WMABC Blog

Waste Reduction Week October 15-21, 2018

Friday October 19, 2018

The Path Forward

The following is the fifth and final post addressing challenges and opportunities for improving and enhancing waste diversion and recycling in British Columbia’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.

 

The members of the WMABC can play a pivotal role in enhancing diversion of plastics in both the municipal and IC&I sectors by providing our strengths in logistics and infrastructure to collect and process these materials in an environmentally responsible manner and return them to the economy as secondary resources.  We regard these examples as a sustainable approach to resource reallocation and promotion of a circular economy. 

 

The WMABC has long advocated for a truly joint process whereby governments set the policy outcomes it wants and then collaboratively engages the waste services industry and other stakeholders to determine the best way to achieve these policies.  The Association does not believe in silver bullet approaches.  What works in Vancouver may not be efficient or effective in Nanaimo, Dawson Creek, Creston or Kamloops.  Rather, the WMABC recommends that Government directly engage with the private waste services industry, local governments, brand owners and other pertinent stakeholders to discuss the key challenges and opportunities to increase plastic waste diversion in both the municipal and IC&I sectors within their respective provinces. 

 

Toward this effort, the WMABC recommends the following actions for improving and enhancing diversion and recycling in the IC&I sector in British Columbia.

 

  • Any strategy must include all stakeholders involved in the chain of custody of plastic materials and include representatives that are directly involved in the private waste services industry specifically in the collection and processing side of the business.

 

  • Any discussion of the structure or restructure of waste diversion and management policies and regulations should:

        - be outcomes-based; 

        - provide economic incentives to incent investment; 

        - encourage collaboration and interaction with stakeholders along the materials chain of custody through open and competitive markets,              and;

        - be flexible to encourage continuous improvements.

 

  • Producers including brand owners and first importers must be fiscally responsible for the management of their products and packaging at their end of life.  However, we do not recommend that producer responsibility programs currently in place for municipal diversion programs be introduced into the IC&I sector as these programs would exacerbate many of the stated issues of concern. 

 

  • Establishment of definitions and performance standards to ensure claims of recyclability or compostable products so as not to inundate local markets with materials that municipal and industry collection systems cannot process.

 

  • Any targeted action on reducing plastic products and packaging including bans, fees or recycled content requirements must undergo a full economic analysis before approval and implementation so as not to cause unintended consequences. 

 

  • Governments at all three levels should commit to procurement programs to stimulate these end markets and create pull for these materials which in turn can stimulate the development of a broader circular economy.

 

The above points and issues raised in the preceding sections could serve as a template for developing a coordinated provincial strategy and program to address and sustainably increase plastic waste diversion and end markets for those materials.

 

 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Creating Regulatory Certainty

 

Fourth in a five-part series of posts addressing challenges and opportunities for improving and enhancing waste diversion and recycling in British Columbia’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.

 

Like many jurisdictions, B.C. is challenged with insufficient capacity in waste management infrastructure (e.g. waste diversion, processing, disposal, etc.) to manage its waste and recyclables within the regions and secure end markets for these products. 

 

Open and competitive markets allow for the development of dense collection networks which in turn drives higher productivity while maximizing internalization opportunities.  This environment helps de-risk investments in new recycling infrastructure and manufacturing facilities.  Given the patchwork of regulations between regional districts and municipal governments, this fragmented approach can destabilize the materials market and the results can be counterproductive. Investment capital flows more readily to those jurisdictions where it can be most effectively utilized and where the returns are the greatest.

 

With respect to regulatory certainty, the WMABC believes in regulation.  However, it must be developed in conjunction with the private sector that establishes clearly-defined policy objectives that protects the environment but also creates systematic incentives that allow companies to invest in new and innovative technologies and approaches.  Approval processes and permitting should be outcome focused and based on sound science and economics that encourage solution providers and the market to develop innovative ways to meet these standards. 

 

The materials that the waste services industry collect, and process are commodities within a competitive global economy.   If our industry is to serve the needs of our customers, grow and thrive, there needs to be a regulatory framework that is consistent, effective and fast-moving.  

 

This will not only encourage companies to invest in new and innovative technologies and approaches but also incent those companies to use these feedstocks to create value-added products in the regions where the feedstocks originate thus lowering costs for brand owners, municipalities and taxpayers. However, any targeted action on reducing plastic products and packaging including bans, fees or recycled content requirements must undergo a full economic analysis before approval and implementation so as not to cause unintended consequences.

