EcDev Journal

The Toronto Region Sustainability Program: Improving Environmental Performance

Posted on Wednesday December 17, 2003

By Jennifer Tidmarsh

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OFFICERS in Vaughan, Ontario, have a new tool to help make industry more competitive, more sustainable, and more profitable. The Toronto Region Sustainability Program is available to help Vaughan small-to-medium sized (SME) manufacturers reduce their costs while improving their environmental performance.

The Toronto Region Sustainability Program offers companies, with fewer than 500 employees, funding assistance to have a pre-qualified consultant conduct a pollution prevention assessment of their facility. This assessment identifies opportunities for reducing costs and improving efficiencies by reducing or eliminating toxic pollutants, sewer discharges, and hazardous waste and Smog emissions. In this way a company can reduce potential liability, preserve capital asset value and demonstrate due diligence while meeting pollution prevention planning requirements. In addition, a company undertaking this kind of work may eliminate the need to report to the National Pollutant Release Inventory, the Ontario Air Emission Regulation 127 and the Ontario Hazardous Waste Information Management system (HWIN).

The City of Vaughan, like all municipalities is a growing area. In recent years its population has increased 37% between 1996-2001, and the city is one of the fastest-growing communities in Ontario (Ecolog Weekly, Vol. 31, No.44). To solve the increasing impacts of pollution and waste generation that accompanies this kind of growth, municipalities are observing Toronto and are moving toward the pollution prevention planning approach.

The City of Toronto is the first municipality in Canada to incorporate pollution prevention planning requirements into its Sewer Use By-law. Eleven metals and twenty-seven organic compounds/ group of compounds are addressed in the By-law. The By-law requires the companies that discharge these chemicals to submit detailed pollution prevention plan every six years as well as a Pollution Prevention plan summary every two years. 

For the past two years, the Toronto Region Sustainability Program has helped SME manufacturers in Toronto to develop their pollution prevention plans. As of November 2003, the Toronto Region Sustainability Program has reduced almost 400 tonnes of VOCs, 2.5 tonnes of particulate matter, and 12 tonnes of other greenhouse gases. Apart from reductions in air emissions, there has also been a reduction of 370 kilograms of metals and 30 tonnes of toxics. Companies have also saved over 15 thousand tonnes of water. In addition to the environmental benefits, clients have also realized a combined $1.5 million in savings and a return on their investment of less than one year.

Given the tremendous success shown with participating companies in the City of Toronto, the program is now being extended to companies in the Toronto Region: Mississauga, Brampton, Vaughan, Markham, Richmond Hill and Pickering. This means that companies having a 905 area code are now eligible as well to participate in the Toronto Region Sustainability Program and take advantage of the financial support available to have a comprehensive pollution prevention assessment completed for their facilities.

A targeted marketing campaign has been launched to promote this opportunity in these areas. While the City of Toronto was the first municipality to put in place the new sewer use By-law requiring companies discharging subject pollutants to the sewer to submit a pollution prevention plan, other municipalities will likely follow suit in the near future. This is an opportunity therefore, for these companies to prepare for the future while continuing to comply with all other federal and provincial regulations that they are subject to anyway.

Small-to-medium manufacturers represent an important target sector for pollution prevention in Ontario. In a study done for Environment Canada, it was shown that 87% of the manufacturing sources reporting to NPRI in Ontario are in fact in the SME category, and 62% of the total loadings from manufacturers come from SME sources. Capitalizing on pollution prevention opportunities has traditionally been difficult for small and medium sized companies. Common reasons cited by them for not pursuing pollution prevention activities include, not having the time, the money or the internal capacity to do so. 

The Toronto Region Sustainability Program can assist companies in Vaughan to overcome these barriers and provides a 50% subsidy incentive, to cover the assessment costs, up to a maximum of $4000.00. Pre-qualified, technical consultants, who have the knowledge and expertise to identify pollution prevention opportunities, carry out the assessments. These consultants use a series of steps in order to help them complete these reports. This first step is to answer the question: What are the wastes? This is done using inventory & characterization of pollutants and wastes. Next the consultant uses root cause analysis and process mapping to find out why the wastes are occurring. Finally pollution prevention solutions are found and organized as low cost, medium cost and high cost options by process or product line. This gives the client a clear view of what to do to eliminate or minimize the wastes.

