Ontario rolls out new blue box program

The Ontario government is expanding blue box service to more communities, standardizing the list of materials that can be recycled across the province and making producers of products and packaging fully responsible for the cost and operation of the program.

The province says combining 253 local programs into a single collection system managed by producers will improve recycling operations across the province, and encourage producers to find efficiencies that will make recycling simpler and easier for residents.

It is also expected to drive innovation in recycling practices and technologies by rewarding producers who make their products easier to recycle and can derive more value from waste.

“Producers and municipalities have been advocating for an enhanced, producer-led Blue Box program for over a decade and I’m proud that our government has finalized these improvements,” said Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks.

“Our goal is to ensure our program remains convenient, affordable and right for communities. That’s why we are creating a stronger and more effective blue box service that will have some of the highest waste diversion targets in North America to promote greater innovations in recycling technologies and increased use of recycled materials.”

More places to collect

The enhanced Blue Box program will expand collection to all communities outside the Far North by 2026. It will also include more facilities such as apartment buildings, municipally run or non-profit long-term care homes and retirement homes, and schools.

The province is also expanding collection to more parks, playgrounds, and transit stations, more than tripling the number of public space recycling bins funded under the current program so there are more opportunities to recycle at home and on the go.

The transition to the enhanced Blue Box program will be staggered from 2023 to 2025 to ensure a smooth transition for municipalities and producers, so there is no interruption to service for residents. Existing service contracts with suppliers were taken into account in establishing the schedule, the province said. The rollout schedule can be downloaded here.

Some of the first municipalities scheduled to adopt the new producer model include Kenora, London, Toronto, and the Town of Hawkesbury. They will transfer responsibility by July 1, 2023.

Standardization

In standardizing what can be recycled across Ontario the program will accept common single-use and packaging-like products such as paper and plastic cups, foils, trays, bags and boxes sold for home use, as well as single-use items that are distributed or sold to consume food and beverage products, like stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates.

Under the current system, Ontario’s overall waste diversion rate has stalled and about 70 per cent of waste materials continue to end up in landfills.

“By including items like recyclable coffee pods, Ontario’s blue box program will ensure more waste is diverted from the landfills and made part of the circular economy,” said Stephane Glorieux, president, Keurig Dr Pepper Canada.

“Our company is committed to reducing packaging waste by focusing on innovative design, increased recovery and use of recycled materials. We look forward to working with municipalities across the province to build a more sustainable Ontario for years to come.”

Savings for taxpayers

The changes to the program will also shift the costs of the Blue Box program away from municipal taxpayers. Producers of products and packaging will become fully responsible for managing the life-cycle of their products, resulting in an estimated savings of $156 million annually for municipalities.

“The Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) supports the Ontario government’s commitment to strengthen the Blue Box program and set some of the highest waste diversion targets in North America,” said Mike Chopowick, OWMA’s CEO.

“This program will better allow producers to effectively and accountably promote waste diversion, better manage the handling of 800,000 tonnes of products and packaging at the end-of-life stage and reduce the burden on municipal taxpayers. These changes are not only good for the environment, they are good for the economy, and will encourage investment.”