 

To that end, there needs to be a truly joint process whereby government sets the policy outcomes it wants and then collaboratively engages the waste services industry to determine the best way to achieve these policies and the outcomes we both hope to deliver. 

 

It should be noted that many jurisdictions with producer responsibility programs are moving from a monopolistic to a competitive marketplace with multiple service providers and programs.  This not only encourages investment and innovation in new capacity and diversion technologies but also reduces costs to brand owners, businesses and taxpayers. 

 

Another aspect of regulatory certainly is competition between the public and private waste services sectors which can exacerbate the disconnection along the materials chain of custody. 

 

In some jurisdictions, municipalities may provide waste services in direct competition with the private sector. As an example, a municipality or regional district may own and/or operate transfer stations, materials recycling facilities, disposal facilities (landfills and/or waste-to-energy) while simultaneously being the regulator of private sector services in the community in terms of licensing waste processing facilities, charging various fees disposal and fines for non-compliance as well as arbitrating disputes and complaints from the private waste services sector. 

 

In these instances, depending on the degree of services provided, a municipality or regional district may create a monopsony whereby it is the sole buyer of waste materials that restricts competition in the diversion and/or disposing of waste.  This also places smaller private waste services providers at a competitive disadvantage with larger companies, which could push smaller companies out of the market resulting in business failures and job losses. 

Tomorrow’s final post will highlight what the WMABC believes are the key public policy actions that need to be undertaken for improving and enhancing waste diversion and recycling in British Columbia’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.

 

 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Focus on Creating Winning Conditions

 

Third in a five-part series of posts addressing challenges and opportunities for improving and enhancing waste diversion and recycling in British Columbia’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.

 

One of the critical issues that often arises when governments are attempting to stimulate new markets is to support specific approaches and technologies through legislation, regulation and/or public policy.  Not only is it inappropriate for governments to try to predict the needs of future markets, but when they do, they have a less-than stellar record in guessing what the market will need in coming years.

 

The WMABC advises governments not to focus on policies and regulations that pick “winners” and conversely “losers” but instead create an environment that helps a broad range of waste service companies adapt and succeed.  Rather than adopting policies that are prescriptive and/or focus on a specific type of technology or service, governments should adopt broader policies that ensure environmental protections are in place while encouraging and enabling all companies in the sector to respond to market needs.

 

As mentioned in the second post, given the issues of the evolving tonne, there have been calls from stakeholders along the materials chain of custody to move to a life cycle analysis or sustainable materials management system. 

 

Current waste diversion metrics based on achieving weight-based goals do not consider economic and environmental benefits from resource conservation, material reductions, reduced energy and water use and the reduction of greenhouse gases (GHGs) released.  Using established and accepted methodology by the U.S. EPA, the sustainable materials management system is a better measurement of environmental impacts such as the reduction of the generation of greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and energy savings. Being able to track these environmental benefits and better articulate how recycling drives GHG reduction and energy savings will help stakeholders along the materials chain of custody select the best option for the management of materials including its participation in the burgeoning circular economy.

 

The next post will address the need for an open and competitive market and regulatory certainty for a circular economy to take hold. 

 

 

Tuesday October 16, 2018

The Importance of End Markets for Recyclables

Second in a five-part series of posts addressing challenges and opportunities for improving and enhancing waste diversion and recycling in British Columbia’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.

As stated in the previous post, one of the failings in the recyclability of materials has been the lack of pull or end markets for materials.  This disconnect between the materials collected and end markets is due in large part to a combination of weak commodity prices for these materials and demand for post-consumer plastic end markets. Exacerbating the situation is the concept of the ‘evolving tonne’ which reflects the rapid shift in the type, composition and volume of materials diverted for recycling. 

One of the most significant challenges facing B.C. waste services industry, as well as its counterparts across Canada, has been the shift and surge of plastics (recyclable and non-recyclable) and plastic composite/multi-laminate products and packaging. These materials are rapidly displacing recyclable paper, metal and glass packaging that have long been the key materials of the municipal curbside and IC&I diversion programs. 

The increase in plastic and plastic composite products and packaging materials collected has resulted in higher contamination rates at recycling facilities specifically those facilities without more advanced sorting systems. With little to no value nor viable end markets for these materials, they are being disposed of in landfills and/or waste to energy facilities which can be attributed in part to a disconnect between the stakeholders along the material chain of custody - from entry into the market through to end markets.  This is creating an economic burden on the cost of both IC&I and municipal diversion programs which has been exacerbated by China’s National Sword Program introduced at the beginning of this year. 

