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Legal and Policy Instruments and Zero Waste: Reflections on the Past 30 years

Legal and Policy Instruments and Zero Waste: Reflections on the Past 30 years

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Legal and Policy Instruments and Zero Waste: Reflections on the Past 30 years

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  1. Legal and Policy Instruments and Zero Waste: Reflections on the Past 30 years David McRobert Zero Waste Conference, Lakehead University Orillia, Ontario August 11, 2014

  2. Worked for 16 years at the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario Part-time professor at FES, York, 1994-2009 Became fascinated with waste working as a bus boy in 1975 Worked as waste and climate change campaigner at Pollution Probe, 1990-91 Strong connections between two areas; e.g. climate change crisis shows atmosphere has become the great garbage dump in the sky At MOE worked on 3Rs regs. and enabling law “Garbage” Lawyer

  3. Object of the study and Method Policy Context Ontario Blue Box Deal Performance of the BB System and various consequences How to improve the situation Summary Overview

  4. The object of the study is to analyse changes in public policy related to waste diversion in the past 25 years. To conserve time the focus of this presentation will be on Ontario examples Object of the study

  5. What is law reform about? • Legal change is not the same as social change; we must change hearts and minds as well as laws otherwise the reforms do not take hold. • This is hard work! • Similarly, good laws start with good meta-policies that are coherent and durable- must be integrated

  6. What are metapolicies?? • A metapolicy - otherwise known as a ‘policy on policies’ – provides a framework that sets out to define the range of compliance documents (e.g. regulations, policies, procedures, protocols) and establish a classification system which groups them (e.g. financial, information technology).  

  7. More on metapolicies • In addition, it identifies and describes the processes by which the compliance documents are developed, reviewed and made available to stakeholders. • Metapolicy – Overarching Policies • Sub-policies; Laws; Regs; Guidelines; project approvals

  8. Metapolicies underpin laws • Values and long term sustainability goals must inform the core meta-policies underpinning laws • Take a specific challenge e.g. e-waste, wet waste, and work on Meta-policy

  9. Promoting positive law reform • How can we promote positive law reform? (hint: with good meta-policies) • In short, good process plus good content, leads to positive law reform • Examples; Pay Equity, Gay Rights, etc. • Waste Reduction Act will likely become law in Ontario but process was poor and result seems highly questionable

  10. What is the current metapolicy? • Post-industrial capitalism, supercharged by Developing Nation (China, India, etc.) desire to sell us plastic junk • Waste generation assumed and facilitated by relatively cheap energy • Goods shipped hither and yon, contributing to climate change

  11. Current metapolicy • Repair of products, clothing, etc. discouraged by manufacturers and retailers such as Walmart, Target and Costco • E.g. Optical retailers at Loblaw’s Superstores “unable” (according to management) to obtain replacement arms for damaged eyeglasses after 18-24 months

  12. Guilt relief • North Americans ship many bicycles in disrepair to Cuba instead of refurbishing them here. In Sweden and other European nations, bikes now are being repaired • Similarly we ship eyeglasses • Undermines development of local capacity and true sustainability

  13. Consequences (1) • Skills in repair businesses lost • Possibility of strengthening local economies undermined • Scrap metal and plastic dealers are thriving in small communities • In Peterborough, hoards of men collecting welfare drive around in trucks scooping up marketable wastes

  14. Consequences (2) • Waste generation, energy consumption pollution, CO2, etc. are increasing • Most consumers don’t understand it is in their best interests to buy durable and repairable products. Some do; hence the popularity of well built cars in the past two decades • Consumers and government are failing to deliver vital signals to market

  15. But Query … • Does Walmart or big business really care? Selling disposable junk is their business model • Similalrly local government waste management and recycling programs have enabled the continued distribution of throwaway products because of lack of EPR laws by senior levels of government

  16. Zero waste is a metapolicy • Zero waste is a meta-policy, a path, a direction, a target; it’s a process, a way of thinking, a vision • See Paul Connett’s excellent 2013 book, The Zero Waste Solution

  17. It’s Not Garbage Coalition • Based out of Pollution Probe 1988-1992 and its members included CELA, Greenpeace, TEA, etc. • Goal was zero waste for disposal • Received tens of thousands in participant funding for IWA process in 1993-1994.

