Opinion: Ontario needs new landfills –Waste management sector opposes Bill 197, COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act

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By Steven Crombie

Special to Ontario Construction News

Bill 197, the COVID-19 Economic Recovery Act, puts the provincial economy and the health of the environment at risk by making it virtually impossible to build new landfills in Ontario.

By requiring approval of local councils in municipalities within 3.5 kilometres of a proposed landfill, this legislation essentially scuttles almost every major landfill proposal in Ontario, including projects that are already under review by the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

This will have a negative impact on all residents and businesses in Ontario, who send 70 per cent of their waste to landfills every year. Waste disposal costs will increase, and local disposal options will vanish.

Ontario will rely more on trucking waste to landfills in Michigan and other U.S. states – a waste disposal option that is politically precarious, becoming more so when Ontario is shown to be unwilling to build new landfills.

Ontario needs new landfills to manage the growing amount of waste generated every year. At the current rate of waste generation and remaining disposal capacity of 122 million tonnes, Ontario will run out of landfill space by 2032 – unless new landfill space is constructed.

Given projected population growth and economic trends, and the current amount of waste generated every year, Ontario will need to site 16 new or expanded landfills by 2050.

While local municipalities are an important stakeholder in the consultation process, the final approval authority for economically strategic landfills must rest with the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

Ontario is one of the leading jurisdictions in the world when it comes to setting strict environmental and health standards and requirements for new or expanded landfills. Landfill operators are already subject to a rigorous and costly Environmental Assessment (EA) process, which typically takes five to 10 years of consultations and reviews.

The Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) is calling on the Ontario government to amend Bill 197 by removing the landfill approval provisions listed in Schedule 6, and secure economically vital waste management capacity for Ontario residents and businesses.

Steven Crombie is the OWMA’s manager, policy and research.

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