2001 Update on Compliance with the 3R Regulations and the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Sectors

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The ECO has addressed the challenge of waste diversion in past annual reports. Most recently, in 1998, the Environmental Commissioner recommended the promotion of product stewardship, based on experience in other Canadian provinces and in Europe. Product stewardship reduces the pressure that is now on municipalities to deal with waste because it requires brand owners, distributors, packaging producers and other manufacturers to take increased responsibility for managing the wastes associated with the manufacture, use, treatment and or disposal of their products. In the ECO’s 1996 report, in order to address the number of containers being disposed of at landfills or through municipal recycling activities, the Commissioner recommended that the Ministry of the Environment enforce the regulations regarding the percentage of soft drinks that must be produced and sold in refillable containers.


ECO Research Project

In late 2000, the ECO undertook a research project to review compliance with Ontario Regulations 101/94, 102/94, 103/94 and 104/94 (the “ 3R regulations” ) in the Industrial Commercial and Institutional sectors – the “ IC&I” sectors. The scope of the work included a series of interviews with stakeholders and experts involved in waste generation, collection, processing, recycling and disposal, and with officials in the provincial government. The research also included the analysis of disposal and diversion data and packaging reduction data, as well as the investigation of provincial monitoring and enforcement around these regulations. In total, 29 interviews were conducted with representatives from the Ministry of the Environment and from municipalities, environmental non-governmental organizations , companies that use recyclable materials to make new products, small waste processing companies, consulting firms and waste generators.

Brief Overview of Waste Reduction Efforts in Ontario Since 1990

In February 1991, the Ontario government established the Waste Reduction Action Plan (WRAP). This initiative was in response to concerns about projections that suggested Ontario would face a huge solid waste disposal problem by the mid-1990s. Prior to 1997, the U.S. government had prohibited solid waste imports from Ontario unless the waste was incinerated, and space was beginning to run out in Ontario’s existing landfill sites. Also, the process of finding sites for new landfills was becoming difficult, both technically and politically. One government publication stated that it was costing Ontario municipalities $400 million annually to collect and dispose of waste, and predicted that by 1995 more than half of Ontario’s residents would have no place to put their waste.

One of the key goals of WRAP was to ensure that Ontario would reach a provincial waste reduction target of diverting 50 per cent of waste from disposal by 2000, using 1987 as the base year. This diversion rate is calculated by weight on a per capita basis. To help achieve this goal, WRAP had several components. The most important was the development of what are commonly called the 3R regulations to stimulate reduction, reuse and recycling in the municipal and IC&I sectors (see “ The 3R Regulations” below). The original intention was that the 3R regulations would function in the context of clear 3R funding programs, administered by the Waste Reduction Office (WRO) of MOE. WRAP was based on the development of a comprehensive public education program to provide information, training and technical assistance on waste reduction and the recycling of waste.

When the regulations were brought into force in 1994, they were accompanied by a series of guides published by WRO to help waste generators, packagers, municipalities and recycling site operators understand and comply with the requirements contained in the regulations. Moreover, those affected by the regulations had WRO as a source of support for communication and education purposes. What has become apparent since 1994 is that promoting compliance with the 3R regulations is no longer a program priority. And with the demise of WRO in fall 1994, communication and education efforts directed at the IC&I sector have stopped.

When the 3R regulations were brought into force in March 1994, the then Minister of the Environment stated that “ the new requirements will divert as much as 2 million tonnes of waste a year” and that “ we will meet our year 2000 target of 50% waste reduction in ways that benefit both our environment and economic recovery.”

The 3R Regulations:

O. Reg. 101/94 – Recycling and Composting of Municipal Waste
O. Reg. 102/94 – Waste Audits and Waste Reduction Workplan
O. Reg. 103/94 – Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Source Separation Programs
O. Reg. 104/94 – Packaging Audits and Packaging Reduction Workshops

The regulations, still in effect, require that 3R activities be undertaken by designated municipalities and the institutional, commercial and industrial (IC&I) sectors in order to help Ontario reach its provincial waste reduction target.

