While the environment plays an important role in public discourse in Ontario, only one quarter of all waste produced annually is recycled.Who is responsible?The non-residential sector, which accounts for 75% of non-recycled waste in the province.
By Joel Ashak
The non-residential sector includes businesses, shopping centres, industries and even public sector buildings such as hospitals. The measures in place to encourage these buildings to be recycled are so unconstraining in Ontario that they are in fact non-existent, says Jo-Anne St. Godard, Director of the Ontario Recycling Council, an agency that works to eliminate The production of waste.
"Since the 1990s, the province has been asking large companies to recycle," she says.Unfortunately, there are no penalties against inaction in the commercial sector, and there is little oversight by the Department of the Environment to enforce the law."
Numbers abound in that sense.The Ministry of the Environment estimates that only 25% of waste is recycled in Ontario - a trend that has not improved over the past decade, despite awareness campaigns.
Yet many companies that work with the Recycling Council of Ontario claim to recycle most of their waste: "70-80%, up to 100% in some cases," says Jo-Anne St. Godard.
Cities are struggling to put in place their own strategies to change things, but resources are not always available and legally, municipalities have their hands tied.
"We can not force a company to recycle," says Renée Brownlee, the manager of garbage management in Greater Sudbury.Only the province has that power."
Pay more at the landfill site
In Greater Sudbury, the municipality is committed to collecting up to three recycling bins per company. To ensure that larger quantities are delivered to the recycling center, the City uses a deterrent approach adopted by several other municipalities in the country. When a truck arrives at the landfill site and deposits garbage in which there is too much recyclable material, an employee of the site may charge the truck owner an amount three times higher than for ordinary garbage.
Unsorted waste is still found underground.However, there are several questions about this method.
On the one hand, the City admits that it does not keep any written record of the times an employee has overcharged a company.It merely says that "this happens only rarely".
On the other hand, the Greater Sudbury landfills, like half of the province's, are privately run.
Theoretically, an employee of the landfill should open the black opaque bags and spot those whose waste is not sorted.
Sudbury landfill workers are crushing garbage bags that have just been unloaded from a truck. Photo: CBC / Joël Ashak
Most waste produced by companies is also picked up by subcontractors. A truck can carry waste from several companies.This employee would then have the task of determining the building from which the bags in question originated. Then, it would be up to the garbage collection company to forward the invoice to the faulty company.
"Cities rarely have the resources to track execution orders," says St. Godard.This may be a reason why we do not know the number of cases of overbilling and perhaps the Cities do not want to disclose these figures."
A new law to empower companies
In June 2016, Ontario promulgated the Waste-Free Ontario Act.
The goal of the bill is to lead Ontario to a circular economy , "a system where nothing is wasted and [where] valuable materials destined for landfills are reintroduced into the economy without negative People or the environment ".
Ontario hopes to achieve zero waste in 30 years through the circular economy.Photo: Ontario Ministry of the Environment
In a 43-page report to define its strategy, the province says it wants to "encourage companies to design products that are sustainable, reusable and easily recyclable."
The Recycling Council of Ontario is very hopeful about this legislation, which the group sees as "potentially one of the most progressive in the country".
However, the details of measures to compel companies to comply with this model are not yet known.
"It will depend on how the regulations will be formulated," summarizes the director of the Recycling Council of Ontario.
Elsewhere in the country
According to Statistics Canada, the 25% recycling rate in Ontario is within the Canadian average. The top students include Nova Scotia and British Columbia. The latter charges certain companies for the waste they produce, rather than sending the invoice to taxpayers. In Quebec, the Québec Residual Materials Management Policy imposes a liability on producers of certain products, such as batteries, paints and oils used in mechanics.
Some materials, such as paper and cardboard, are also banned from landfills.