Ontario recognizes the importance of diverting waste from landfills to extend landfill life and support innovation and job growth in new environmental sectors that convert wastes into valuable resources.

The Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy has been part of the government’s approach to tackling waste and supporting a circular economy, as have Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan and the Reducing Litter and Waste in our Communities discussion paper (PDF).

Since 2017, Ontario has made significant progress in recovering valuable resources from our waste that would otherwise have been sent to landfills or become litter polluting Ontario’s parks, communities and waterways. We will continue to support innovation and a shift towards a circular economy by taking actions such as giving producers the tools they need to take our blue box program into the next century.

Read on to learn more about our progress to date on turning waste into a resource and creating economic and environmental benefits for our province.

Enhance provincial direction and oversight

We need strong oversight and enforcement in our resource recovery and waste reduction systems that can give us the data and information we need to make better evidence-based decisions in support of achieving our goals.

Action: empower the resource productivity and recovery authority

Progress made

The Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) has a fully constituted board which has enabled them to appoint an executive team, registrar and staff complement. RPRA and the minister made amendments to the operating agreement, which came into effect on April 23, 2021, to support RPRA operating in a transparent and effective manner. RPRA is now responsible for oversight, compliance and enforcement of resource recovery and waste reduction activities under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (RRCEA) and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 (WDTA), as well as operating a registry to receive and store data from producers and others who conduct resource recovery or waste reduction activities in Ontario.

Action: issue policy statements to provide clear direction on the provincial interest

Progress made

The Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement was issued in 2018 under the RRCEA. The policy statement aims to reduce and divert food waste, foster the rescue of surplus food and support organic processing infrastructure. The policy statement also sets targets for medium to large municipalities and larger businesses and institutions to reduce and divert food and organic waste by 2023-2025.

The Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement also educates people and businesses about the importance of preventing and reducing food and organic waste.

Action: establish a registry and build data capacity to provide for evidence-based decisions

Progress made

In 2018, RPRA launched its registry to support registration, reporting and compliance for the producer responsibility programs. This included the ongoing development of registry portals for tires, batteries, information technology, telecommunications and audio visual (ITTAV) equipment, lighting, hazardous and special products and blue box materials.

In 2019, RPRA’s mandate under the RRCEA was changed to provide digital reporting services for a wider range of waste and resource recovery programs beyond producer responsibility, including developing and operating the Excess Soil Registry and the Hazardous Waste Program Registry. The digital reporting service will meet the needs of stakeholders, save time and reduce administrative burden for over 40,000 businesses and institutions regulated by the program. Modernizing digital services for businesses allows for more efficient compliance monitoring and timely enforcement actions, which provides assurance for Ontarians that polluters will be held accountable.

Enable efficient and effective recovery systems

In the last five years, Ontario has developed new regulations that require producers to establish and operate recovery systems for the management of blue box materials, batteries, tires, hazardous and special products and electrical and electronic equipment. This objective will be achieved in part by putting in place a framework that will modernize and enhance resource recovery and enable producers to innovatively and responsibly manage their products and packaging throughout their life cycle.

Action: transition existing waste diversion programs to a new producer responsibility framework without disruption of services

Progress made

On June 3, 2021, Ontario finalized a new regulation that makes recycling easier for Ontarians by standardizing what goes in the blue box and expanding services to more communities across the province. The new full producer responsibility model will improve recycling across the province by creating a more consistent and reliable blue box collection service with some of the highest diversion rate targets in North America.

Municipalities will begin transitioning their programs to producer responsibility on July 1, 2023, and all programs will have transitioned by January 1, 2026. The regulation is currently in the implementation stage with producers and producer responsibility organizations making plans for how they will set up collection and recycling responsibilities as required by the regulation.

In addition to the Blue Box regulation, Ontario has established four other producer responsibility regulations under the RRCEA:

Action: establish service provider requirements to protect the environment while promoting resource recovery

Progress made

Ontario has included service providers requirements in all five producer responsibility regulations. Service providers must register, report and keep records. The batteries, electrical and electronic equipment and hazardous and special products regulations also require producers to only use processors that meet specified recycling efficiency rates to ensure the collected materials are managed to a high standard.

Action: ensure landfills are well planned and managed to minimize their need and reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Progress made

In 2020, Ontario made changes to the Environmental Assessment Act to require proponents of new, large landfills to obtain support from both host and adjacent municipalities within 3.5 kilometres of the proposed new landfill site. The province recognizes the importance of autonomy in local decision making and believes that new, large landfills should be located in communities that are supportive of the project. This balanced approach considers input from local communities and provides more certainty for landfill applicants. Providing municipalities with a say in landfills in their communities is key to balancing a healthy economy with a healthy environment and keeping our province clean and beautiful.

Action: establish promotion and education requirements to support public participation in resource recovery

Progress made

As part of all five producer responsibility regulations, Ontario requires that producers provide promotion and education to make the public aware of their collection and management.

In 2019, Ontario also established the second Tuesday of May each year as Ontario’s Provincial Day of Action on Litter. The most recent Day of Action took place on May 10, 2022 and included launching a new Litter Cleanup Guide for educators and schools. The event included engaging over 800 groups and organizations to help promote the Day of Action and educate on the impacts of litter and waste in our communities. The groups and organizations included municipalities, businesses, industry associations, education and youth organizations and environmental organizations. The ministry is now preparing for the 2023 Day of Action, which will take place May 9, 2023.

Increase waste reduction and improve resource productivity

Ontario continues to make progress with waste recovery and increasing resource productivity while also reducing burden, streamlining the environmental approvals process and maintaining our strong environmental standards.

