We all know that developing and implementing recycling policies is something that takes continual effort.  Recycling on a municipal level began in earnest in the 1980s, when communities realized that endlessly sending waste to landfills was not going to be a sustainable option over the long-term.

Ontario Waste Reduction

Image: Ontario.ca

Since then, certain municipalities have faired better than others.  In the ‘80s, Canada’s recycling efforts drew international attention with the introduction and enforcement of its Blue Box recycling system.  First introduced in Kitchener, Ontario, the Blue Box recycling program established requirements for municipal recycling collection systems throughout Ontario.  In many ways, the Blue Box Program drove Canada’s recycling efforts.  It was even a recipient of a United Nations Environmental Award, given to the province in 1989.

Unfortunately, as elaborated in Ontario’s Waste Reduction Strategy, which was published in 2013, over the past decade Ontario’s recycling and waste reduction efforts have decidedly faltered.

As mentioned in the report, the province’s recycling rate has hovered around 25% for the greater part of a decade.  The Report also highlights that the recycling rate for the province’s non-residential sector (i.e. factories, universities, shopping malls, and the like) has been a measly 13%.

After highlighting all this, the Report goes on to describe a multi-prong strategy to increase recycling rates throughout the province, especially in the commercial sector.  One way Ontario will do this will be to put the cost of recycling back on producers, which will force producers to devise more efficient packaging methods and increase the use of recyclable materials.

During the past decade, other cities and counties in North America have faced similar lapses in their recycling programs.  As it turns out, the benefits of recycling – and we’re not just talking about environmental benefits – is something that needs continual reinforcement.

However, not every company has failed to implement effective waste management programs within their organizations.  There are recycling success stories in the non-residential sector, despite Ontario’s tone of concern.

Apotex, which is Canada’s largest generic pharmaceutical maker and which operates manufacturing and R&D facilities in Ontario, has been a notable example of a private company that’s made dedicated, long-term efforts to curb its waste production.

Apotex’s success with reducing waste in every branch of its organization has earned the company recent attention and a recent very positive write-up.

Statistics highlighting Apotex’s recycling rate add further perspective as to why this company has earned recognition for its waste management abilities.

In 2004, the company didn’t have very much to boast about considering that its recycling rate was at a low 22%.  However, over the past ten years, Apotex has managed to increase its rate of recycling to 52%.  That equates to an extra 5,279,001 kg of waste being recycled instead of going to landfill.

Compare the 13% recycling rate for Ontario’s commercial sector with Apotex’s 52% and it’s clear that Apotex understands how to incorporate and implement an effective culture of sustainability.

But, the question is, how can other large companies, like Apotex, follow the same path toward better waste management?  Naturally, private companies have to follow waste management laws enforced by municipal codes.  But, the best recycling programs start from within organizations themselves.

Earl Black, Apotex’s Director of Safety, Health and Environment, provides one reason why Apotex has found such success in diverting its waste away from landfills. It’s a reason that, as we see, is based around good economics.

“At Apotex, we strive to create a sustainable business model,” says Mr. Black.  “This includes the development of business practices that will have positive economic impacts while also minimizing our environmental impacts.  In working with responsible waste vendors, we have been able to increase our diversion rates and achieve results that we can all be proud of.  We have found that this has not only helped to build employee engagement but has also made a positive impact on our overall costs.  Recycling and waste diversion makes good business sense, plain and simple.”

Although Ontario and other municipalities are on the right track in bringing recycling costs back to producers themselves, that should only be one part of the story.  In order to improve recycling rates, companies need to be reminded that recycling and using recycling material can save them a lot of money.