaerobic digestion, is considered diversion.”
Food and organic wastes — including home-generated food scraps, leaves, yard wastes, and food waste from processors, wholesalers, grocers, and restaurants — makeup about a third of Ontario’s waste stream, the province said.
“When we send food and organic wastes to landfill, we lose valuable resources that could be used to support healthy soils and opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including enhancing soil carbon storage through the use of compost.”
Food waste also “represents the resources embedded in food, including energy and water used to grow, harvest, process, transport and sell food and food-related products,” the province said, noting about $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada each year.
Households are believed to be responsible for about 47 percent of food waste, with the remainder generated along the food supply chain, the province added.
Furthermore, the province said, about six percent of Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the waste sector. From there, about 90 percent of emissions come from solid waste disposal in landfills, and most of that is in organic waste, the province added.
Other jurisdictions in Canada have already imposed bans on the disposal of food waste, including Nova Scotia’s provincewide ban in 1998 and Vancouver’s municipal ban in 2015.
“This strategy provides the blueprint for Ontario to close the resource loop by transforming how we think about waste,” provincial Environment Minister Glen Murray said Wednesday in a provincial release.
“By moving to a circular, low-carbon economy, Ontario is seizing the opportunity to be a leader in a global movement toward a more sustainable model with significant economic, social, and environmental benefits.”