On June 20, 2019, a stakeholder webinar was hosted by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks to review the government’s plans to begin the transition of the Ontario Blue Box curbside recycling program to full producer responsibility. This means that manufacturers / brand owners will be responsible for managing and paying 100% of the costs of the program.  Currently, producers (stewards) are sharing the costs 50-50 with municipalities through the fees they pay through Stewardship Ontario or are charged from retailers.  The cost and role that producers play in similar programs across the country varies by province.  BC for example, has already moved to full producer responsibility and some provinces, like Manitoba, have producers paying 75% of the costs.

In Ontario, recycling (diversion) rates have stalled at 60% over the past 15 years, and with the ‘plastics waste & pollution problem’ making news these days, the government is under pressure to make changes to the program.  There are 245 municipally-based Blue Box programs in the province each with its own list of accepted materials, which can create inefficiencies and user confusion.  The system is being overwhelmed by a flood of single-use plastics and other hard to recycle packaging which is driving up costs and reducing diversion.  In addition, China has recently banned much of North America’s recyclable materials due to contamination (mix of materials) which has eliminated one of Ontario’s largest end-market for many of these materials.   

The Ontario Government is looking to modernize the program and give responsibility to those who have the most direct control over how products are packaged.

David Lindsay, the current president and chief executive of the Council of Ontario Universities has been named as a special advisor (Mediator) to produce a Mediator’s Report to the Minister of the Environment by July 20th on how to improve recycling, better manage plastic pollution and transition the Blue Box program to full producer responsibility.  

The transition process needs to be done in an orderly fashion and is going to take some time with lots of input required from all the stakeholders.  Municipalities will need to end existing contracts and divest themselves of Blue Box related assets.  Producers will need time to set up new contracts and establish collection/recycling networks.   

Key issues to address include:
(1) Timing of the transition to full producer responsibility;
(2) How to address ‘stranded assets’ (recycling facilities, buildings, vehicles, equipment) that may not be used in the new system;
(3) Harmonization/standardization of materials to be managed by Blue Box after transition;
(4) Defining eligible sources – should Blue Box waste from multi-residential buildings, parks, public spaces and offices be accepted?
(5) Setting recycling targets;
(6) Defining diversion – alternatives to recycling?  (e.g. energy or chemical recovery);
(7) How to ensure that a collection system is established and operating seamlessly under producer responsibility without disrupting existing collection services (status quo or better)

The Mediator has been meeting with key stakeholders over the past number of weeks and is welcoming any other input, comments, ideas and questions to be sent to the Resource Recovery Policy Branch at RRPB.Mail@ontario.ca by July 15, 2019.  

You can also forward any comments or questions to CHHMA President Sam Moncada at smoncada@chhma.ca or 416-282-0022 ext.125.

Click here for copies of the presentation slides from the webinar.

The CHHMA will continue to monitor the progress of this program transition, pass on feedback from manufacturers and keep our members informed.