Workers Health & Safety Centre

Ontario’s new waste reduction plan may benefit worker health too

The province’s proposed strategy to divert waste from public landfills may also help remove hazardous materials from workplaces, benefitting both worker and community health.
The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change is inviting feedback on Bill 151, the Waste-Free Ontario Act, and its Draft Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy.
If passed, the bill would overhaul Ontario’s waste diversion program and set up a system more dedicated to resource recovery and waste reduction. This new direction builds upon the 3 R’s—reduce, reuse, recycle—to shift the province towards a circular economy where waste is reduced and discarded material is used to produce new goods. This in turn helps create local, cleaner, greener jobs.
The proposed changes would give the government new powers to expand extended producer responsibility or “polluter pays” programs. These programs shift the burden for the environmental impact of a product from governments and consumers to producers. When companies that design, produce and sell products and packaging are also responsible for its recycling and disposal this can lead to better product design, more efficient use of resources and less reliance on toxic materials.
Thinking about what things are made of and how they are made can help improve the health of workers, communities and the planet. Sourcing safer substances to manufacture goods and reducing consumption of polluting products have the potential to minimize worker and community exposures and reduce greenhouse gases that cause climate change.
Ontario’s Toxics Reduction Act requires certain businesses to track and quantify the toxic substances they use and create. They must also develop specific toxics reduction plans and make summaries of their plans available to the public. Implementation of the plans however are not mandatory. Massachusetts’ model Toxics Use Reduction Act sets out similar tracking, reporting and toxics reduction planning for large chemical users, but fees, paid by reporting companies, support several government agencies including the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI). Agencies like TURI offer critical support to help workplaces find safer, less polluting alternatives.
Download and read the Waste-Free Ontario Act.
Download and read Ontario’s Draft Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy.

Want to learn more about the public consultation on the Waste-Free Ontario Act?
The Ministry is accepting comments on the proposed strategy until February 29, 2016.
Feedback can be submitted online, in writing or by attending a regional consultation session.
If you would like to attend a consultation session, please contact:
Shari Sookhoo, Senior Policy Coordinator
Resource Recovery Policy Branch, Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change
Phone: (416) 325-4431
The Workers Health and Safety Centre, through our Earth Day in the Schools program, has long communicated the link between environmental impacts and worker and community health and the many ways workplaces and governments can move towards a greener, cleaner economy. 
WHSC also offers a wide range of training programs and resources to help workplace parties understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to many workplace hazards including the prevention of toxic exposures. Many of these resources also offer essential insight into the information and tools needed to eliminate or reduce harmful workplace and environmental exposures.
To learn more:
Call:     1-888-869-7950