September 1, 2014
Orillia environmentalist Kelly Clune is thrilled that the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition is pushing for a return to a deposit-refund bottle system.
An Orillia-based conference has spawned a call for province-wide change.
The Ontario Zero Waste Coalition is urging the provincial government to mandate a deposit-refund system for all used beverage containers.
The call for mandatory deposits was one of several proposals to emerge during Ontario’s inaugural zero waste conference, held early this month at the Orillia campus of Lakehead University.
“That is exactly what we had hoped would happen,” said Kelly Clune, a member of the organizing committee. “It is really exciting. The question is – will (the government) have the political will to make it happen?”
The two-day event attracted a broad cross section of participants that included politicians, environmentalists, health care representatives and members of the construction industry.
From a series of brainstorming sessions came the proposal to institute a deposit on all beverage containers.
Beer containers enjoy a 94 per cent return rate under Ontario’s existing deposit-refund system.
Just 40 per cent of other containers, including soft drinks and water bottles, are returned through curbside recycling programs, the group says.
“Beverage containers are mostly recyclable, yet the majority of them are still ending up in landfill,” added Emily Alfred, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance. “That’s a real waste.”
Clune agreed.“As a province we are way behind the other provinces,” she said. “When there is a deposit- return system in place, there is a financial incentive for people to divert them.”
Other recommendations stemming from the conference included heightened enforcement of waste diversion programs and the mandated use of clear garbage bags.
“Municipalities that have done content audits of garbage bags know about 30 per cent of the material currently being thrown away could be recycled or composted,” said coalition founder Liz Benneian.
Also endorsed during the conference was a recommendation to ban the incineration of municipal waste and a call to standardize recycling practice across municipalities.
Attendees agreed to support the passage of provincial legislation designed to shift the cost of waste management from municipalities onto producers.
“Since 2006, the provincial government has promised to move Ontario toward a zero waste future, yet the legislation needed to kick-start the new era has been stalled,” added Benneian. “When it comes to improving resource management, we have no more time to waste.”