In Ontario, households are doing a great job practicing the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle).
From shopping wisely and choosing products with minimal packaging to packing food in reusable containers, residents’ participation in curbside recycling programs helps Ontario’s household waste diversion rate continue to rise. Here in Ontario the average residential waste diversion rate is 46% (Halton Region currently sits at approximately 57% ).
But what about the business or commercial sector? The restaurants that serve our community? The office spaces that we work out of? The hospitals that take care of us? The manufacturing plants that make the goods we buy?
Unfortunately, the Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) sector — which generates 60% of all of the waste in Ontario, is actually experiencing a decrease in their waste diversion rate. In the ICI sector, waste diversion rates have plateaued at 13%. This means that out of the 12 million tonnes of waste produced last year, 8.125 million tonnes headed to landfill just from the IC&I sector.
Because the ICI sector is so broad – restaurants, offices, hospitals, manufacturing plants, etc. — attempting to create a single solid waste strategy for this diverse sector is challenging. Fortunately, great efforts have been made in Ontario to assist this sector in achieving optimal diversion rates.
In Ontario, the Recycling Council of Ontario recently launched the 3RCertified Program. This program is directed towards the ICI sector and recognizes those businesses that are leading the way in waste reduction and diversion. I really appreciate the program’s application process as it requires interested organizations to evaluate all aspects of solid waste management — encompassing everything from purchasing habits through to consumption and eventual disposal. Taking a holistic approach to managing a business’ waste can help identify various changes that can be made to produce significant results.
As of right now, the program is only available to office buildings, but there are plans to expand this program in the near future. This does not mean that waste diversion efforts in the IC&I sector need to wait for program to expand – they can start today! Simple changes, or enhancements can be made to current programs to divert waste from landfill.
All businesses should have an effective source separation program (aka recycling program). I emphasize effective because all businesses should legally have a recycling program as per Ontario Regulation 103/94. It’s fairly safe to say that this regulation isn’t being complied with to its fullest potential. Look into what materials your waste collection contractor will accept for recycling, and develop an internal education program so every employee is aware of their responsibilities when it comes to waste management.
Further awareness can be raised through creating a staff challenge. In honour of Earth Day or Waste Reduction Week, have staff participate in various challenges such as waste-free lunches, paperless meetings, or waste diversion contests to raise awareness.
For items like pens, markers, and ink cartridges that are traditionally not accepted in a recycling program, setup a recycling program with a qualified vendor to help divert those materials as well.
Working in the food industry? Investigate an organics waste composting program—perhaps your waste collection contractor can provide this service. A significant amount of waste generated at a restaurant is food. Wet, rotting food has a very heavy weight and is a source of methane in landfills. Diverting this material will not only reduce a business’s garbage tonnage, but will also reduce harmful emissions into the atmosphere! Organic waste can be turned into valuable compost that can be sold to local farmers to harvest crops, or can be used for landscaping purposes.
These are just some small starting points that businesses can take to help reduce the amount of waste being sent to landfill. If Ontario’s ICI sector truly embraces the 3Rs, we can see the province’s overall waste diversion rate increase dramatically, which will have positive impact on our shared environment.
Share any comments you have including suggestions for ways the ICI sector can increase and improve their waste diversion efforts.