What’s Changing – and what Producers should look for going forward
Landfill disposal bans in Canada, at any government level, have not been exceedingly prevalent as a policy tool. However, trends are emerging at both the provincial and local level as a tool to increase diversion while extending the life of the landfill and reducing the harmful effects of disposal. Three Canadian examples with provincial or local disposal bans include Nova Scotia, British Columbia, and Ontario.
Provincially, Nova Scotia has been leading the way in terms of disposal bans on materials that have a designated diversion stream, namely materials that can be recycled. Notably, the Solid-Waste Resource Management Regulations that determine the requirements and responsibilities for the separation of materials and regulates industry stewardship programs has been in place since April 1996. The ban includes 21 items from different material classes, including paper, plastic, and compostable organic material. Pursuing a provincial level mandate not only ensures that there is policy harmony across the municipalities, but also that there is a concerted provincial effort to increase diversion and support local recycling businesses.
While British Columbia (BC) does not have province-wide regulations, its largest municipal authority, Metro Vancouver, has a number of policies geared, not only to increase waste diversion but also to combat the challenges associated with marine debris. The disposal bans in Metro Vancouver, passed in 2016, are generally associated with accepted materials in the recycling stream, such as paper packaging and plastics including high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and applies to both residential and industrial, commercial, and institutional waste (IC&I). Metro Vancouver is also considering an Expanded Polystyrene Ban (EPS) to encourage more recycling in the region. The initial focus of this ban would be limited to non-food white EPS, such as cushioning foam found around electronics and appliances.  While recycling exists for EPS in Metro Vancouver for both residents (drop off at depot free of charge) and for businesses (can send for recycling for a fee), these materials are not being recycled at high enough rates. Moreover, according to a Metro Vancouver workshop, 80% of all EPS material comes from commercial sources.
A number of Ontario municipalities introduced disposal bans in the early 1990s to support local recycling and waste diversion programs. While bans have been raised in every waste strategy plan developed by the province, there have been very little progression since. However, in Ontario’s progressive 2016 Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building a Circular Economy, disposal bans are likely to re-emerge. The Strategy has indicated that as part of achieving these objectives in the province, a number of disposal bans are under consideration for materials captured under existing waste diversion programs, such as recyclable packaging and containers, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), and most notably the development of an organics diversion strategy. Similar to Metro Vancouver and Nova Scotia, these disposal bans focus on items that have a designated recycling stream to increase the diversion and reduce landfill disposal that generates harmful GHG emissions.
According to the Government of Canada, emissions from Canadian landfills accounted for 20% of national methane emissions. As such, there is a direct link between increasing waste diversion and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Therefore, provincial authorities and municipal governments are revisiting disposal bans not only to support local recycling and extend landfills capacity, but also as part of their GHG reduction strategies.
At a recent waste industry event, representatives from three industry associations, Joe Hruska, Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA); Isabelle Faucher, Carton Council of Canada (CCC); and Rachel Morier of the Packaging Consortium (PAC), all advocated for a disposal ban on packaging that had a designated diversion stream.
With the incorporation of the Circular Economy, new focus on reducing GHG through diversion, and the recognition of the harms associated with these materials when disposed in landfill, we expect to see disposal bans for materials with designated diversion streams on the rise.
Metro Vancouver. (2016). GREATER VANCOUVER SEWERAGE AND DRAINAGE DISTRICT BYLAW NO. 302, 2016. Retrieved from Metro Vancouver: http://www.metrovancouver.org/boards/Bylaws1/GVSDD_Bylaw_302.pdf
Metro Vancouver. (n.d.). Expanded Polystyrene Recycling and Potential Disposal Ban. Retrieved from Metro Vancouver: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solid-waste/consultation/expanded-polystrene-recycling/Pages/default.aspx
Evanetz, S., & Liu, S. (2017, June 7). Consultation Workship: EXPANDED POLYSTYRENE POTENTIAL DISPOSAL BAN. Retrieved from Metro Vancouver: http://www.metrovancouver.org/services/solid-waste/SolidWastePublications/ExpandedPolystyreneWorkshopPresentationSlides-June7-2017.pdf
Staub, C. (2017, May 17). NYC moves to reinstate foam ban with new analysis. Retrieved from Plastics Recycling Update: https://resource-recycling.com/plastics/2017/05/17/nyc-moves-reinstate-foam-ban-new-analysis/
Rosengren, C. (2017, June 21). San Diego will allow polystyrene food containers in curbside recycling bins. Retrieved from WasteDive: http://www.wastedive.com/news/san-diego-will-allow-polystyrene-food-containers-in-curbside-recycling-bins/445436/