The Ontario government put forward a proposal Monday, October 19th to overhaul the blue box recycling program in the province.

Jeff Yurek, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks made the announcement as part of Waste Reduction Week, saying the Province is aiming to create a “stronger and more effective blue box program that actually works.”

Included in the overhaul is the expansion of what items can be recycled and holding business accountable who produce and package products that create a lot of waste.

Yurek said the proposed new list of items accepted will include plastic cups, foils, trays and bags. Single use items such as stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates will also be permitted in blue bins under the proposal.

He said the province will also expand blue box services to more smaller and rural communities with populations under 5,000.

The government said the new regulations would also transition the costs of the program away from municipal governments to waste producers.

“By harnessing the innovation and ingenuity of industry and expanding recycling opportunities for people and businesses across the province, we can divert more waste away from landfills by finding new purposes for products and reinserting them back into the economy,” Yurek said.

The estimated cost of the changes would save municipal governments $135 million a year.

The current blue box program is managed by Stewardship Ontario and the cost is split among municipalities that use it and fees paid by producers (stewards).   Under the proposed changes, producers will operate a standardized system across the province, so what you can and cannot recycle wouldn’t change depending on what municipality you were in.  Hopefully, this will lead to some cost efficiencies.   

The province plans to also expand the blue box program into locations where it is not currently provided including apartments, long-term care facilities, schools and parks by 2026.

As previously discussed, the Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks issued direction to the Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority (RPRA) “The Authority” and Stewardship Ontario (SO) on August 15, 2019 to begin transitioning the management of Ontario’s blue box program to producers of paper and packaging waste. 

The RPRA was created in November 2016 by the Government of Ontario to support the transition to a circular economy and a waste-free Ontario.  They receive their authority from the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (RRCEA) and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 (WDTA).

The proposed regulation identifies responsible producers for the scope of blue box materials that must be diverted and enable them to contract with producer responsibility organizations (PROs) to meet their regulatory requirements.

The proposed regulation would include printed paper, packaging, and non-alcoholic beverage containers, and expand collection requirements to include additional materials commonly put in blue boxes by residents:

  • Unprinted paper
  • Single-use packaging-like products, such as foils, wraps, trays, boxes, bags
  • Single-use items relating to food and beverage products such as straws, cutlery, plates, stir sticks

The proposed regulation would maintain the accessibility and performance of existing deposit-return programs for alcohol beverage containers.

The proposed regulation would maintain or expand blue box services, including in communities with less than 5,000 residents. Producers would take responsibility for local Blue Box programs between 2023 and 2025 according to the proposed “Blue Box Transition Schedule” referenced in the proposed regulation. Producers would be fully responsible for all requirements, including expanding collection to communities outside the Far North that currently do not have blue box services, by 2026.

The proposed regulation also outlines a number of requirements that producers of Blue Box program will need to meet, including:

  • Reporting on the amounts of blue box materials supplied and diverted each year
  • Establishing collection systems, providing one convenient and accessible Common Collection System (CCS) for blue box materials in Ontario including small municipalities, unorganized territories and reserves and ensure no disruption
  • Achieving management requirements for blue box materials, including diversion targets
  • Providing promotion and education materials to increase consumer knowledge and awareness
  • Registering with and reporting to the RPRA
  • Other requirements, including record keeping and third-party audits

Compostable materials are increasingly being used in products and packaging but are often managed separately from other blue box materials. The ministry is currently working with partners, including stakeholders and the federal government, on a comprehensive approach to diverting compostables. The draft regulation would require producers to register and report on the supply of these materials in Ontario to help inform future producer responsibility requirements.

The draft of the new regulation to make producers responsible for operating blue box programs will be open for stewards and all Ontarian’s to comment on and provide feedback up until Dec. 2. 

The Authority is expected to approve the plan by the end of the year.  The province’s blue box program will then transition to the new regulatory framework, as mentioned, between January 1, 2023 and December 31, 2025.  Minister Yurek said that blue box users won’t notice a change during the transition.

“We don’t want people to feel any difference in what they’re doing with the blue box other than they’re going to be able to put more stuff into the blue box to be recycled,” he added.

In addition to CHHMA updates, you can continue to monitor information related to the Ontario blue box program transition and future consultations on the RPRA website at  as well as Stewardship Ontario’s website.

 

 

 

 

Source: RPRA, Global News, CTV News