The Program is being delivered through the Ontario Centre for Environmental Technology Advancement (OCETA), a private, not-for-profit organization, and addresses the environmental priorities of three orders of government, including, Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Environment and the City of Toronto. With these government partners the program receives sustainability performance goals and policy/program support, promotion and core program funding; Environment Canada also provides the cost share for the pollution prevention Assessments. However, by being part of a not-for-profit organization, the Toronto Sustainability Program inspires trust in its client base and ensures fair management in its consultant roster.

The financial and environmental results noted above have helped SMEs to overcome the barriers that they traditionally have faced by showing that integrated pollution prevention planning optimizes environmental, health and safety, and economic performance by addressing the root causes of wastes. The following case studies show direct examples of the program at work. 

EcoSafe, a consulting firm on the Toronto Region Sustainability Program roster, undertook a pollution prevention assessment for Informco, a graphic communication company that produces high quality offset lithographic printing. This review included process flow mapping, equipment uses, evaluation of the way chemicals are employed and stored, and waste handling and discharges. Several cost avoidance opportunities were identified through implementation of pollution prevention options. 

One of Informco’s major sources of pollution came from isopropyl alcohol. It is a 100% Volatile Organic Compound (VOC), smog precursor with a high vapour pressure. It is the one element that would jeopardize Informco’s ability to acquire Ecologo certification. Other issues included drums of cleaning solvents and isopropyl alcohol that were left open with the bungs or caps removed, collection of all liquid waste for proper storage, treatment or disposal.

Attempts in the past to reduce or eliminate the use of isopropyl alcohol had been unsuccessful. By discovering the root cause of the isopropyl alcohol use, a solution to this pollution problem was found. Due to the inconsistency of the municipal supplied water quality, the surface tension and conductivity of the water, isopropyl alcohol could not be eliminated. To solve this problem Informco install a 445 litre per day Reverse Osmosis System to treat the municipal water, thus removing the need for isopropyl alcohol. With the short return on investment (approx. 6 to 8 months) this was a low cost option with a high payback. The reverse osmosis system is preventing 4000 kilograms / 4 tonnes of VOC emissions per year from entering the environment. It is saving over $9,000 per year in the costs for the isopropyl alcohol.

Other solutions were not as complex. By enforcing a closed container policy, VOC emissions were cut by 14% or 1.1 tonnes, with a savings of $2,000 to $2,500 a year at no cost to the company. The treatment of contaminated aqueous waste on site are saving haulage costs, the need to use valuable space store drums of waste and eliminate the risk of spillage while in transport. 

Another success story involves DeCaro, a small metal plating facility in Toronto that manufactures fireplaces, fireplace accessories, airport weight scales and other metal products. The company is committed to improving its environmental performance but needed assistance in meeting the City of Toronto’s Sewer Use By-Law requirements. 

During the evaluation, Cotter Associates, the consultant recommended many cost saving and pollution prevention strategies for DeCaro Manufacturing in each of their three main processes; degreasing, plating and painting.

In order to reduce the use of trichloroethylene in the degreasing process, the consultant recommended modifying the tank configuration and installing a cooling system to minimize evaporative losses. This will reduce losses by 35% and provide a $1,500 per year savings. A switch to caustic cleaning instead of using a solvent degreaser will provide a 50% reduction in use of trichloroethylene and a savings of $2,100 per year. In the longer term, by switching to non-chlorinated or water based cleaners trichloethylene can be completely eliminated

The last process in the plant, painting, provides opportunities to reduce toluene and xylene. The current spray guns will be replaced by high volume, low-pressure guns to reduce paint consumption by 15% and save $400 per year. A further step will be to eliminate spray-painting all together and replace it with a dip paint process. This will provide a 10% reduction in toluene and xylene and will save $260 per year. Over the longer term, the company can aim to use water-based paints that will lead to a further 50% reduction, achieving approximately a $1300 savings per year.

