Legislating a Circular Economy

Recently the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) ran full-page ads to draw public attention to the Ontario government’s plan to introduce a new Waste Reduction Act. Previous draft legislation was interrupted by the election.

Currently, industry responsibility is capped at 50% of the cost of the Blue Box program. Municipal taxpayers pick up the rest of the tab. (Simcoe County’s draft 2015 operating budget for Solid Waste Management is $26.2 million).


Ontario’s new legislation attempts to lift the Blue Box limit and make industry entirely responsible for the waste generated by their products. But according to AMO, the Ontario government is seriously wavering in its commitment to end the “shared cost” model. So far only the cost of recycling tires and electronics is fully covered by industry.

AMO argues there is also an urgent need for the industrial, commercial and institutional (ICI) sector to step up their recycling efforts. Although this group produces 56% of waste in Ontario, only 11% of it gets recycled. Other jurisdictions are making much more progress in transitioning to a Circular Economy – one that moves away from our existing linear “make, use, dispose” model. A report published by the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee says:

“A circular economy includes a range of processes or cycles in which resources are repeatedly used and their value maintained wherever possible. “

“The European Commission talks about reusing, repairing, and recycling existing materials and products. What used to be regarded as waste can be turned into a resource. All resources need to be managed more efficiently throughout their life cycle.”

The UK Audit Committee Report recommended that the British government “should embrace the EU’s ambitious targets for improving resource productivity by 30% and support business in achieving the economic and environmental benefits this would bring. It should also support the European’s Commission’s proposals for recycling and the accompanying targets …” Ontario could likewise benefit by studying the policy steps identified in the Report to grow a Circular Economy:

  • Taxes that support resource efficiency
  • Producer responsibility and ‘take-back schemes
  • Recovering/recycling materials
  • Collecting better data
  • Infrastructure
  • Setting standards to encourage ‘circular’ products

Growing a Circular Economy: Ending the throwaway society
House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (UK)
Third Report of 2014-15 Session