On Nov. 29, the Progressive Conservative government in Ontario unveiled a new plan to address the province’s environmental challenges entitled Preserving and Protecting our Environment for Future Generations: A Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. Below is a breakdown of what foodservice operators need to know about the new Ontario environment plan.

A Shift Away from Cap-And-Trade

The new plan recommits the province toward meeting the emissions-reduction goals in the Paris Accord, but without the previous cap-and-trade system. The cap-and-trade model put limits on the amount of pollution that companies in certain industries could emit, but permitted them to buy allowances at auction or from other organizations that came in under their limits.

Under the new Ontario environment plan, the province will spend $400 million over four years on a fund called the Ontario Carbon Trust, with the intention to incentivize the adoption of environmentally friendly practices and technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Supporting Businesses with Waste Reduction

A section in the new plan entitled “Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities & Keeping our Land and Soil Clean” talks about the need for businesses, including restaurants, to contribute to waste reduction through largely voluntary diversion programs. Below are some of the actions listed in the new Ontario environment plan that the government plans on undertaking to help businesses improve waste reduction practices.

Actions to assist businesses with reducing food waste:
  • Expand green bin or similar collection systems in large cities and to relevant businesses.
  • Develop a proposal to ban food waste from landfill and consult with key partners such as municipalities, businesses and the waste industry.
  • Educate the public and business about reducing and diverting food and organic waste.
  • Develop best practices for safe food donation.

These actions will likely be welcomed by most foodservice businesses, even though restaurants generally do not generate much food waste; food that is prepared but not served is an expense to be avoided in a tight-margin industry. According to results from the most recent quarterly Restaurant Outlook Survey, 77 per cent of restaurateurs and other foodservice operators across the country already track, compost or donate leftover food.

Restaurants Canada is already working with organizations such as Second Harvest and FoodRescue.ca to assist restaurants with donating safe, surplus food and looks forward to consulting with the Ontario government on best practices around food donation.

Actions to assist businesses with reducing waste from plastics and other packaging materials:
  • Seek federal commitment to implement national standards that address recyclability and labelling for plastic products and packaging to reduce the cost of recycling in Ontario.
  • Work with municipalities and producers to provide more consistency across the province regarding what can and cannot be accepted in the Blue Box program.
  • Explore additional opportunities to reduce and recycle waste in our businesses and institutions.
  • Ensure new compostable packaging materials in Ontario are accepted by existing and emerging green bin programs across the province, by working with municipalities and private composting facilities to build a consensus around requirements for emerging compostable materials.

These are actions that Restaurants Canada has long been advocating for from governments. The foodservice industry is facing increasing demand for delivery and take-out meals, which require containers and other single-use items to ensure food quality, safety and accessibility needs are met. In order to ensure these items can be recycled and composted instead of ending up in landfills, municipalities must have clear, common rules for accepting products into their waste diversion programs.

Placing Responsibility on Waste Producers

The new Ontario environment plan states that “making producers responsible for the full life-cycle of their products and the waste they produce will help companies to consider what materials they use in and to package their products, and find new and innovative cost-effective ways to recycle them and lower costs for consumers. It can also make recycling easier and more accessible.”

The plan lists the following actions that the Ontario government will take to place more responsibility on businesses that produce waste:

  • Move Ontario’s existing waste diversion programs to the producer responsibility model. This will provide relief for taxpayers and make producers of packaging and products more efficient by better connecting them with the markets that recycle what they produce.
  • Consider making producers responsible for the end of life management of compostable products and packaging.

Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act already requires businesses that are considered Blue Box Stewards to share in funding 50 per cent of the net cost of municipal recycling programs. Any increase to the level of responsibility that industry must shoulder for costs of waste management should come with a proportionate increase in control over the efficacy of those programs. Restaurants Canada will ensure the voice of foodservice is represented in any discussions around implementing a producer responsibility model for waste management programs.

Any Questions or Concerns About the New Ontario Environment Plan?

If you have any questions or concerns about what the new Ontario environment plan might mean for your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch with James Rilett, Restaurants Canada Vice President, Central Canada, at jrilett@restaurantscanada.org or 1-800-387-5649 ext. 4241.