Well attended with a well-rounded agenda, the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) recently held its Annual Meeting with a topic of interest to everyone.  The morning was led off by Dr. Diane Saxe, Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, who gave an excellent presentation that was centered around the impacts of waste on methane and general GHG emissions.  Of particular interest was the importance of preventing and recovering food waste as a means to fight climate change.

If a discussion of financial assurance and approvals, or a presentation on creating pollinator habitats on landfills was not what you came for, you could listen to Dr. Calvin Lakhan. He presented on a very interesting open source platform, Waste Wiki, that utilizes a user friendly dashboard to readily convey information often found only in cumbersome spreadsheets.  The use of the data in this platform could prove useful for municipalities, consultants and operators in the waste management industry.

The afternoon was waste focused beginning with Maria Kelleher presenting on landfill bans.  While considered to be straight forward by some, the policy, implementation and enforcement all have nuances and challenges that need to be addressed for a ban to be successful.

Wendy Ren, Director at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC), highlighted certain aspects of the Waste-Free Ontario Strategy Paper they released the previous day. She also set the stage for the final panel consisting of Jake Westerhof, Canada Fibers; Dave Gordon, Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO); Dr. Fritz Flanderka, Reclay Group; and Usman Valiante, Corporate Partners.  There was a general consensus between all four panelists, to the slight surprise of some audience members, as each panelist favoured collaboration and transparency as the best way forward.  Responding to a question, Dave Gordon noted that the current Blue Box system is broken, which is highlighted by the fact that AMO and the current Industry Funding Organization (IFO) entered into arbitration for the previous 2 years.

Dr. Fritz Flanderka, one of the first employees of DSD, the former German monopoly, and since 2005 a managing Director of Reclay Group, indicated that people should learn from the successes and mistakes Germany has made over the past 15 years.  While a clearinghouse of some sort is needed to fairly allocate the costs of a common collection system, it is important to have someone from government involved to enable a greater level of accountability and transparency, which the other panel members echoed. Based on his experience in the transition of a monopoly system to an open market competitive system in several countries, he noted it is crucial that municipalities have a meaningful role.

Dr. Flanderka also observed that the transition foreseen in the Province’s Strategy Paper is scheduled to be fully completed in 2023, and noted this could be accomplished much sooner.  In Germany there was no transition period, which he would not advocate. However, in Austria and now in France the transition period is less than 1 year.  Usman Valiante agreed that if there was in fact as much will as expressed in the room, then the transition could go much quicker.

Much work needs to be done before there is a greater meeting of the minds of various stakeholders including industry, new entrants to the compliance service market, municipalities, and waste service providers, but the tone and content of the panel indicated that the road forward could be accomplished more quickly.  This would also provide the waste management sector and the investment community the certainty desired in order to make much needed new investments, and improve the capability of the required infrastructure.