Action: designate new materials to ensure producers are fully responsible for recovering more materials from products and packaging

Progress made

Under the blue box regulation, the list of blue box materials that producers have to collect and manage will be standardized in municipalities across the province, and the scope of materials will be expanded to include single-use and packaging-like products such as paper and plastic cups, foils, trays, stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates. The batteries, electrical and electronic equipment, and hazardous and special products regulations also added new materials beyond what was managed in the previous waste diversion programs, including rechargeable batteries, lighting, some additional ITTAV equipment, mercury-containing thermometers, thermostats and barometers.

Action: implement an action plan to reduce the volume of food and organic wastes going to landfill

Progress made

In 2018, Ontario issued the Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement, which sets targets and gives direction to municipalities, businesses and institutions to reduce and divert food and organic waste.

Also, in response to the COVID‑19 pandemic, Ontario invested over $5 million through the Surplus Food Redistribution Infrastructure Program to help keep good food out of landfills. Twenty-six food rescue organizations and Indigenous communities received funding to help rescue food and strengthen food security. Those funds helped ensure that when supply chains were interrupted during the early days of the pandemic that good, nutritious food did not simply go to waste.

In May 2021, we held a joint workshop with Environment and Climate Change Canada to explore the management of compostables. In 2022, Ontario conducted testing of select compostable products and packaging in some of Ontario’s organic processing facilities. We continue to work with the federal government to develop a path forward for the management of compostables, so that emerging and innovative products and packaging can be managed appropriately at their end of life.

Action: implement an excess soil management policy framework to increase the reuse of excess soil, while protecting human health and the environment

Progress made

In December 2019, Ontario finalized a new excess soil management regulation as well as other regulatory changes that will make it safer and easier for more excess soil to be reused locally. The Excess Soil Regulation came into effect in phases, with key elements as follows:

  • reuse Rules and Waste Clarification requirements came into effect on January 1, 2021
  • excess Soil Reuse Planning Requirements came into effect on January 1, 2023
  • limited restriction on the landfilling of clean soil come into effect on January 1, 2025

Action: adopt and implement modern regulatory approaches to build on and promote innovative best practices

Progress made

In 2021, Ontario amended the Alternative Low-Carbon Fuels Regulation (O. Reg. 79/15) to make it easier for manufacturers of cement, lime, iron and steel, to substitute the use of coal with fuels derived from materials that would otherwise be disposed in landfills. The use of low-carbon fuels will support industries’ efforts to reduce, and eventually phase-out their use of coal by using low-carbon fuels that generally emit less greenhouse gases. The reduction of greenhouse gases is vital to fighting climate change.

The amendments came into effect January 2022.

We have expanded and facilitated broader use of operational flexibility in waste approvals to allow future site changes with well understood impacts to proceed without having to amend an approval.

The ministry introduced a streamlined approvals process for waste research and development projects that reduces application requirements if a site owner wants to do small scale, short duration research and development to validate certain processes or test a new technology.

We also established a Waste Practitioners Group in October 2020, improving outreach and information exchange by providing a forum for discussing waste permissions. The Waste Practitioners Group has been meeting on a regular basis.

Ontario is committed to supporting the use of advanced recycling and energy recovery technologies that can help ensure valuable resources do not end up in landfill. In 2022, Ontario Regulation 101/07 (Waste Management Projects) was amended to streamline the environmental assessment (EA) requirements for thermal treatment-based advanced recycling facilities, and remove EA requirements if certain conditions are met, such as an overall recovery rate of 70%. Prior to the changes, an advanced recycling facility was required to complete the same type of environmental assessment as a thermal treatment facility that disposes of waste.

Create conditions for sustainable end-markets

Ontario continues to invest in innovative businesses to help create sustainable end-markets and support a circular economy.

In 2021, under the Southwestern Ontario Development Fund, Ontario provided Ayr, Ontario based packaging supplier Good Natured Products Inc. an investment in a new production line for eco-friendly packaging. With Ontario’s investment, Good Natured Products will create 15 jobs and will offer new environmentally friendly products.

In 2022, under the same program, Ontario provided Greenlid with $500,000 in funding to build a new manufacturing facility that will bring the company’s production to Ontario. Greenlid is an Ontario company that produces compostable products.

Ontario believes that investing in innovation is key to creating more sustainable end-markets that foster lasting change.

Action: improve and establish environmental standards to provide a level playing field and a strong foundation for markets

Progress made

The producer responsibility framework will help Ontario attract new innovations and investments because the regulations include verifiable diversion targets that provide certainty of supply for producers who want to use recycled material.

Action: use green procurement practices to build market demand for recovered materials

Progress made

The batteries and electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) regulations provide incentives for producers who use recycled content in the making of new EEE and batteries as well as for EEE producers who offer extended warranties or access to consumer repair as part of the new regulatory framework. These activities are expected to result in less waste being produced by extending the life of the products, or otherwise reduce the amount of virgin raw materials that are used in the making of new products, which are key elements in a circular economy.

The EEE regulation also includes an incentive for Ontario-based reuse activities which is intended to encourage reuse and refurbishment of EEE that still has a useful life, rather than it being sent for recycling by default. This incentive also encourages producers to work with Ontario-based companies which makes it easier for RPRA to ensure compliance and reduces greenhouse gas emissions through shorter shipping distances.

Moving forward

Supporting a circular economy is a priority for Ontario. Moving towards a circular economy will help Ontario stay competitive, drive innovation, protect our natural resources and the environment. By taking key actions such as modernizing our regulatory approaches and establishing a producer responsibility regime, we are setting a strong foundation to transform the way Ontarians think and act about waste.