Ontario has today passed the Waste-Free Ontario Act, legislation that the government says will divert more waste from landfills, create jobs and help fight climate change.
To help divert more waste from landfill, the legislation is designed to:
- encourage innovation in recycling processes and require producers to take full responsibility for their products and packaging
- lower recycling costs and give consumers access to more convenient recycling options
- help fight climate change by reducing greenhouse gas pollution that results from the landfilling of products that could otherwise be recycled or composted
- overhaul Waste Diversion Ontario into the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, an oversight body with new compliance and enforcement powers that will oversee the new approach and existing waste diversion programs until transition is complete.
The province will also be finalizing its draft Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy within three months of the legislation coming into effect. The strategy outlines Ontario’s vision for a zero waste future and proposed plan to implement the legislation.
The new legislation includes:
A new Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act that:
- Establishes the provincial interest in resource recovery and waste reduction and enables the government to issue policy statements to provide further direction on the provincial interest. The policy statements will be developed in consultation with key stakeholders and the public
- Establishes a new outcomes-based producer responsibility regime that holds responsible persons accountable for recovering resources and reducing waste associated with their products and packaging. Responsible persons are brand holders, or others with commercial connections to products such as first importers and e-tailers. The Act allows the government to set the outcomes that responsible persons must meet. Responsible persons will have the flexibility to determine how best to meet their obligations
- Overhauls Waste Diversion Ontario, the existing oversight body under the Waste Diversion Act, 2002, as the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority with responsibility to oversee the new producer responsibility regime and existing waste diversion programs and their transition. Key functions of the Authority will be receiving and storing data from producers, collectives, municipalities and others who conduct resource recovery or waste reduction activities as well as compliance and enforcement under both the new and old producer responsibility regimes
- Establishes the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy, which will outline a vision and goals for resource recovery and waste reduction and identify actions under the proposed Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and other acts, e.g. the Environmental Protection Act
In addition, the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act provides the government with various regulation making powers to:
- Prescribe materials that could be designated for collection and management under the new framework
- Identify persons responsible for meeting obligations with respect to products and packaging sold to consumers in Ontario
- Require responsible persons to meet clear outcomes and be accountable for recovering resources and reducing waste associated with the designated materials
- Set obligations such as registration, promotion and education, reporting and record-keeping for others performing activities that relate to resource recovery and waste reduction
A new Waste Diversion Transition Act that:
- Replaces the Waste Diversion Act, 2002 to enable the smooth transition of existing programs to the new producer responsibility regime
- Allows for the wind-up of the existing waste diversion programs and the Industry Funding Organizations (IFO) that operate these programs. Once programs and IFOs under the proposed Waste Diversion Transition Act are wound up, the Act would be repealed
Current waste diversion programs such as the blue box program will be continued under the Waste Diversion Transition Act until they are transitioned to the new individual responsibility framework.
Glen Murray, Ontario’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change said of the new legislation:
“The Waste-Free Ontario Act is an important step in creating Ontario’s circular economy — a system in which products are never discarded, but reintroduced and reused or recycled into new products. Managing our resources more effectively will benefit Ontarians, our environment and economy and support our efforts to fight climate change.”
Manning Environmental Law is a Canadian law firm based in Toronto, Ontario. Our practice is focussed on environmental law, energy law and aboriginal law.
Paul Manning is a certified specialist in environmental law. He has been named as one of Canada’s leading Environmental Lawyers by Who’s Who Legal: Canada and ranked by Lexpert as one of Canada’s Leading Energy Lawyers.
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