Ontario looking at banning food waste in garbage

Food waste in Canada is costing $31 billion a year. Waste occurs at various points of the food supply system. There are lots of gaps, according to experts, but the biggest source of waste are households. Bloomberg/Getty Images

In five years time Ontarians may be putting out a whole lot less garbage at the curb.

A position paper from the province released this spring on how to reduce greenhouse gases calls for the possibility of banning food waste from landfills.

A number of municipalities have already implemented green bin programs or other initiatives to divert organic waste, but London hasn’t been able to get one on the books.

“Food waste represents about a third to 40 percent by weight of the material that we put out at the curb. That’s why the province is targeting it. Other municipalities have already jumped onto this bandwagon. They have put in place programs to deal with a portion of it,” said Jay Stanford, London’s Director of Environment, Fleet, and Solid Waste.

According to London city councillor Stephen Turner, Londoners put between $50 million and $100 million of uneaten food into their garbage each year.

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“About one-third of all food that’s prepared for consumption never actually makes it into our stomachs, it goes into the garbage. We need to take a look at our habits. Canadians are amongst the largest waste producers per capita on the planet. That`s a bit of an issue,” said Turner.

READ MORE: Calgary homeowner trying to reject green bin told to be patient

He says London has put off implementing a green bin program for organic waste, but a ban like this may be the best way forward.

“If that’s the mandate and it gives us as municipalities the option of exploring ways of achieving that, instead of managing the way that we would have to do that, that would give us the flexibility and allow us to find the most cost-effective and ecologically friendly option available,” said Turner.

Since London does not have a green bin program currently in place, this could be a chance to get it right.

“If the province went the route of a food waste ban, and I am scratching my head a bit on that, communities that are doing green bins right now might not be doing enough. We might be in an ideal situation to put in place a better, more cost-efficient, and better for the environment program in the next 5 years,” said Stanford.

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But how would the ban be enforced ?

“A couple communities have moved to what’s called a ‘clear bag system’. The remaining garbage is in a clear bag sitting at the curb, and when the collectors come by they’re able to see, within reason of course, whether that bag still contains food waste or even recyclables,” said Stanford.

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The city has started a waste management working group, as well as public consultations, and is working with the advisory committees to figure out the best options for waste management moving forward.

The paper says greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by 2.2 mega tonnes in Ontario if a ban is put in place.

Further consultations on the discussion paper are planned this fall.

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