A solution could be governments using their existing procurement programs to stimulate these end markets and create pull for these materials which in turn can stimulate the development of a broader circular economy. Many international markets can point to significant contracts that processors and end markets have with governments and other public entities in their own countries. Whether it is the implementation of new technology or a system-wide purchase of recycled goods, such contracts often give companies the reassurance that they will not be taking a risk with a technology, product or service.  International competitors to B.C. waste services firms can offer these examples because, in many cases, governments in their home jurisdictions have used their procurement efforts to support their leading-edge environmental companies.

 

However, for a circular economy to take hold in jurisdictions such as B.C., as well as across Canada, there is a need for a public policy environment that protects and encourages open and competitive markets that allow for the development of dense collection networks which in turn drives higher productivity while maximizing internalization opportunities

.

This environment helps de-risk investments in new recycling infrastructure and manufacturing facilities.  Given the patchwork of regulations across a province as well as the country, this fragmented approach can destabilize the materials market and the results can be counterproductive.

The next post will highlight one of the critical issues that often arises when governments are attempting to stimulate new markets to support specific approaches and technologies through legislation, regulation and/or public policy.    

 

Monday October 15, 2018

IC&I Waste Diversion

First in a five-part series of posts addressing challenges and opportunities for improving and enhancing waste diversion and recycling in British Columbia’s Industrial, Commercial and Institutional (IC&I) sector.

It is important to note that the private waste services sector does not create the waste that is generated within British Columbia.  The members of the WMABC provide a majority of the waste and recycling services for municipalities and IC&I sector across the province with strengths and expertise in logistics and infrastructure to collect, divert, process and safely dispose of non-hazardous solid waste generated by over 4.8 million persons and nearly 200,000 businesses in the province.

Understanding the current market is paramount. Non-hazardous solid waste in B.C. can be divided into two sectors – municipal and IC&I. 

The municipal sector generates approximately 30 percent of the non-hazardous solid waste produced in B.C., which is predominantly from single-family dwellings.  Most waste diversion in the B.C. municipalities is conducted through curbside collection with aggregate diversion rates at often approximately 50 percent or even higher in several municipalities. This waste stream is virtually homogeneous with respect to the type and volume of materials that are collected on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.  In B.C., curbside collection is predominantly conducted by private waste service providers on behalf of municipal governments or Recycle B.C., the latter a producer responsibility program funded by the producers of plastic products and packaging as well as other approved materials.  These materials are then segregated and returned as resources to the economy.  

 

By contrast, the IC&I sector generates approximately 70 percent of the non-hazardous solid waste produced in B.C.  Waste diversion within the IC&I sector varies widely as volumes and sources of materials are generated from three main sources: demolition, land clearing and construction, commercial and institutional (including retail, industrial manufacturing, food services, hospitals, schools) and multi-family residential dwellings. Notwithstanding the exemplary efforts by large brand owners demonstrating leadership in promoting responsible product stewardship, other companies may not be as progressive.  Hence, diversion rates can vary widely between industrial, commercial and institutional activities.  Producer responsibility programs like those in the municipal sector are not as effective in the IC&I sector because of the diversity of the materials and sources of generation.  As a result, waste diversion in this sector varies and, in some instances, can lag the municipal sector for a wide range of reasons as diverse as the sectors within it. 

 

One of the critical issues facing municipalities and the IC&I sector is the increase in plastic and plastic composite products and packaging materials collected. With little to no value and no viable end markets for these materials, the contamination rates in recycling facilities has exploded and as a result these materials are being disposed of in landfills and/or waste to energy facilities. This is creating an economic burden on the cost of both municipal and IC&I diversion programs which has been exacerbated by China’s National Sword Program introduced on January 1, 2018. 

The proliferation of these plastic materials and packaging being disposed or ending up in the environment can be attributed in part to a disconnect between stakeholders along the material chain of custody - from entry into the market through to end markets.  This is by no means specific to B.C. as this is occurring right across Canada and the U.S. 

WMABC’s members provide a majority of the province’s residential and IC&I waste services operate in other jurisdictions across Canada and U.S. and understand the environmental and economic challenges and opportunities associated with the recovery, diversion and processing of these materials.  The WMABC stands ready and willing to work with the BC government and other stakeholders to improve and enhance waste diversion in the province. 

The next  post will highlight one of the failings in the recyclability of materials which has been the lack of pull or end markets for diverted materials.