Residential Waste

On November 29, 2018 the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks released Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan to help protect and conserve our air, land and water, address litter and reduce waste, increase our resilience to climate change and help all of us do our part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Recognizing that true environmental stewardship starts with real action on the environmental challenges we face close to home, the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan outlined a number of commitments aimed at reducing litter and waste in our communities including:

• Reducing and diverting food and organic waste from households and businesses.

• Reducing plastic waste. • Reducing litter in our neighbourhoods and parks. • Increasing opportunities for the people of Ontario to participate in waste

reduction efforts.

We are committed to make producers responsible for the waste generated from their products and packaging, and to outline actions to explore how to recover the value of resources in waste, provide clear rules for compostable products and packaging, and support competitive and sustainable end-markets for Ontario’s waste.

These changes will enable the province to move forward with a clear, comprehensive and outcome-based approach to reducing litter and waste in our communities and increase recycling, while keeping this province clean and beautiful for future generations. It will not only allow the province to build on progress that has already been made but provide for real and practical solutions that are aligned with a new vision for Ontario; one where hardworking taxpayers are protected and respected, and where our actions produce concrete and tangible results for Ontarians in their every day lives.

Through this discussion paper, we intend to show the steps we will take to make waste reduction, reuse, and recycling easier for the people of Ontario, not only at home or at work, but also throughout our communities.


The people of Ontario have long-embraced opportunities to reduce and recycle waste both at home and on the go. Many of Ontario’s municipalities and businesses have also shown leadership in finding innovative ways to reduce the waste they send to landfill.


Ontario is a leader in recycling, being the birthplace of the Blue Box Program. Ontario offered the first curbside recycling program in the world, beginning in its infancy in Kitchener in 1981, and growing into a world class system that is now replicated in hundreds of jurisdictions around the world.

We have made progress, but we still have a long way to go.

Ontario generates nearly a tonne of waste per person each year. Our overall diversion rate has stalled at 30 per cent over the past 15 years. This means that 70 per cent of our waste materials continue to end up in landfills.

Ontario’s waste stream is composed of 4.7 million tonnes of residential waste and 6.9 million tonnes of Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) waste. This means that residential waste makes up 40 per cent of the waste stream while 60 per cent of Ontario’s waste comes from the IC&I sector. The residential sector does a better job of diverting waste at nearly 50 per cent while the IC&I sector diverts just 17 per cent.

Ontario’s Residential and IC&I Waste Management

Residential Waste (left): Managed by municipalities and includes waste generated by residents in single-family homes, some apartments and some small businesses. Mix of mandatory and voluntary diversion programs. Business Waste (right): Managed by the private sector and includes food processing sites, manufacturing facilities, schools, hospitals, offices, restaurants, retail sites and some apartments. These diversion programs are largely voluntary.


Sources: Statistics Canada, Waste Management Industry Survey 2017 for non-residential data; Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, Datacall data and residential diversion rates for residential data. Data on IC&I organic waste from 2018 study prepared for MECP by 2cg.

Sending waste to landfill is economically inefficient and unsustainable. It puts a strain on our environment by taking up valuable land resources that could be used more productively. When we create waste, in our manufacturing processes and in the services we deliver and in our homes, we’re not making full use of the scarce natural resources that power our economy. By reducing and diverting waste from landfill we can make our economy more productive. We know that every 1,000 tonnes of waste diverted from landfill generates seven full-time jobs, $360,000 in wages and more than $700,000 in Gross Domestic Product (GDP).1

Furthermore, landfills release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Reducing our reliance on landfills is an important part of meeting the greenhouse gas emission target outlined in our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.

Sending waste to landfill also impacts local communities. Municipalities, often in rural areas, are hosting landfills that accept waste from locations far beyond their communities, often with limited say in their approvals.

The people of Ontario are on board with these changes. Residents, businesses, institutions and governments alike are moving towards viewing waste as a resource that has value and can be integrated back into the economy. This mindset recognizes the need to manage our resources more effectively to build Ontario’s competitiveness and protect our environment.

To achieve this change, we need to reduce waste before it is made, increase the range of materials we divert from landfill, and make diversion and recycling easier for the people of Ontario. This will require affordable solutions, both provincial and local, that create economic benefits and jobs, allow us to use our natural resources more efficiently, and increase the competitiveness and productivity of our businesses and industries.

We want to move towards an Ontario where we produce less waste, maximize the resources from waste through reuse, recycling, or other means such as thermal treatment, and ultimately send less of our waste to landfill. Less waste means more sustainable use of our resources, less litter in our communities, parks and urban spaces, and a cleaner, healthier environment for all Ontarians to enjoy now and for years to come.

1 Conference Board of Canada, The Value of Garbage Greater Waste Diversion Would Boost Ontario’s Economy, May 29, 2014 and Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.


Our goal is for an Ontario where we strive to decrease the amount of waste going to landfill, increase the province’s overall diversion rate, and reduce greenhouse gases from the waste sector. This goal will guide our work over the next four years. The province will continue to mark its progress towards the aspirational interim targets of 30 per cent diversion by 2020, which has now been achieved, 50 per cent diversion by 2030, and 80 per cent diversion by 2050.

Below are the proposed steps we will take to meet our goal. We need to reduce the amount of waste we generate, divert more waste from landfill and better recover and manage the remaining waste so it can be integrated back into the economy, which will support the health of both Ontario’s environment and communities

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