Ontario tells firms to reduce waste output

Quaker Oats Company of Canada is acting preemptively in the face of proposed new environmental regulations in Ontario.The Peterborough, Ont.-based firm has already completed an environmental audit to see where its waste can be cut.This week, Ontario's ndp government will table...

Quaker Oats Company of Canada is acting preemptively in the face of proposed new environmental regulations in Ontario.

The Peterborough, Ont.-based firm has already completed an environmental audit to see where its waste can be cut.

This week, Ontario’s ndp government will table Initiatives Paper No. 1 before the provincial Cabinet. The paper proposes that firms be required to audit and reduce their entire waste output, including excess packaging.

The draft proposal provides follow-up regulations to the Ontario Waste Management Act, introduced last April.

One result of Quaker Oats’ audit is that the food marketer is looking to eliminate the exterior cardboard packaging surrounding its cereal products and sell a bagged product instead.

Hugh Howsom, national manager of environmental affairs at Quaker Oats, says much technical and consumer testing lies ahead before bagged cereals reach store shelves.

‘We must be careful about creating a marketing disadvantage for ourselves,’ Howsom says.

‘If everyone else on the store shelf is going with a glossy box, we’ll have a problem with how the consumer perceives our bagged product,’ he says.

Howsom says Quaker Oats will shortly produce an advertising campaign to inform customers about its waste reduction efforts.

Waste Management Act

The Waste Management Act, a legislative response to the 1990 National Packaging Protocol, requires companies to reduce their waste to 80% of 1988 levels by Dec. 31, and 50% by 2000.

If the new regulations are approved, all Ontario companies will submit for approval to the ministry of environment a waste reduction plan explaining how the Waste Management Act targets will be met.

Companies will need to minimize waste along their entire production and marketing chain, from the factory floor to the store shelf.

A waste audit was recently completed at 3M Canada’s Perth, Ont. facility. Energy consumption and waste was reduced, and recycled or recyclable materials were introduced.

3M ads

A spokesman for the company says corporate advertising will shortly highlight 3M Canada’s own waste reduction progress.

Dennis L’Ami, general manager of Equity Environmental Services and chairman of the International Institute of Environmental Auditors, warned brand managers their portfolio’s market share is at risk.

‘If a rival acts before you do to bring out packaging that becomes part of a full advertising campaign highlighting how they met specific standards, your market share could be adversely affected,’ L’Ami says.

The draft regulations will likely become enforceable in February. Ontario marketers will then submit audits and a waste reduction plan by July 1.

Dieter Doederleine, head of M2000 Group, the Toronto-based package design consultant, says many Ontario companies have yet to respond to the Waste Management Act.

‘Companies must either redesign their packaging to meet Ontario regulations, and keep their existing packaging for the rest of the provinces,’ Doederleine.

The alternative would be conforming to Ontario standards and hoping the rest of the country does not follow suit.

That would be unlikely.

‘Ontario is the litmus test,’ Doederleine says. ‘What happens here will dictate what happens elsewhere.’