Improving waste diversion in the industrial, commercial and institutional sector

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.

Office waste (iStock16085055)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.

Recycling programs can also be set up for batteries, electronics, hazardous waste, and tires (depending on the nature of business, of course. See how diverse this industry is?)

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.

About lindsayplugers

Hi, I'm Lindsay Plugers, and I am a Program Coordinator with Halton Region's Waste Management Services. I graduated from the University of Waterloo with my BEs, majoring in Environment & Resource Studies, with a diploma in Ecological Restoration & Rehabilitation, as well as Environmental Assessment. I work primarily with organizing waste audits to see how well our Region is doing at diverting waste, as well as coordinate the Battery Recycling Program and the Take it Back! Halton program. Outside of work, I love to stay active, cook (my goal is to try one new recipe each week!), travel, and spend time with my family and friends.
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9 Responses to Improving waste diversion in the industrial, commercial and institutional sector

  1. Janna B. Bolton says:

    Waste diversion rates closely reflect attitudes to waste and recycling. Rates are also related to current economic activity and to available facilities and programs for recycling and recovery. A higher waste diversion rate signals that Albertans want to reduce the impact of waste on the environment.

  2. Kale says:

    Hi there, great article! It’s great to hear of a new program that may help the ICI sector divert a higher percentage of the waste they produce from the landfill. What are Halton Region’s future plans are for organics collection for businesses, municipal buildings, etc.? Also wondering if there are any plans to create an incentive program whereby a fee is charged for landfill waste and free for non-contaminated recyclables and organics pick ups? Unfortunately many businesses do not have an eco-champion working for them and will not participate without an added incentive to them that affects their bottom line…

  3. Hi Kale,

    Thanks for your comment! Halton Region’s Waste Management Services provides weekly waste collection to more than 180,000 households, as well as garbage and recycling collection for BIA shopping districts. Most IC&I businesses in Halton have collection contracts in place with private organizations. Many private waste collection organizations recognize the need for waste diversion services, and are beginning to offer organics collection. Some collectors will even provide free waste audits for potential customers to assess their waste diversion needs and potential!

    By actively participating in the Blue and Green Cart programs through these organizations, costs can be reduced as a business can reduce its dumpster size and garbage collection frequency as a result of increased diversion.

    All regional owned facilities throughout Halton have recycling and organics collection, and the respective municipalities are implementing the programs in community centres with much success.

    Halton Region Waste Management does offer ‘Lunch and Learn’ workshops for businesses to engage staff in waste reduction and diversion initiatives around the office. See the following link for more information:

    If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at ^lp

    • Kale says:

      Hey Lindsay, it is great to hear that the Region is setting a good example by ensuring all of the regional owned facilities have diversion programs!

      Do you know if the Region is going to be offering “free” organics/recycled pick up for Burlington businesses in the future/if there are other municipalities in Ontario that offer a“no fee” service pick up for businesses?

      Also wondering if there is there a cost to the lunch and learn workshop?

      Thanks for your original reply!

      • Hi Kale,

        With our residential program vastly expanding due to increased participation rates and population growth, our focus will continue to remain on providing exceptional service to households in Halton.

        There is no fee for the Lunch and Learn workshops! Feel free to contact Halton Region by dialing 311 or e-mailing to book one. ^lp

      • Kale Black says:

        Thanks very much for your response Lindsay!


  4. Herbert R. Howard says:

    The depressed economy has had a profound negative effect on the recyclable commodities markets. Almost all recyclable material types have dipped to record low values. Because waste generation is highly correlated with economic and demographic change, generation increased at a lower rate this year–a little less than 3 percent. The economic downturn, coupled with low market value for recyclables, caused disposal to increase at a higher rate than generation, therefore causing the 2001 statewide diversion rate to stay the same as it was in 2000–at 42 percent. This is the first time the statewide diversion rate has not increased since we started to estimate it in 1989. Please see the Estimated California Solid Waste Generation and Diversion Rates Web page for a table representing diversion program performance since 1989.

  5. Pingback: New waste management legislation proposed for Ontario | HaltonRecycles

  6. Pingback: Update on Ontario’s Waste Reduction Act | HaltonRecycles

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