Halltech, a Toronto based chemical specialty manufacturer of a wide variety of high quality polymer emulsions and adhesives is a recent graduate of the Program. Cotter Associates mapped the manufacturing processes and assessed the facility for waste reduction opportunities. 

Halltech received multiple pollution prevention recommendations from the consultant, most with short paybacks and large cost savings, addressing product losses occurring during: adhesives and product filtration; bulk tanker loading; tank sampling; and steam condensate recovery. 

The most significant recommendation was to install a closed-system product filtration. A closed filtration system will pump or suck the tank contents through an inline cartridge or bag filter, directly to the destination vessel. By moving to a closed filtration system, it is estimated that the bag change can be reduced to once per batch (as opposed to up to five previously), for a product loss of 10 kilograms per batch, which represents an 80% reduction. This equates to 40 tonnes of product per year. It also reduces the discharge of zinc and Alkylphenol Ethoxylates, which are both sewer use bylaw subject pollutants. The overall cost savings adds up to over $140,000 and an additional $10,000 annual savings in sewer surcharge. The payback for this recommendation is estimated at just over 5 months.

Another option that yields will result in considerable savings by preventing product losses, involves installing check valves in the flexible transfer lines. The current design or set-up for loading of bulk tankers using flexible hoses, results in a significant loss of product during each filling operation. During the disconnect process, product losses flow to the floor and then to the sanitary sewer. A check valve on the lines will eliminate the connection losses. In addition, lines are cleaned out by flushing. Once permanent transfers lines are installed lines will not have to be cleaned after each use. This option will save between 40 to 70 tonnes of product loss per year, and save approximately $12,000 in product losses and sewer surcharges. The payback on this option will be 4 to 5 months.

OCETA offers participants the choice of remaining anonymous or showcasing their accomplishments. For clients who are willing to publicly share the information, formal case studies are available on the program website [] which is hot linked to the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention [] and government websites.

The U.S. National Pollution Prevention Roundtable annually presents Most Valuable Pollution Prevention Awards (MVP2) to federal, state and local government agencies, as well as non-profit organizations and industry entities that have demonstrated significant achievements in pollution prevention. OCETA, specifically the Toronto Region Sustainability Program, was recently named one of the 2003 recipients of the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable's 7th MVP2 awards. OCETA is the first non-U.S.-based winner of this award. 

The best way to protect our environment is to prevent pollution before it occurs. And the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) celebrates the innovative ways companies and organizations across Canada are practicing pollution prevention. The awards program was established in 1997 to support CCME’s emphasis on preventing pollution at the source, rather than cleaning it up or treating it after it’s been created. More information about the awards program and how to apply can be found on the CCME website at

CCME recognizes companies and organizations for their overall pollution prevention efforts, innovations, and reductions in greenhouse gases. The 2002 winners received a uniquely designed award at the Canadian Pollution Prevention Roundtable in Calgary on June 11th, 2003

The winner of the CCME Award for pollution prevention for medium sized industry was Informco Inc., a Toronto Region Sustainability Program client whose case study was mentioned above. Informco is implementing the pollution prevention projects and achieving concomitant environmental and cost-reduction benefits. 

In summary, the Toronto Region Sustainability Program can help economic development officers help small to medium sized industrial manufacturers to meet their bottom line, to reduce priority pollutants and wastes, to reduce costs, and improve overall performance. The Program provides a 50% subsidy for the assessment costs, up to $4000 as an incentive for companies like Informco, DeCaro and Halltech to participate. For small-to-medium sized manufacturers in Vaughan, participating in the Toronto Region Sustainability Program just makes sense and dollars too!


Jennifer Tidmarsh works as a Project Analyst at OCETA. She develops targeted marketing strategies, materials, newsletters, client case studies and program websites to promote pollution prevention, sustainable development and energy efficiency by small-to-medium sized manufacturers. She has a BSc in Earth and Atmospheric Science.

For further information on how to become involved in the Toronto Region Sustainability Program, contact: 

Jennifer Tidmarsh BSc., Project Analyst
Toronto Region Sustainability Program 
Phone: 416-778-6656
Fax: 416-778-5624