Ontario’s Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act

In a linear economy, natural resources are extracted, manufactured into products, consumed and then thrown away. In a circular economy, products and packaging are designed to minimize waste and then be recovered, reused, recycled and reintegrated back into production.

A Circular Economy is an economy in which participants strive to:

  1. Minimize the use of raw materials
  2. Maximize the useful life of materials and other resources through resource recovery
  3. Minimize waste generated at the end-of-life of products and packaging.

Resource Recovery means the extraction of useful materials or other resources from things that might otherwise be waste, including through reuse, recycling, reintegration, regeneration or other activities.

Governments globally are embracing circular economy principles to extract maximum value from resources – re-introducing them back into the economy as a means of reducing our environmental footprint.

Since the introduction of the 3Rs Regulations in 1991, Ontario has been committed to waste reduction, reuse and recycling. The Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act (2016) reinforces that commitment not only to resource recovery, but to introducing materials back into the economy in a circular fashion

The Waste Free Ontario Act (2016) includes two separate acts:

  • The Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and
  • The Waste Diversion Transition Act.

The legislation is intended to enable a shift to a circular economy which would increase resource recovery and waste reduction in Ontario. The Act establishes an overarching provincial interest in resource recovery and waste reduction and enables the government to issue policy statements to support that interest.

While the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act (2016) is focussed on transitioning existing stewardship programs for Blue Box materials, tires, electronics and MSHW to full individual producer responsibility (IPR) in the short to medium term, the Act also contains a longer term vision of a Waste Free Ontario, and includes provisions and objectives to establish the provincial interest in resource recovery and waste reduction and enables the government to issue policy statements to provide further direction on the provincial interest.

The document Establish the Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy (https://files.ontario.ca/finalstrategywastefreeont_eng_aoda1_final-s.pdf) outlines a vision and goals for resource recovery and waste reduction and identifies actions under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act as well as other acts, e.g. the Environmental Protection Act which can lead to resource recovery and waste reduction over time.