Recycling Council of Ontario Re-Launches Waste Program

“What gets measured matters” applies as much to solid waste diversion as to any other area of sustainability performance reporting. Aiming to elevate and standardize practice, Recycling Council of Ontario has just re-launched its voluntary diversion certification program for the Industrial, Commercial and Institutional sector (IC&I)—called 3RCertified. “For the majority of the IC&I sector, there is insufficient or inconsistent data to benchmark waste diversion performance across industry. There are waste auditors and internal teams that do exceptional work. But, there is no industry benchmark by which companies and institutions can compare their performance,” said Meirav Even-Har, Program Manager. “While 3RCertified status is meant to recognize leadership in waste reduction and diversion, it was also introduced to the marketplace out of a real need for a standardized method and reporting of waste performance data,” according to Even-Har. The first of its kind in Canada, 3RCertified is the only certification program in the country focused solely on solid waste. Rewarding Organizations for Reduction and Diversion 3RCertified is a points-based waste reduction and diversion program for generators in the IC&I community. It is meant to reward organizations for their management and performance of solid waste in accordance with the 3Rs hierarchy. Organizations are recognized for diversion performance at the Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level. While its offering is currently limited to office buildings, retail and manufacturing modules are expected to become available in summer and fall of 2013. The fee structure is meant to be accessible and includes three-year access to the online database, all on-site evaluations and other administrative processing costs. Any size of business that generates waste can apply to 3RCertified, if a specific survey module is available. Ontario office buildings are welcome to join the program now. To become 3RCertified, applicants have six months to fill out three surveys that inquire about a building’s solid waste management program—including key performance indicators of diversion, capture and per unit reduction rates. An on-site evaluation substantiates the online submission. Aside from recognition through certification, participants are able to contribute to the first externally verified database of by waste stream performance. A Portfolio Manager tool enables a company to track annual performance by waste stream, single or multiple buildings. Increasing Transparency through Externally Audited Data and a Focus on Material Destination What is particularly interesting is the program’s aim to address two very timely transparency issues affecting waste diversion management tracking: lack of transparency around destination of recyclables and lack of externally audited data. More and more companies are focused on where their recycled material ultimately lands. They are putting pressure on their waste haulers to provide this data—to facilitate carbon footprint tracking and address public concerns. Images of, for example, e-waste dumps in China are entering public consciousness. Companies need to be able to show responsibility past the point when their recycled materials are hauled away. (Wire Burning Village photo, Guiyu China ©2013 Basel Action Network (BAN).) To facilitate this, the 3RCertified program rewards points for tracking each waste stream through the disposition chain. Organizations are asked to disclose service providers and the location where material is sent—with documentation and certificates. And 3RCertified also increases transparency by requiring an onsite evaluation to obtain certification. When it comes to waste auditing, practice in Ontario is a patchwork of haulers, independent auditors and others. The RCO is using 3RCertified, as well as its voluntary Waste Auditor Training Program, to offer a standardized approach. Going Beyond Compliance 3RCertified dovetails with Ontario’s provincial regulations and other certification schemes, while pushing organizations beyond compliance. With regulation, for example, ON Reg. 102/94 mandates that some organizations within the IC&I sector conduct an annual waste audit – such as office buildings 10,000 square meters or larger. The audit must address certain elements that have been included in RCO’s Standard Waste Audit Methodology, a required component to be 3RCertified. 3RCertified also aligns well with certification programs in that it addresses materials handling through a full lifecycle approach – from procurement decisions to management plans, to diversion rates. These issues are also addressed to some degree by whole building certification programs such as BOMA BESt and LEED EB (O&M). The ultimate goal is a shift in IC&I waste practice and culture. “3RCertified can be another big piece in a movement to shift our view of waste as “out of site out of mind” into resources that create new products out of old, reducing our need for raw materials while boosting the green economy,” says Even-Har.