  18. Waste Reduction in Ontario • See David McRobert et al., Five Years of Failure on Waste Reduction in Ontario (August 1990); Published by Pollution Probe • Led in part to election of NDP government, banning of incineration and long distance export of garbage in 1991

  19. Waste Reduction in Ontario • Impetus for establishment of the WRO at MOE (1991-1994) • Impetus for quick enactment of the Waste Management Act (1992), formation of the Interim Waste Authority in 1991 and the passage of the 3Rs regs in March 1994 • Also: funding to RCO for 3Rs education and social marketing (cut in 1995)

  20. Design for Sustainability • Design for Sustainability:  • Products should be made for a prolonged life and capable of easy disassembly and repair • Packaging should be designed for reuse; Too many products are designed to be thrown away. • Redesigning and managing products to be repairable

  21. Getting to Design for Disassembly • Redesign requires collective responsibility by: • individuals • communities • industries • professionals • politicians

  22. How do we get to Zero Waste? • Decision makers need to work with the public to find solutions • Recommending better industrial designs to industry on packaging and products

  23. Getting to zero • Best practices for waste reduction and avoidance strategies from around the world – decision makers and businesses • Redesign incorporated into the 3 R’s (fourth R)

  24. Case Study Notes – Product Stewardship Issues Related to Vacuum Cleaner and Small Appliance Repair in the 2010s By David McRobert and Meghan Robinson 1992 reforms to Ontario EPA • In 1992 while working at the WRO of MOE I helped to draft provisions (contained in the Waste Mgt Act, 1992) that amended the EPA that allowed MOE to ban or regulate products that “posed waste management problems” • We intended to target disposable diapers, tetrapaks (and other multimaterial packaging)

  25. Products and services that pose waste problems circa 2014 • Obvious culprits remain: • Disposable diapers, razors, cameras, smart phones and other e-waste, etc. • Less obvious: advertising industry, politicians, Cdn. Senators, Toronto Maple Laughs, etc

  26. Case Study Notes – Product Stewardship Issues Related to Vacuum Cleaner and Small Appliance Repair in the 2010s By David McRobert and Meghan Robinson Case Study 1 – Vacuum Cleaners • See separate draft hand out • Case Study Notes – Product Stewardship Issues Related to Vacuum Cleaner and Small Appliance Repair in the 2010s • By David McRobert and Meghan Robinson, August 8, 2014

  27. Case Study 2: the BB System • See David McRobert, My Municipal Recycling System Made me Fat and Sick (June 2012, available on Amazon) • See also blog posts for Solid Waste and Recycling Magazine • See

  28. Nothing as practical as a good theory. The theoretical framework I use is ecological history, the approach I developed in 1983 for my Master’s work at the Faculty of Environmental Studies for his MES degree (1984). The analytical method is informed by the work of economic historians such as Harold Innis and the Annales school (Braudel). Method and Methodology

  29. To locate environmental and related waste policy in the context of social, technological and economic changes that have taken place in the past century Focus on development of the Blue Box system (BBS) in Ontario Examine whether there was evidence of regulatory capture of Ontario MOE Approach to analysis

  30. Ontario's Blue Box System: A Case Study of Government's Role in the Technological Change Process, 1970-1991Extracted from: David McRobert, Labour Relations, Technological Change and Sustainability: Resolving the Structural Issues. Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, October 1994. Previous work

  31. Prior to 1900s, trash or MSW was not the norm in cities With goods and money scarce, everything possible was recycled or reused. See S. Strasser, Waste and Want (1999) Deposits on used containers became the norm because they were perceived as so valuable Used Materials Economy, pre 1900

  32. For decades, energy and raw materials have been perceived by North Americans as cheap, labour as expensive In part this was because of large government subsidies to resource extraction industries, especially to oil and gas, mining and forestry Some marxist critics such as Drache, Glasbeek and Panitch have argued this was a deliberate economic policy in some developed nations to reduce bargaining power of labour unions Industrial Change

  33. Subsidies to resource industries were: 1. were intended to maintain legitimacy of NA urban industrial growth model; 2. helped facilitate tech change in workplaces because management has legal control of technology, use of energy, etc; and 3. Provided a type of industrial policy because Canada had developed on the Staples model (per Innis), despite calls for value added production Subsidies and Resource Industries