  • O. Reg. 101/94 requires that municipalities with a population greater than 5,000 establish residential source separation programs, backyard composting programs, and leaf and yard waste composting programs.
  • O. Reg. 102/94 requires that certain larger retail shopping complexes, schools, restaurants, office buildings, hotels and motels, multi-residential buildings, manufacturing sites, and construction and demolition projects undertake annual waste audits and develop waste reduction work plans. The waste audit should examine strategies to reduce, reuse and recycle waste and set out who will implement each part of the plan, when each part will be implemented, and the expected results. Owners are required to communicate the work plans to all employees.
  • O. Reg. 103/94 applies to the same sectors as O. Reg. 102/94, and requires that they implement on-site source-separation programs for materials such as old corrugated cardboard, food and beverage containers, fine paper, newsprint. Brick, concrete, wood, drywall and steel must be included in the source-separation program in construction and demolition projects. Information about the source-separation program must be provided to all users and potential users. The required sectors must make reasonable efforts to implement source separation programs for recyclables and reusable materials, and ensure that the separated waste is reused or recycled.
  • O. Reg. 104/94 targets certain manufacturers and importers or packagers of packaged food, beverage, paper or chemical products. These companies are required to undertake packaging audits and work plans every two years. The audits and work plans are intended as ways of evaluating the opportunities for 3R activity, including actions that will help ensure a reduction in the amount of packaging used; an increase in reused or recycled content; an increase in reusability and recyclability of packaging; a reduction in the overall environmental impact of the packaging that becomes waste; and a reduction in the burden of waste for consumers.

In 1995, MOE undertook an extensive review of all of its regulations to determine if their objectives were still valid and if there was a continuing need for each regulation. MOE staff reviewers concluded that the initial objectives for the creation of the 3R regulations were still valid. Moreover, non-regulatory mechanisms, such as voluntary programs or agreements between private corporations and the government (Memoranda of Understanding or MOU), were not deemed to be sufficient to meet Ontario’s diversion objectives. In their reviews of O. Reg.102 and O. Reg. 104, MOE staff wrote: “ Waste management affects so many sectors that a non-regulatory tool such as an MOU would not reach the scope of this regulatory approach. Economic mechanisms are not deemed appropriate in this case as the private sector pays for waste disposal anyway, which just reinforces this regulatory approach of provoking diversion and reduction awareness.”

Status of Waste Diversion in Ontario Today

Even before the enactment of the regulations in 1994, waste diversion in the IC&I sectors in Ontario began to increase, according to MOE. And the increase in diversion appears to have continued immediately after the 3R regulations were passed. However, according to data collected by Statistics Canada for 1998, diversion in Ontario in the government and business sectors has leveled off to a per capita rate of 28 per cent, lagging fourth in Canada behind British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec, where diversion rates for IC&I are 30 per cent and greater. Ontario’s IC&I per capita diversion rate is also 2 per cent below the national average. Total IC&I waste disposed of in Ontario has declined by 5 per cent since 1994, ranking it sixth behind Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Saskatchewan, which have reduced the total amount of waste disposed by 8 per cent to 30 per cent. However, while overall diversion in Ontario is lagging, MOE advised the ECO that the province’s waste reduction rate, based on the number of kilograms produced per capita in 1999, was 41 per cent.

Findings of the ECO Research Project

Ontario is lagging behind other provinces in achieving its waste diversion targets.

Ontario is lagging behind other Canadian jurisdictions with respect to waste diversion even though Ontario is the only province in Canada that has passed regulations making diversion and reduction in the IC&I sector mandatory. With the 3R regulations in place, Ontario should be at the leading edge of waste diversion. Moreover, from an economic standpoint, Ontario has the most extensive network of processing and green industries that rely on recyclable “ feedstock.”

MOE is not promoting or providing much needed educational material on the 3R regulations.

When the 3R regulations were brought into force, MOE undertook several educational initiatives, including the production and distribution of guides and pamphlets. In addition, MOE provided more than $200,000 in funding to the Recycling Council of Ontario to provide educational material and operate a telephone hotline. These programs appear to have ended in 1995.

The majority of residents living in multi-family residential buildings in the province are not given the opportunity to participate in waste diversion activities.

Thirty per cent of Ontario households reside in multi-family units. According to a report prepared by the Waste Diversion Organization, a not-for-profit project under an MOU with MOE, the capture rate for recyclables in multi-family units is only 25-50 per cent that of single family households. While O. Reg. 101/94 requires building owners to establish residential source-separation and composting programs, it appears that MOE and municipalities have made little effort to promote compliance with its provisions.

Large buildings and agencies are not in compliance with the 3R regulations.

Many large buildings, some containing offices of provincial ministries and agencies, are not source-separating waste as required under the regulations, according to waste collectors.

MOE is not ensuring compliance with the regulations, and is not monitoring instances of non-compliance.

