You’ve had to manage your blue box for years, but it looks like the province is looking to change the age-old system.
The Ontario government recently announced that it is working to make some changes to recycling across the province.
It says the changes will address plastic pollution and litter by shifting blue box responsibilities from municipalities to producers (meaning companies that create products sold in recyclable material).
Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, recently appeared at Canada Fibers to announce the next steps to transition the costs of the blue box program away from municipal taxpayers and make the producers of products and packaging fully responsible.
“Transitioning the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility will promote innovation and increase Ontario’s recycling rates while saving taxpayers money,” said Yurek. “This shift is a big step towards diverting waste, addressing plastic pollution and creating a new recycling economy that everyone can be proud of in Ontario.”
The province says it has issued directions to Stewardship Ontario outlining the next steps and timelines to transitioning the program to producer responsibility starting in 2023.
Over the coming year, the province says it will develop and consult on regulations. Once producer responsibility is fully in place, recycling across the province will reportedly be more consistent, with a standard list of materials that can be recycled.
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) has applauded the move, saying that the environment will benefit while households will be largely unaffected.
“This is an important step forward in the evolution of Ontario’s iconic blue box. It puts the responsibility for recycling on those that have the greatest ability to make change – the producers,” said AMO President Jamie McGarvey. “Residents may not see a big difference at the curb, but it will make a difference for our environment, spur more innovation and importantly, lower costs for taxpayers.”
The province says Ontario’s recycling rates have been stalled for 15 years and up to 30 per cent of what is put into the blue box is sent to landfill.
There are over 240 municipal blue box programs that have their own separate lists of accepted recyclable materials, which the province says affects cost savings and contamination.
The AMO says that the current Blue Box system is not working and that, without improvements, is slated to become more expensive over time.
The organization also said that the current system cannot respond to today’s realities, such as the rapid changes in packaging, the need to invest in collection and processing infrastructure, and increased consumer awareness.
The province says that, based on recommendations from Special Advisor David Lindsay’s report on recycling and plastic waste, the Blue Box Program will transition to producer responsibility in phases over a three-year period.
The province says the first group of municipalities or First Nations will transfer the responsibility of their programs to producers starting January 1, 2023. By December 31, 2025, producers will be fully responsible for providing blue box services provincewide.
So, what can households expect?
The province says residents who currently receive municipal blue box services will continue to receive the same services throughout the transition period. Once producers are fully responsible for the program, residents will experience the same or improved access to blue box services across the province.
Some producers who will be impacted by the change are applauding the measure.
“Retail Council of Canada (RCC) supports the Ontario government’s commitment to improving the blue box recycling system,” said Diane J. Brisbois, president & CEO, Retail Council of Canada, in a statement.
“For our part, retailers are committed to full producer responsibility. We share a common view that plastics, printed paper and packaging do not belong in landfill. RCC looks forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure better environmental outcomes.”
But while the measure has been warmly received, some–including Mississauga City Councillor Pat Saito–have said that this idea isn’t new or unique to the Doug Ford government and that the roll-out shouldn’t take so long.
“Confused by the province announcing a new innovative program for blue box…that producers will pay and run the program….and will roll out in next 6 years…..this was announced as an initiative years ago by the previous government…we have had many discussions at Region [of Peel] of what our role would be..and what we would save in collection costs…..so it’s not a new idea…it should have happened years ago,” Saito wrote on Facebook.
“This so-called brilliant new idea is old news…and now they claim it will take 6 years? All the work was done on designing it…it should be happening now. I guess as they were not in office they didn’t pay attention to the programs their predecessors announced. Just shaking my head….wonder if the next government will announce it as their brilliant new idea too and if it will ever really happen.”