  34. Case Study: Small Appliance Repair • Vacuum cleaner repair

  35. Case Study: the BB System

  36. In 1962 the inexorable march from refillable soft drink (SD) containers to non-refillables begins – the first steel pop can sent to Korea by US military Policy Context for Blue Box

  37. Industry sought to redesign its manufacturing processes and distribution networks to reduce labour costs by increasing reliance on resources, increasing packaging waste (fewer bulk goods are sold, fewer meat butchers) Industry, govts and some ENGOs say recycling is answer to packaging waste But economic “barriers” were apparent in the 1970s; see Probe’s 1984 report called Breaking the Barriers to recycling Policy Context (2)

  38. Trend toward disposable products after WW II to fuel economic growth and promote consumer convenience Desire to use storage space in garage for “stuff” rather than used bottles SD industry wanted "packaging freedom": freedom to use cheaper packages for their products, freedom to concentrate ownership, challenge unions, get rid of deposits Policy Context (3)

  39. ENGOs accept the concept of packaging freedom and reliance on disposable plastic bottles and aluminum cans in return for greater SD industry support for recycling. using more valuable materials like aluminum to subsidize curbside recycling seemed like a way to break the cost barriers that had been encountered since removing subsidies to raw materials and energy seemed unlikely. Ontario Blue Box Deal, 1985

  40. participants involved in the multi-stakeholder consultation agreed to relax the refillable quota to 40 percent, that is, down from 75 percent (1978), if the SD industry contributed $1 million to expand the Blue Box system (BBS).  Eventually increased to $20 million. Meanwhile refillables disappeared as SD companies and retailers reduced prices for non-refillables Relax SD refills to 40 percent

  41. In many respects, yes, from an environmental perspective Blue Box made mandatory for Ontario municipalities (above 5000) in 1994 Thunder Bay in NW Ontario resisted, saying it wanted its bottling plants back Must look at the Social, Economic, and Labour implications in context of Environmental Performance Performance – has BBS worked?

  42. The BBS resulted in the loss of thousands of jobs in the refillable soft drink network (e.g. Pop Shoppe) that dominated most NA jurisdictions prior to the late 1960s. Many unionized local jobs in smaller communities were lost as local bottlers were closed; negative in terms of community economic development Economic Impacts

  43. In 1985 SD industry estimated to be saving $85 million/year, probably higher now the SD industry was able to reduce the price of soft drinks Retailers able to sell more product; eliminated jobs associated with pop bottle returns SD industry obtained approx. $10 million in tax breaks from feds investing in enviro tech between 1985 and 1991 Economic Impacts (2)

  44. Jobs also were created by municipalities and industry to promote recycling and 3Rs but most of these would have been created anyway if a coherent 3Rs framework had been developed (e.g. to conserve landfill space, reduce incineration) Related to NIMBY protests; govts forced to commit to better 3Rs programs Economic Impacts (3)

  45. Coke and Pepsi developed massive centralized distribution and marketing infrastructure, perfectly suited to selling bottled water when that became a high demand product in the 1990s Unredeemed SD deposits unavailable for funding system, unlike other provinces such as Quebec where they are clawed back by province Other structural changes

  46. Overall BBS increased paper, metal and glass recycling Rates vary considerably all over Canada Awareness about environmental benefits has grown significantly, partly because of the emphasis put on educating children who then “educate” (read guilt?) adults CSNY lyric - “teach your parents well” Environmental Performance

  47. How do we best recapture the embodied energy and material value in used containers? Energy equivalent of half a gallon of gasoline used to make an aluminum SD can from raw materials (bauxite) Deposits are a proven economic instrument, recapturing between 70% and 98% depending on amount, system architecture, etc (5 cents vs 40) Capturing the embodied energy

  48. Hierarchy of “Recycling” Container is Returned and Refilled Clean Segregated Material is Re-made into a New Container Material Recovered in Blue Box Re-processed and “down-cycled” Container is Lost to Landfill or Burned

  49. LCBO Glass Recycling Pre 2007 (excluding refillable beer with deposits) Refilled Zero Re-made 20% Recovered & “down-cycled” < 48% Lost to the Landfill 32% +

  50. PET Recycling in BB Refilled Zero Zero Re-made* Recovered & “down-cycled” 55% Lost to the Landfill 45%