Yes, there is an effective and efficient approach to transitioning the Waste Diversion Act (WDA) programs and current disposal of other waste into an efficient circular economy. It requires the use of a transformation methodology.

Ontario is facing a complete rethinking requiring many changes to what was called waste management. Many people in the waste sector, environment sector, and recovery sector, along with producers, government and consumers, recognize the need to make dramatic changes to Ontario’s waste management system. Importantly, Ontario needs to adopt the circular economy approach of reducing resource use upstream and at end of life, recovering discarded materials and incorporating them efficiently into new products.

We constantly hear about how complex the Ontario waste diversion programs and problems are. All the talking that goes on in and around seminars, workshops (misnomer!!), conferences, meetings, consultations, etc. is incredibly time consuming and costly. All this talk, round and round, results in near paralysis.

But if you talk to experienced practitioners in transformation methodologies, the transition of WDA programs is not particularly complex. The reason the waste management and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) stakeholders find it complex is because they are people from the fields of operations, legal, government relations, and policy – not change management. They are experts in their fields and not familiar with how to design and/or implement large scale change.  It is like asking an operations manager to deal with a law suit – they might be able to deal with some of it but would quickly make a mess of things.

Transformation methodologies consist of a number of components including, but not limited to:

  • Vision and objectives
  • Assessment and benchmarking
  • Multi-stakeholder modelling and management
  • Risk planning and management – financial, environmental/technical, political, etc.
  • Process modelling – including financials
  • Governance design
  • Organization mapping
  • Future processes modelling and prioritization
  • Impact and behavioural assessments
  • Enabling information, communications and technologies
  • Change and implementation planning
  • Implementation and reporting

Practitioners have a variety of tools in their methodology toolkit to make these inter-dependent components work together and provide a coordinated, effective solution. Some of the methodology tools include the Agile method, prototyping, and project management for transformation (not basic project management).

Transformational change will have many different tasks and issues ongoing at any one time, involving many different stakeholders. This is normal. The skilled people who design and manage these types of complex changes are used to ambiguity, conflicting objectives, multi-stakeholder agendas, heated debates, and efforts to sabotage initiatives. They are also able to step back, reassess and re-direct when necessary, and keep moving forward to the desired objective, in the desired timeframe.

This is an approach successfully used by practitioners that specialize in transforming complex systems. The WDA transitions certainly present some risk, but as we have seen in other jurisdictions (e.g., Germany, Austria) and other sectors (e.g., communications), these can be managed.

The Ontario resource recovery sector needs: programs transitioned; new regulations in place; choices available to producers, municipalities, service providers, and consumers; and better environmental performance across value chains. New mindsets, global views and behaviors are required for the change ahead. Yet this can be accomplished quickly and more effectively with the use of methodologies, tools and people trained in transformation. Working with the policy people and other stakeholders can lead to success, as opposed to the old linear policy approach – research, consult, draft, consult, rewrite, maybe consult, introduce, pass, and tweak some more. All stakeholders, and the process itself, would benefit from bringing this approach to the important transition of these responsibilities.