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Q-and-A on government developments in single-use plastics and recycling


June 16, 2021
By Ground Water Canada

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In preparing for our podcast, The Footprint: A discussion on the awareness of the footprint left during drilling for domestic water wells or dewatering wells, editor Colleen Cross and Mike Hare, marketing manager for Canadian Pipe & Pump Supply Inc., reached out to the provincial and federal governments.

We spoke with Shelly Bonte-Gelok, Manager of Policy and Special Projects in the Resource Recovery and Policy Branch at Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, and Ontario’s representation on the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s Waste Reduction and Recovery Committee. Bonte-Gelok shared Ontario’s plans as well as plans by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME), their partner at the federal level in this initiative.

Highlights are mentioned in the podcast. Here are her responses in full.

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Q1: Please tell us about the key federal and provincial legislation that is in progress to deal with the problem of single-use plastics?
Ontario’s approach to reducing litter and waste, including those made from plastic, is set out in the Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities Discussion Paper, which built on the commitments made in the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.

The Environment Plan and the Discussion Paper include real actions to reduce the amount of waste that is sent to landfills or becomes litter.

A key action currently underway in Ontario involves transitioning the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility. This proposed regulation under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, would transfer the operation and costs of the Blue Box Program from municipalities to the producers of products and packaging that go into the blue box.

Making producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products provides them with an incentive to reduce packaging and improve packaging design. Producer will also have the flexibility to find innovative and efficient ways to improve recycling. We believe efforts to reduce packaging and improve recycling means less plastic waste going to Ontario landfills in the future.

We will also be consulting on reforms to Ontario’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional waste framework to increase diversion rates in this sector and find opportunities to align with the Blue Box Regulation.

We are currently working with other provinces, territories and the federal government at the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment on implementing the Canada-wide Action Plan on Zero Plastic Waste. Implementation of the Action Plan includes the development of a roadmap to strengthen the management of single-use and disposable plastics.

Q2: Results from survey question 3 lead us to focus on which type(s) of material the respondents are using and recycling. What materials do you think are the key materials to talk about?
It’s great to see that the respondents to the survey are recycling these products. We believe all materials that can be recycled should be recycled. The ministry wants to thank your organization for raising the issue of recycling in your sector, it was great to see that 100% of the respondents think recycling is important. (See the Blue Box regulation, finalized on June 3, 2021.)

Q3: Have there been any delays to this initiative due to COVID or additions to the mandate (i.e. PPE?)?
Our government has been focused on working with health officials and our COVID-19 Science Advisory Table to manage the pandemic this past year. We know our stakeholders have all been facing a particularly challenging time, so we have had to consider their capacity to engage in discussions with the ministry.

We remain committed to taking action to improve recycling across the province and address the serious problem of plastic pollution and litter. Over the past year we have consulted on our Blue Box Regulation, as well as the Household and Special Product regulation that will deal with household products such as solvents and automotive oil filters.

Q4: How are the three tiers of government coordinating to ensure there are no mixed messages to meet the proposed dates?
Managing plastic waste, including single-use plastics is an issue that is best addressed by working with other levels of government, the scientific community and producers to take steps to both prevent and clean up plastic pollution on land and in the Great Lakes and waterways.

As mentioned, we are working with our federal, provincial and territorial partners on the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. The CCME is an intergovernmental forum for collective actions on environmental issues of national and international concern.

One of the items in the Zero Plastic Waste Action Plan that we are working on is the development of a roadmap to strengthen management of single-use, disposable plastics. This work will involve defining and identifying the single-use items that are commonly released into the environment or pose other end-of-life management challenges and promote solutions to their use such as identifying sustainable alternatives.

Q5: Issue with each municipality having different recycling rules. Is this being addressed?
Changes we are proposing to the Blue Box will make it easier for Ontarians to recycle by standardizing the materials and the places where Blue Boxes will be available, including public parks and playgrounds. (See the Blue Box regulation, finalized on June 3, 2021.)

Q6: Are there other developments or points worth considering or items we may have overlooked in this industry discussion?
Our government also recently established an official Day of Action on Litter. The Day of Action is an annual event to bring attention to the impact waste and litter has on our environment and what we can do to stop it every day of the year. The Provincial Day of Action on Litter is officially recognized in the province on the second Tuesday of May each year.

In light of the province’s efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, our Day of Action on Litter has focused specifically on what Ontarians can do to prevent, reduce and divert waste at home. When it is safe to do so, we will shift our focus to community cleanups and invite you to join us as we make our communities a cleaner, healthier place to live, work and grow.

Plastics play an important part in our everyday lives. Given the benefits, it is important that we responsibly manage plastics to allow their beneficial uses while minimizing risks to the environment.

That is why, we invite all Ontarians to continue to raise awareness of the issue of plastic waste and to seek out community and industry lead solutions. Our government will continue to work with other levels of government, the scientific community and producers to promote sustainable management of this important resource.