can pickering, ontario go zero-waste?

One of my courses this term has me focusing on changes in my community.  It’s all about sustainable goals, sustainable initiatives, and sustainable movements. I chose to write about the potential for Pickering, Ontario to adopt a zero-waste system with a focus on recovery of discarded materials.
Waste is everywhere in Pickering. When garbage pick-up went from weekly to bi-weekly, there was a big reaction from the community. People wanted weekly garbage pick-up to continue and were very passionate about it: petitions, door to door engagement with the community, attending open houses with the government to speak their minds. This community isn’t passionate about much: but being able to throw out garbage every week was a big enough “issue” for some community members to do something about it.
I strongly believe that anyone demanding a weekly garbage pick up is not recycling or composting all of the materials they could be. Whether it’s not knowing or not caring, the attitude towards waste management needs an adjustment.

Here is part of what I submitted as the first of three installments for this assignment:

Waste Definition: Any material being discarded by the owner/holder with the intent of it being sent to landfill or any item a person discards in a manner where it is not intended to be repurposed, repaired, or reused even if the item ends up being reused in some way.
Zero Waste Definition: Zero waste has several recognized definitions. For the context of this assignment, the definition of Zero-Waste is as follows: Recovery of all discards so that nothing is left for disposal in landfill.


I would like to reduce household solid waste in Pickering, Ontario by adopting a zero-waste system. Pickering needs to develop and adopt a sustainable waste reduction management system to reduce the region’s environmental impact .To achieve a more sustainable waste management system in Pickering, the two main challenges for transitioning to a zero waste system will be (1) reducing the amount of solid-waste generated and (2) increasing the capability of the region to handle the diversion of discarded materials for recovery. The desired outcome is to draft and implement a long-term strategy to put all Pickering households on course for gradual maximum reduction and recovery.

In recent years, addressing climate change has become a focal point for sustainability in Canada. This includes addressing greenhouse gas emission rates. The province of Ontario produced 23% of Canada’s total emissions in 2015. The US Environmental Protection Agency (2015) estimates that 42% of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the production and use of material goods. By rethinking household solid waste management in Pickering, it is possible to influence household consumption and waste habits to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.

The zero waste vision aims to reduce the amount of material being sent to landfill or incinerators to zero while changing lifestyles, habits, and practices to follow sustainable waste management where all discarded materials are repaired, reused, or recycled. By expanding the lifespan of materials through reuse, repurpose and recycling, a more sustainable system is created, thus helping future generations’ abilities to provide for themselves through resource conservation.


Current diversion programs are not being used to their full potential. According to Stats Canada (2011), only 71% of compostable kitchen waste from households was composted in Oshawa and 72% in Toronto. Oshawa and Toronto are the closest cities to Pickering evaluated by this study. If every household in Canada composted all of their food waste, the impact would be equivalent to removing 780’000 cars from the road.

Waste diversion programs make a big difference. Removing bits and pieces of waste from landfills adds up. Of course there are many different ways to divert waste from landfills – thrift stores, charity organizations, repair shops, etc – but the Government of Ontario recognizes six main programs for the reuse, recycling, and safe disposal of waste including: (1) The Blue Box Program for paper, plastic, glass, steel, and aluminum packaging, (2) The Green Bin Program for most organic materials, (3) The various municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Programs which properly dispose of materials such as paint, batteries, and fertilizers, (4) The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program which reuses or recycles electronic equipment, (5) The Used Tires Program which recycles tires, and (6) Ontario Deposit Return Program for beverage and alcohol containers.

There is no way to transform a community the size of Pickering’s waste system to a zero waste system without a recycling-first approach. This means that the tools currently used to manage waste and waste disposal must be replaced with a set of practical policies and tools for recovery. The goal is to integrate zero waste management by phasing out traditional waste collection equipment while replacing these with recovery and recycling equipment.

One source of greenhouse gas emissions is the release of methane from organic waste in landfills. An estimated 6% of the province of Ontario’s total emissions comes from organic materials in landfills. This is an avoidable problem. Requiring organic matter to be composted is a possibility for the City of Pickering. In November of 1998 (almost twenty years ago), the province of Nova Scotia banned compostable organic materials from landfills. How is it that an entire province was able to make composting a requirement for households twenty years ago without other provinces following their example?


By 2030, all discarded materials in Pickering, Ontario will be recovered for their reuse or repurpose, with no materials sent to landfills of incinerators for disposal.
To achieve this vision, Pickering, Ontario will work towards:
1. Educating and engaging citizens, businesses, and organizations
2. Creating and implementing policies and programs that support a zero-waste future
3. Investing in facilities and jobs to recover materials of all kinds
4. Drafting, creating and supporting legislation that support a zero waste future

The featured image for this post is of an over-flowing garbage can at a hiking trail in Pickering, Ontario. Image taken February 2018.

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