A zero waste economy is ambitious, but possible and necessary.
Today, Ontario is a high-waste society, producing about 12 million tonnes of waste every year. It causes enormous climate and environmental damage to extract and then discard such a mountain of materials.
A clean Ontario will have a circular economy, not a throwaway one. There is no “away.” Today’s “throwaway” economy is simply a bad habit, created for private profit, that pollutes the earth and plagues it with litter.
In a circular economy, the materials in used products are recovered and used again, creating jobs and revenue.
In a circular economy, we don’t create materials we cannot recycle or reuse, and we don’t bury in landfills materials that we could use again.
The Green Party’s key policies for achieving zero waste will aim to cut discarded waste in half by 2030.
Key metrics for zero waste will include:
- Reduction in the quantity of litter.
- The percentage of reused material in key consumer products.
- Reduction in material landfilled.
- Keeps valuable resources in use to minimize the energy footprint of materials and the environmental damage caused by resource extraction, and to extend the useful life of existing landfills:
- Foster self-sustaining markets for used but usable materials, including metals, concrete and aggregates.
- Update codes and standards for re-use of used construction products, such as crushed concrete and used steel beams and panels.
- Encourage business clustering, where the outputs of one business are the inputs to another business, especially near transport hubs.
- Phase in a ban of metals and aggregates from landfills.
- Reduce demolition waste by requiring that end-of-life buildings be disassembled and sorted, not smashed.
- Keep food and other organic (biodegradable) waste out of landfills, because they are needed as raw materials and because they create groundwater contamination and methane gas:
- Ban food waste from landfills, as Nova Scotia has done.
- Help municipalities create and improve green bin programs to collect food waste. (See Local and Sustainable Food.)
- Facilitate the establishment of processing sites to create useful materials from food and other organic (biodegradable) waste, including compost and bio-methane.
- Increase stringency of methane collection requirements from landfills, green bin processing sites, manure handling and sewage plants. If released, bio-methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and air pollutant; when collected, it is a valuable low-carbon fuel.
- Encourage sales of bio-methane to hard-to-abate uses such as industry or long distance transportation, using gas pipelines when available.
Extended producer responsibility
- Set high recycling and management standards for printed paper and packaging (Blue Box) materials, with a minimum of 85% for plastic packaging by 2030.
- Adopt clear, stringent and enforceable extended producer responsibility (EPR) standards for waste and packaging generated at workplaces, schools and in public places (the industrial, commercial and institutional sector that is responsible for the majority of Ontario waste.)
- Ensure that EPR regulations include robust annual public reporting and real penalties for lack of compliance.
- Support development of a recycling industry for end-of-life solar panels and wind turbines.
Litter and pollution
- Reduce the plague of litter:
- Ban unnecessary single-use plastics such as straws and plastics that are not, in practice, reused or recycled.
- Establish a deposit-return system for beverage cartons, refillable glass containers and reusable plastic containers, starting with bottles, cups, bags and food takeout containers.
- Encourage retailers to allow customers to refill their own containers, subject to public health authorization.
- Protect air and water quality from contamination by wastes:
- Properly close the thousands of abandoned, leaking oil and gas wells in Ontario.
- Properly close the thousands of abandoned water wells in Ontario.
- Require manufacturers to collect and take back end of life products through stronger circular economy laws.