Walk down any street in Ontario on garbage day and you will see many garbage bins and bags and often overflowing recycling bins. Per person, Canada has some of the highest waste levels in the world.
Right now, the cost of recycling programs, and of dealing with garbage that ends up in landfills is mostly paid by residents, through a combination of municipal taxes and waste fees. But is this fair to the environment, or our pocket books?
About 70% of our waste is now made up of packaging. When people buy things at the store, they take home the packaging that comes with the product. Then, they have to pay the costs of dealing with the packaging they had to take home. Why is it that we have to pay for waste we don’t want in the first place?
Many countries have found a better way to deal with waste, a way that not only saves money, but is better for the environment. In Ontario, we’ve made a start: companies pay for half the cost of municipal Blue Box programs, and they pay fees to manage difficult-to-recycle electronic waste. But we must go much further.
The next step is making companies responsible for the full life cycle of their products. This gives companies a reason to continually reduce the amount of waste created and it’s environmental impact. This is called Extended Producer Responsibility. It gives producers a reason to focus on the 3R’s, in the right order.
The good news is that there are some great examples of Extended Producer Responsibility in Ontario. It’s been used successfully for decades in other countries. But more importantly, it’s been used successfully right here in Ontario by large corporations like the Beer Store and smaller businesses like Harmony Organic Dairy.
The only way companies will start acting responsibly is if they are forced to pay for the waste they create, and to meet strict targets for the 3R’s. And for that to happen, the Ontario Government has to pass laws that make companies, not residents, responsible for paying waste management costs.