Title: [GreenYes] Announcing the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition
June 11, 2008
Announcing the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition
New group formed to go beyond blue box recycling
June 11, 2008 (Niagara Falls, Ontario) - There are sustainable solutions for
waste that don't damage the environment or human health; that's the guiding
belief of the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition (OZWC).
The newly formed coalition, made up of member non-governmental groups from
across Ontario, intends to lobby the government and educate the public about
adopting Zero Waste strategies that could see waste diversion rates climb
from current municipal averages of 20 to 45 per cent to more than 90 per
cent. The coalition formed after several grassroots groups came together to
discuss more sustainable ways to address waste. The group decided the
Zero Waste initiatives are the most cost-effective and environmentally
"It's time for Ontario to look at best practices from around the world and
start employing successful methods to decrease the amount and toxicity of
waste that's generated," says Liz Benneian of president of Oakvillegreen
Conservation Association, a member group of OZWC.
In addition to province-wide recycling and composting initiatives to divert
waste, more product stewardship programs are needed to keep many kinds of
products and packaging out of the municipal waste stream in the first place,
The Ontario Zero Waste Coalition would like to see:
1. Legislation passed that removes toxic ingredients from the
manufacturing of products. These pose a threat during a product's use and
end up in waste (and, ultimately, the environment). Europe, the group points
out, already has such legislation in place.
2. Regulation to further reduce packaging and packaging waste.
3. Extended-Producer Responsibility (EPR) laws that make manufacturers
of goods fully responsible for recycling their goods once consumers are done
4. Enhanced "Take-It-Back" programs that are province-wide for goods
such as batteries, fluorescent bulbs, computers, etc. Product stewardship
programs should not only fund waste diversion - they should inspire
manufacturers to Design for the Environment (DfE)
5. A provincially-mandated program for the recycling of construction
waste and the strict enforcement of waste diversion laws for all industrial,
commercial and institutional (IC&I) waste - which is estimated as two-thirds
of the waste stream.
6. Requirements for industry to pay 100 per cent (not a portion) of the
net cost of blue box recycling, product stewardship programs, and the
recycling or disposal of non-recyclable, non-compostable items. Why should
ratepayers fund end-of-life management for environmentally unsustainable
The group plans to encourage an Ontario version of the municipal-led product
stewardship councils that are forming across North America to promote Zero
Waste. Examples include councils in British Columbia, California, Oregon and
Washington State, as well as a number of mid-west states and Nova Scotia
(which has Canada's highest provincial waste diversion rate, above 70 per
cent). In addition to towns and cities, many companies are starting to take
back their used products in separate systems (e.g., Dell Computers, Sony).
Benneian notes that reducing waste and managing it in a sustainable way
through the adoption of Zero Waste principles is part of a global effort
that's gaining momentum.
"Just recently, the town of Oki in Japan made a declaration that it will
become a town that does not dispose of waste by incineration or landfills by
2016. As part of their declaration, they stated, 'We reviewed our wasteful
lifestyle and decided that our town will not let our children shoulder the
debts.' I think the people and the government of Ontario should be willing
to make the same promise to their children and grandchildren," says
For more information about the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition contact Liz
Benneian at 905-257-0250 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
SEE BACKGROUNDER FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON ZERO WASTE.
Understanding the Zero Waste Concept
>From the Ontario Zero Waste Coalition
The term "Zero Waste" is not new, and has been used by waste diversion
advocates and other environmentalists for decades. What is new is that the
concept is gaining traction as communities try to practice sustainability
and look beyond "end of pipe" solutions for waste. Concern about climate
change, toxic products and a wide range of environmental issues (even the
rising price of oil!) are causing people to question the wasteful and
energy-inefficient side of the consumer society.
