About 30 per cent of Ontario’s waste is exported to the United States, according to the Ontario Waste Management Association’s (OWMA) State of Waste in Ontario: Landfill Report (December 2018). That translates into 3,517,567 tons. Private landfills account for 46 per cent (5,386,067 tons) and Ontario public landfills 24 per cent (2,745,203 tons).
And since the price of shipping all that waste out has risen to $3.99 US from $0.36 US per Imperial ton, it represents a potential burden that makes the practice unsustainable in all likelihood.
South Frontenac Public Works Manager Mark Segsworth is a member of the OWMA board and says that while “we have a fairly high level of confidence that the blue box material collected in most of rural Ontario is diverted,” the need for a more comprehensive approach to waste management is upon us.
Under various legislations, including the Waste Free Ontario Act, the makers of recyclable packaging are responsible for 50 per cent of the costs of blue box programs.
“The producer responsibility model is much easier said than done,” Segsworth said. “In theory, producers pay 50 per cent of the blue box system but we’ve really never received 50 per cent of our costs.”
Even though “we’re moving in that direction,” we’re still left with the unescapable fact that we’ve only got about 20 years of landfill capacity left and when that’s filled up, smaller municipalities are apt to be forced to accept ‘solutions’ that aren’t what’s best for us, Segsworth said.
“I look at where we’re going and there’s economies of scale to be realized,” he said. “There’s definitely going to be changes and we’re in no position of strength on our own.
“I think there’s a huge opportunity to take a more regional approach.”
Segsworth would like to see Eastern Ontario divided into three “catchment areas” of Ottawa, Kingston and Cornwall in order to process waste and recycling.
“Growth is upon us and either we get out in front and manage it or we have it done to us,” he said. “We shouldn’t be restricted to our borders.”
What will come out of Ontario’s new “Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations — A Made-in Ontario Environment Plan” has yet to be seen but Segsworth expects it to be on table next week when he participates in a panel discussion next week on organic waste (kitchen scraps, etc).
“We promote the backyard composter and you can deliver leaves and yard waste to Portland free of charge,” he said. “But in urban areas, it’s more green bin programs.”
But, if we don’t get a seat at the table, what programs we want to use might not fit in to the plans that are made, he said.
“Our capacity is insignificant in the overall scheme of things,” he said.
And changes to global practices also need to be addressed, he said.
“We had a good thing going with bale/boat wrap where we were actually making a few cents,” he said. “We were sending it to China but they won’t take it any more.
“How did we allow that to happen?”
Segsworth said he’s been working on a Frontenac Waste Review for a couple of years now.
“That will come to Council in April,” he said.