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Recycling in the age of COVID-19: updates from Ontario

Curbside Mack truck in Ontario
Photo by Guy Crittenden.

Ontario's waste and recycling sector has been in a state of transition for several years, as the stewardship and recycling architecture there is being revised and updated. Programs currently in transition, now delayed and affected by COVID-19, include the municipal Blue Box curbside program, as well as Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW), batteries, e-waste and tires

A good summary of all the latest news with respect to changing EPR programs in Ontario can be found at the Stewardship Ontario site.

One of the largest transitions underway in Ontario is with the Blue Box program. The timeline has been extended to accommodate stalls caused by the global pandemic. The plan is due for submission to the RPRA in August, moved back by several months, and the December 31, 2020, deadline for approval of the plan remains in place for now.

Also, see Guy Crittenden's overview of Blue Box program stewardship changes underway in Ontario, from 2019, in his article: Reinventing the Blue Box: Understanding Ontario's EPR plan for BlueBox recycling.

On June 30, 2020, Stewardship Ontario (SO) will cease to operate its program for managing single-use batteries as part of the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste ("Orange Drop") Program. SO will continue to operate the current program without interruption until that time. 
In preparation for the wind up, SO is hosting a webinar on June 3 to review key dates and final steps for single-use battery stakeholders. 

Starting July 1, battery producers will be individually accountable and financially responsible for collecting and reusing, refurbishing or recycling their batteries when consumers discard them. Learn more. 

Ontario's provincial association, the Recycling Council of Ontario, created in 1978 in Toronto, was modelled after the Recycling Council of British Columbia, the first provincial recycling association in Canada, founded in 1974.

Some of the RCO's most recent work/projects include involvement in developing the Plastics Action Centre, reducing food waste in the IC&I sector and helping northern communities develop sustainable waste management and recycling programs.

In Ontario, the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA), created in 2016, is the regulator mandated by the provincial government to enforce circular economy laws. The RPRA receives authority from the province's Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (RRCEA) and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 (WDTA). 

Under the WDTA, the RPRA focuses on three waste diversion programs - Blue Box, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW), and Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and their eventual wind up. See the latest news from RPRA with respect to reporting and fee payment deadlines impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other news out of Ontario recently, includes the governments launch of a new app that can help truck drivers stay safe, fed and rested during COVID-19. 

Plus, one material type that has so far been positively affected by changes since March 2020, is e-waste, meaning that in Ontario, similar to many jurisdictions, there is an "E-waste opportunity" due to an increased demand for refurbished and recovered laptops and other electronics. 

Ontario Waste Management Association

The Ontario Waste Management Association is a very active association in the province, and has created a good web page resource for recyclers and waste management professionals adapting to the new reality - The site includes guidance for waste workers and a range of links to information and resources (see below). 

On Wednesday, April 29, The OWMA hosted a COVID-19 related information webinar for members. Andrew Teft from the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association provided a comprehensive list of best practices on health and safety for workers amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Andrew Bratt from Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP lead a discussion on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and how OWMA members may be eligible for a subsidy of 75% of employee wages for up to 12 weeks, retroactive from March 15, 2020, to June 6, 2020.

OWMA CEO Mike Chopowick provided members with a general overview of the request process, documentation requirements, and how to submit requests. Following OWMA's March 2020 request for contingency measures to help deal with pandemic-related waste management challenges, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks has recently created a process for operators to request temporary relief from Environmental Compliance Approval (ECA) conditions.

OWMA COVID-19 key links

Waste Collection Worker Health and Safety During COVID-19

Guidelines for Healthy and Safe Operations During COVID-19 Pandemic

Health and Safety In the Solid Waste Industry 

How to Safely Dispose of Facemasks and Gloves

Safe Waste Disposal Guidelines for Residents

COVID-19 Guidance for Waste Workers

Certain Businesses Allowed to Reopen Under Strict Safety Guidelines

Requests for Pandemic Relief and/or Emergency Operational Activities

Information on Wage Subsidy and Support for Businesses. RPN

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