In addition to a lack of promotion and monitoring of 3R regulations, there is also a complete absence of enforcement by MOE. It is MOE’s position that the 3R regulations were intended to encourage waste diversion by establishing waste diversion practices and infrastructure. Its PRPIR Guideline, set out in MOE’s Operational Delivery Strategies (see pages 76-77 for more information), states that, having established the practices and infrastructure, no further compliance activity is needed. Despite widespread non-compliance, there has been only one charge, resulting in a fine of $250, since 1994. To determine whether there were any reports on this issue logged on MOE’s Occurrence Reporting Information System (ORIS), the ECO requested information about occurrences logged in the ORIS for MOE’s central region between 1999 and early 2001. MOE provided the ECO with two occurrence reports for the time period requested. The ECO subsequently learned that MOE staff are discouraged from logging these types of occurrences on ORIS, despite an MOE policy that stipulates that any complaints received be documented.

Many waste generators in the IC&I sector are unaware that the 3R regulations exist.

Businesses and institutions in the IC&I sectors used the impetus of the 3R regulations to establish mechanisms for compliance with the understanding that a level playing field would be established through enforcement of the regulations. But the reduction of MOE’s educational activities, lack of enforcement, and substantial decreases in landfill tipping fees meant that recycling activities remained stationary. There is a high degree of non-compliance acknowledged among those involved in waste generation, collection, processing, recycling and disposal. Newer and smaller companies are often unaware of the regulations altogether. (For a specific example, see a description of the A&B Cartage application for review on pages 196-197 of the Supplement to this report.)

Stakeholders would welcome greater enforcement of the regulations to level the playing field and provide a purer and more reliable recyclable material feedstock.

The consensus among waste generators, waste processors, recyclers, municipalities, and manufacturers interviewed by the ECO is that lack of compliance is a result of weak recycling markets, lack of education and promotion of the regulations, and lack of enforcement. The ECO was told that greater enforcement would be welcome to help rejuvenate everyday compliance with the 3R regulations and to promote waste diversion efforts.

Large quantities of valuable recyclable material are being landfilled.

Up to 80 per cent of some types of plastics are going to landfills. Large quantities of aluminum beverage cans also continue to be landfilled. One estimate suggests that the rate of disposal at landfills for aluminum packaging increased from 0.01 kg to 1.6 kg per person between 1992-1996. Such a dramatic increase in the amount of aluminum being landfilled is of concern. Although aluminum can be recycled many times with high efficiency, it has high initial costs in both consumption of energy and production of greenhouse gases. As a consequence, landfilling aluminum has a much higher environmental cost than landfilling steel or other materials. Overall lack of diversion of this magnitude means that for some materials there is insufficient and inadequate feedstock to make 3Rs markets viable. Consistent source-separation would provide purer and more consistent amounts of feedstock, which would in turn help to fuel and stabilize the industry and market prices. This would then attract more buyers, leading to a decrease in recycling costs. This is especially true for plastics, since commodities made of recycled plastics greatly increase in value as the feedstock increases in purity.


According to MOE officials, the ministry lacks the personnel and the financial resources to administer the 3R regulations. However, given the shortage of approved waste disposal capacity in Ontario, it should be considered as an issue that can cause environmental impairment. Moreover, this is not an area where new legislation or regulations need to be drafted to rectify the problem. There are already potentially effective regulations in place that need only to be enforced. Enforcing the current regulations would help to promote waste diversion and help to meet the provincial goal of 50 per cent waste diversion. For instance, carrying out waste audits and waste reduction workplans will help the IC&I sector to focus on materials that are in need of diversion and will also help companies to identify possible non-disposal markets through their waste diversion efforts.

Enforcement must be coupled with educational campaigns to raise an awareness once again of the requirements and benefits of the 3R regulations. It is apparent that a waste diversion infrastructure has not been established throughout the IC&I sectors.

Although MOE policy mandates that any complaints regarding non-compliance with the 3R regulations be directed to local municipalities, these complaints are supposed to be documented. However, ECO research found there is no central monitoring of complaints, reports or referrals for investigation from district and regional MOE offices. Given the acknowledged widespread lack of compliance, the conclusion must be drawn that complaints are not being logged – or that there is a significant lack of awareness by the public of the existence of the regulations.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency developed compliance assistance programs in the early 1990s, and these appear to have promoted better regulatory compliance. The ECO believes that MOE should explore whether it would be appropriate to develop “ compliance assistance programs” for new small companies.

Recommendation 8:

The ECO recommends that:

  • MOE immediately launch an education campaign and work with key stakeholders and industry associations to promote awareness of the 3R regulations.
  • MOE begin documenting complaints regarding non-compliance.
  • MOE enforce the source-separation requirements for designated operations in the IC&I sectors.

This is an article from the 2000/01 Annual Report to the Legislature from the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario.

Citing This Article
Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 2001. "Update: Compliance with the 3R Regulations and the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Sectors." Having Regard, ECO Annual Report, 2000-01. Toronto, ON : Environmental Commissioner of Ontario. 91-97.

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