What Do We Do?

Quantitative Modeling (including Life Cycle Analysis): The vast majority of Waste Wiki projects are devoted to modeling the economic and environmental impact of various waste management decisions or scenarios. This is often accompanied by the development of tools and applications that allows stakeholders to model their own scenarios, or change basic model assumptions. Examples of these projects include (not an exhaustive list):

  • Blue Box Optimization Calculator: A tool designed to optimize the mix of materials recovered by the Blue Box program.
  • Blue Box Carbon Cost Calculator: A tool that quantifies the emissions impacts of the Blue Box program, and attempts to maximize carbon abatement at the lowest possible cost
  • Printed paper and packaging forecasting model: A tool that forecasts how the relative composition of packaging is likely to change in the future, based on historical data and a set of baseline assumptions
  • Collection Carbon Cost Model: A tool that attempts to minimize the carbon impacts associated with transportation of waste, while minimizing costs

At present the Waste Wiki is assisting stakeholders with the following:

  • Assist stakeholders in quantifying the life cycle impact of various packaging materials and end of life scenarios. This will include the development of an expanded life cycle framework (see attached) that builds on existing LCA metrics to capture criteria such as material reduction/light weighting, logistical impacts attributable to light weighting, effects on useful product life (both at the store and in the home for perishable items), discretionary consumption, direct and indirect economic impacts, available waste management infrastructure, risks when landfilled and risks when incinerated.
  • Helping stakeholders better understand the economic (direct, indirect and induced) and social impacts of EPR policy. This includes quantifying recycling system costs under an EPR regime, as well as modeling the impact on the price of consumer packaged goods resulting from the adoption of EPR legislation. The university will also model the impacts of specific scenarios intended to reflect what is being proposed in jurisdictions considering EPR policy.
  • Help stakeholders understand what eco-modulated fee rates are, how they are calculated (in jurisdictions that already use them), how they are applied (i.e. fee schedules for individual material types based on existing fee allocation methodologies), experiences to date (in jurisdictions which have adopted eco-modulated fee rates for packaging) and what they are intended to do (i.e. is the goal to increase the recycling rate, or maximize carbon reduction?). Our goal is to help advocate eco-modulated fees that are based on life cycle thinking, as opposed to calibrating fees around recycling rates only.

Data Visualization: While a wealth of data exists for the waste management sector, this information is difficult to find, interpret and analyze. The Waste Wiki attempts to not only consolidate this information, but provide a visual interface that makes data accessible to stakeholders, allowing them to navigate and interpret information without necessarily having to have a background in Excel/Stata.

The Waste Wiki currently manages the Ontario Waste Management Association’s Retrac database, which is a platform designed to collect data from stakeholders. Using this information, the Waste Wiki has created a series of “Data Dashboards” that visualizes this information using Excel and Visual Basic.

Behavioral Analysis: Undertake behavioral research examining household attitudes towards packaging design, end of life outcomes and self-reported waste management behaviors. Specifically, the goal of this research is to better understand the following:

  • Household attitudes towards packaging, packaging waste and excess packaging
  • Household attitudes towards plastic packaging, with a specific emphasis on measuring how attitudes have changed as a result of the pandemic
  • Household attitudes towards proposed single use plastic bans
  • How, if at all, are household purchasing habits informed by a packages recyclability/compostability
  • Gauge whether households are willing to pay a premium for packaged products perceived as more sustainable (i.e. it can be recycled, reused etc.)
  • Household attitudes towards reusable packaging (are there concerns surrounding sanitation and safety? Are there specific packaged products that households are more likely to reuse? Etc.)
  • Measure household awareness regarding the impacts of various end of life scenarios for packaging waste (i.e. do households understand the link between recycling and carbon abatement)
  • Consumer perception of environmental handling fees – do people understand what environmental handling fees are and where the money goes (and to whom). Do consumers have a preference for visible fees, or would they prefer it to be built into the price of the product (hidden).
  • How can package labeling be used to educate and inform consumers regarding how to manage a product at end of life
  • What information would consumers like to see communicated on package labeling (with respect to the environment/sustainability) to help make more informed purchasing decisions? How can this information be communicated in a way that is simple and readily understood by consumers?
  • What are the perceived barriers (infrastructural, economic, awareness etc.) that households face when managing packaging waste at end of life
  • Do households trust the municipality/service provider with respect to what is happening to packaging waste at end of life (i.e. skepticism surrounding whether the materials put inside the recycling bin are actually being recycled)
  • Do households trust manufacturer/producer claims regarding the recyclability/compostability of their products
  • How can we help both consumers and producers better understand the relationship between product packaging and avoided food waste

 

Based on the aforementioned qualitative research, the university will assist stakeholders in developing behavioral intervention strategies to achieve desired changes in behavior. This research will also be used to inform strategies to cultivate awareness among consumers (with respect to a product’s end of life) and better understand the perceived barriers to sustainable end of life practices.

Jurisdictional Scans and Literature Reviews: Due to the fact that the Waste Wiki acts as a consolidation point for relevant data and academic literature, stakeholders such as Clorox and the Canadian Council Ministers of the Environment have retained the Waste Wiki to conduct literature reviews and jurisdictional scans in an attempt to identify waste management best practices from other markets.

The Waste Wiki is currently undertaking a comprehensive review of experiences with extended producer responsibility from other jurisdictions, to help guide Ontario’s transition to a full producer responsibility scheme for the Blue Box program

Advocacy: While the Waste Wiki has traditionally avoided advocating for any one particular group or cause, we have more recently taken positions on various issues (i.e. single use plastics) if there is sufficient data/evidence to support our stance. The Waste Wiki is presently partnered with AMERIPEN, University of Florida, Consortium for Waste to Syngas Circularity,  Canadian Industry Plastics Association and Pollution Probe to advocate for certain policy and legislative outcomes that will result in a more efficient and sustainable waste management system. Using evidence based research, our goal is to help support advocacy efforts in legislative discussions surrounding packaging waste.