4Rs at heart of updated waste management plan

As York Region’s population continues to grow, the amount of waste it creates will also continue to grow unless changes are made. That’s why its SM4RT Living Waste Management Master Plan is about more than building more depots and collecting more waste bins.

“The heart of the SM4RT Living Plan is really driven by the first two Rs of reduce and reuse to make a lasting difference to reduce the amount of waste we create,” says John, a character in a video produced by the Region to help explain the plan and how residents can make a difference.

“The last two Rs of recycle and recover are about managing the waste we’ve created, turning the recyclables back into new products or recovering valuable energy from our garbage,” says John. He represents a York employee talking to a neighbour who realizes some of the things she can do to make a difference, like questioning the amount of stuff she buys and throws away.

The recently-updated plan will guide the Region over the next 40 years towards a goal of zero waste, focusing on waste reduction, reuse and influencing change. Goals include reducing waste by about 166,000 tonnes and reusing about 62,000 tonnes of waste in the first 18 years.

The Region says it will use the plan to navigate legislative changes, use resources and infrastructure more strategically, and encourage people to embrace SM4RT Living to advance the circular economy. The means going from a linear waste system to a never-ending cycle that extracts as much value as possible from resources by recycling, repairing, reusing, repurposing or refurbishing products and materials – eliminating waste and greenhouse gas emissions at the design stage.

“Local municipal partners have been proudly helping to implement the SM4RT Living Plan through pilot initiatives such as textile collection, repair cafés and curbside giveaway days,” says City of Vaughan Regional Councillor Mario Ferri, Chair of Environmental Services. Strategies for change include a long-term plan for organics, reducing litter and single-use plastics as well as enhancing new and emerging initiatives and technologies in waste management.

The Region reports achieving the highest diversion rate for a large urban municipality in the Resource Recovery and Productivity Authority data call every year since 2012. Starting in 2016, the Region has surpassed the Region Official Plan target with more than 90 per cent of managed waste diverted from landfill. It credits partners like York Region Food Network, NewMakeIt and municipal libraries for promoting SM4RT Living. Learn more about the plan at york.ca/sm4rtliving.

Photo: A screenshot of a video produced by York Region to explain its SM4RT Living Waste Management Master Plan.

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