Ontario releases its strategy for a Circular Economy

On March 1, the government of Ontario announced the final version of its  Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy , arguing for the importance of a circular economy, given that the waste sector is responsible for 6% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Ontario, yet the current recycling rate is only 25%.  The Minister of Environment and Climate Change states: “Ontario has an opportunity to reduce emissions coming from waste, decrease our reliance on virgin materials, enhance environmental protection and bring new economic growth, job opportunities and savings to consumers and taxpayers.”

What is a circular economy?  The Strategy states that it aims “to eliminate waste, not just from recycling processes, but throughout the lifecycles of products and packaging. A circular economy aims to maximize value and eliminate waste by improving the design of materials, products and business models. A circular economy goes beyond recycling. The goal is not just to design for better end-of-life recovery, but to minimize the use of raw materials and energy through a restorative system.”  Recognizing that a circular economy involves fundamental changes for producers and consumers, the Strategy document lays out a visionary goal of a 100% waste-free economy, with an interim goal for diversion of 30 per cent by 2020, 50 per cent by 2030, and 80% by 2050.

The Strategy document includes specific steps to be taken in the next 10 years, under the Waste Free Ontario Act, 2016   and its two parts, the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016.   The Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016,    established an “outcomes-based producer responsibility regime”, which makes producers environmentally accountable and financially responsible for recovering resources and reducing waste associated with their products and packaging.  It also established the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority to operate a data Registry and oversee producer performance by conducting compliance and enforcement activities. The Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016   will authorize the gradual replacement of the existing recycling programs, with changes to the Used Tired Program already underway, and consultations for a Food and Organic Waste Action Plan scheduled for 2017.

For further reading: Canadian readers will be familiar with a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives in 2013, Closing the Loop: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Through Zero Waste in BC , and can keep up to date with the blog from Canada’s National Zero Waste Council.   International news reports are monitored at The Guardian newspaper in its  Circular Economy section.   An overview of the EU Circular Economy Action Plan is available from the European Commission website here , and see “First year verdict: how much progress has the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan made?” .  The Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions (ACES)  has a European focus, and in December 2015 published Unemployment and the circular economy, which shows how the development of the circular economy in Europe could impact the jobs market in Italy, Poland and Germany.  The Ellen MacArthur Foundation  has a global focus with a broad range, and normally releases reports at the Davos meetings of the World Economic Forum.  At the January 2017 meetings, it released the latest in a series of reports on the plastics industry: The New Plastics Economy: Catalysing Action 

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