Waste Management, Plastic Reduction and Circular Economy

The CAFES point-person for circular economy and waste reduction is Kate Reekie and you can reach her at circularity@cafesottawa.ca. CAFES engages in initiatives that aim to reduce waste and support Ottawa's transitioning to a more circular local economy.

Interested CAFES members can collaborate on local initiatives that seek to: disrupt the culture of overconsumption; promote an equitable sharing economy; support local businesses that upcycle used goods; redistribute excess food and reduce food waste; and wherever possible promote reuse models over recycling.  

CAFES also provides a forum whereby community associations can work together as one voice to influence City of Ottawa policy and practice related to circularity and waste management.  For example, community associations have collaborated through CAFES to seek a local ban on plastic grocery bags, advocate against the allowance of plastic bags in the City’s organic waste stream, and improve waste management practices at Lansdowne Park. We are currently represented in the Stakeholder Sounding Board for the development of the City’s Solid Waste Master Plan.    

If you are interested in getting involved or want to pitch an idea for CAFES action in this area, please contact Kate at circularity@cafesottawa.ca.  

Here is the most recent update from Kate:

On July 22 the City’s Solid Waste Master Plan (SWMP) Stakeholder Sounding Board (SSB) met for the first time since September last year.  The SSB is a public advisory group, which includes representatives of CAFES and Waste Watch Ottawa, which was established by the City to gather and facilitate stakeholder input to the waste planning process. 

SWMP Update

The SWMP is roughly at the mid-point of its development. The milestone was marked by the recent adoption by City Council of a zero waste vision for the City and a set of principles and goals.  The zero waste vision is to be achieved through “progressive, collective and innovative action” and will serve to direct the implementation of a sustainable waste management future.

Reports documenting the existing waste management system and assessing future needs were released in June along with a long list of waste management options for evaluation. All reports and other information on the SWMP are available on the City’s Engage Ottawa website (https://engage.ottawa.ca/solid-waste-master-plan).

The life expectancy of the City’s Trail Road landfill site is less than previously expected and the site will reach capacity sometime between 2036 and 2038.  This information has served to focus increased attention on the importance of striving for a zero waste future and implementing the necessary short and long term strategies needed to reduce waste quantities, divert as much as possible through recycling and the green bin program with the aim of minimizing the amount of residual waste that needs to be managed. 

The options will be assessed and evaluated against environmental, social and financial criteria by the plan’s consultant, HDR, and City staff alongside a public consultation program scheduled to be launched on August 9. The list of options is comprehensive, best practices are cited and the options are grouped into categories including, waste avoidance, recycling, organics, energy recovery and residuals management. This analysis and the public input will lead to the release of a draft solid waste master plan in the second quarter of 2022.

In addition to the options evaluation a number of other supportive projects are underway such as the preparation of a strategy to enhance waste diversion in multi-residential buildings, the assessment of organics processing requirements and the elimination of single use and expanded polystyrene foam plastics.  Curbside garbage collection options such as pay as you throw / bag tag options, limits on garbage put out and bans on certain items such as electronics which can be properly recycled are also being studied.

A public engagement program to seek input on the waste management options will launch on August 9 with an on-line public survey, on-line workshops and virtual focus groups.  The program is planned to take place over 5 weeks and to conclude in early September.  Information on the consultation program will be available through the City’s Engage Ottawa website. 

CAFES and WWO Concerns Going Forward

While progress is being made on the SWMP there are a number of concerns about the plan and how it will develop over the next months leading up to the release of a first draft plan next year.

GHG Data: The City has committed for more than a year to providing a baseline report on GHGs associated with the current waste management system. This report is still not available and this is concerning given we are at the mid-point of the planning exercise and given the importance of assessing proposed waste management options from a climate change perspective.  At the SSB meeting City staff again promised to provide such a baseline analysis and committed to completing the study over this summer.

Evaluation Process: The process by which the long list of waste management options will be assessed and evaluated is cumbersome and less transparent than it should be. How criteria are applied and conclusions reached on option rankings and categorization is unclear.  Most importantly is it unclear how the public input that is being sought will be taken into account and applied in the evaluation and options ranking.  

Of special concern is the SWMP’s proposal to divide options into those actions described as moderate and those described as aggressive without any clarification at the moment as to what moderate and aggressive mean and the criteria which will be applied to sort the options into the two categories.

Industry Lobbying: At the meeting of the City’s Environmental Protection Water and Waste Management committee of June 29 representatives of a company called Landaira addressed the Committee asking for a contract to demonstrate a proprietary pilot scale technology of unknown effectiveness for managing residual waste.  In advance of any decision on the type of residuals management that the City might need, signing such a contract at this time would have bypassed the waste planning process and opened the door to lobbying from other owners of other proprietary waste systems and technologies. It would also have undermined public faith in the planning process. Although interest in the Landaira technology was shown by some Councillors the Committee fortunately did not act on the request.

If the City is interested in exploring innovative waste management technologies, rather than relying on unsolicited proposals, it needs to take charge of the process and issue an open and competitive request for proposals with a clear and properly scoped terms of reference.

Duncan Bury, Waste Watch Ottawa

Kate Reekie, CAFES

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