"Zero Waste" is sometimes dismissed as a utopian goal, but it remains a
flagship concept for a range of leading-edge ideas and initiatives that
include the following:
* Even the best designed landfills and waste incinerators are the
"right answer to the wrong question" - an engineered solution to dispose of
the product waste our society generates. Even if they could be built
economically and be protective of human health and the environment, making
it easy to dispose of stuff only worsens the deeper problem: we are
consuming natural resources and non-renewable energy unsustainably. It's
said it would take "five earths" for everyone to live and consume as we do
in the developed world. This must change.
* Most of the environmental impact of a product occurs during natural
resource extraction, manufacturing, distribution, sale and actual use of the
product. Only a third (or less) of the impact comes from how we dispose of
it. We must consider the entire lifecycle of a product and adopt policies
that encourage manufacturers, retailers and consumers to produce and consume
sustainably - not just "solve a waste problem."
* Building the Zero Waste society doesn't mean a return to the "stone
age." Nor is it anti-business. The vision is of a vibrant, sustainable
consumer economy in which, as the Product Policy Institute puts it,
"government takes a leadership role in protecting human and environmental
health through policies that reward green businesses providing 'cradle to
cradle' management of their products." Many leading companies understand
that "waste" indicates an underutilized resource; they're saving money by
wasting less, redesigning products, and - through properly-designed "product
stewardship programs," investing in an enriched relationship with customers.
* The Zero Waste philosophy is less about "command and control"
regulation and more about free markets - that is markets without subsidies.
As Robert Kennedy said, "Show me a polluter and I'll show you a subsidy."
Over the past century municipal governments have operated collection and
disposal (and diversion) programs for a growing mountain of product waste.
Since the system is funded by ratepayers, there's no economic signal back to
producers to change their systems. Elimination of this "subsidy" is a key
Zero Waste goal.
* Green production requires an end to subsidies at every stage in a
product's lifecycle, including virgin material extraction and waste
disposal. The Zero Waste movement seeks to drive the externalized ecological
and social costs into the prices of products. If consumers pay the true
costs for goods, sustainable products will be on a more equal footing.
* Product stewardship programs, eco-labeling and green procurement are
important elements in moving society along the Zero Waste path. But all too
often, some programs simply attach an eco-fee at the point of sale to pay
for a product's eventual recycling. This may keep certain wastes out of
landfill (a good thing) but does nothing to stimulate design changes from
manufacturers. A program's fee structure can actually let producers and
brand owners "off the hook."
* Local governments are starting to realize they've underwritten the
costs of overconsumption and waste for far too long. In California, British
Columbia and a host of other jurisdictions, municipal-led "product
stewardship councils" have started up and are adopting policies and are
writing framework legislation to get the cost of materials management back
into the producer-consumer relationship (where it belongs). This concept is
catching on and, most recently, the Town of Markham is moving toward a Zero
* In Ontario, recycling and composting programs are being expanded, and
product stewardship programs are being introduced. Household hazardous and
special waste, plus electronics waste, are about to be addressed. Many more
products and packaging could be handled outside the municipal system.
Fluorescent light bulbs, detergent containers, and soft drinks (sold in
refillable containers) are just a few product categories ripe for product
stewardship. There are many more.
A few Zero Waste resources:
Product Policy Institute: www.productpolicy.org
Zero Waste Vancouver Blog: http://blog.zerowastevancouver.org
Grassroots Recycling Network: www.grrn.org <http://www.grrn.org/>
NOTE: At the Product Policy Institute website, look under the "Resources"
section for some excellent materials, and also in the "Problem and Solution"
section there are links to two excellent short (under 20 minute) online
The Story of Stuff is an engaging, funny presentation of the "global
materials economy" that leads to over-production, over-consumption and
A Better Way: Product Stewardship presents a fundamental, political solution
in a new video developed by the Product Policy Institute for the California
Product Stewardship Council. It's a narrated PowerPoint that has proven to
be an effective grassroots tool in helping local governments to organize to
bring extended producer responsibility policies to California.
Product Policy Institute
PO Box 48433
Athens, GA 30604