The government of Ontario is moving forward with transitioning the province’s Blue Box Curb-Side Recycling Program.

On June 6, 2019, Mr. David Lindsay was engaged as a Special Advisor to engage with key parties and provide the government with recommendations on how to move forward with producer responsibility for Ontario’s Blue Box services.  Mr. Lindsay met stakeholders from June July, and delivered his final report on July 20, 2019.  The report outlined recommendations regarding materials, targets, collection requirements but most critically, timing.

On August 15, 2019, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) directed Stewardship Ontario (SO) to develop a plan under section 14 of the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 (WDTA), that aligns with Mr. Lindsay’s recommended timing

SO must consult stakeholders and submit a plan to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority by June 30, 2020.

The Authority is expected to approve this plan by December 31, 2020, if it is consistent with the Minister’s transition direction.

The next stage in this process is to develop a regulation under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, as well as make any additional amendments necessary to move the program to full producer responsibility.  The new regulations will replace previous government-approved stewardship plans.

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP) held introductory webinars last week on November 27th and 28th to update stakeholders in the regulation-development process to move the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility.

Handling the webinar were MECP’s Marc Peverini, Senior policy Analyst and Charles O’Hara, Director, Resource Recovery Policy Branch, Environmental Policy Division.

During the webinar, MECP said that three Working Groups of stakeholders have been set up. These groups will provide the ministry with a diverse and balanced range of perspectives, including from industry, municipalities and service providers.

The contributions of these Working Groups will inform further public consultations on the proposed policy and regulations.

The three Working Groups include:

  • A Producer group including representation from large brand holders and producer associations, and retail, restaurant, grocery sectors.
  • A Municipal group including representation from urban, rural, and all geographic regions across Ontario as well as associations for municipalities and managers of multi residential buildings.
  • A Circular Economy group including manufacturers of unbranded packaging and products, waste management service providers which haul and process Blue Box materials, and industries that receive processed Blue Box materials and use it for feedstock in new products.

Numbers in each group have been set to be representative but also workable. 

The ministry will also work with First Nations and Indigenous communities to receive their input and feedback during the process.

As there is a high level of interest related to Blue Box transition, it is not possible to engage all interested stakeholders via Working Groups, but it is important that all stakeholders have opportunities to provide input to the Ministry.

Therefore, three series of webinars will be held at each milestone of regulatory development to allow all stakeholders to provide feedback:

  • Last week’s November 27/28, 2019 at the launch of the regulatory development process
  • Spring 2020 with the release of a policy paper that describes the proposed regulatory system
  • Fall 2020 with the posting of draft regulations on the Environmental and Regulatory Registries

The Ministry will post two documents on the Environmental and Regulatory registries for stakeholders to review and comment:

  • Spring 2020 policy paper that will describe the proposed details of the new Blue Box system
  • Fall 2020 draft producer responsibility regulations and potential regulatory amendments.

Final regulations are expected to be in place in early 2021 with producers taking full responsibility for Blue Box in communities over three years (2023-2025, 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 transitioning over to the new framework).

It is then expected that Stewardship Ontario will wind up operations and cease to exist at the end of 2025.

Development of the new regulations will be a complex task and the ministry will be considering four initial key areas as the new Blue Box policy is developed:

1. Definition and scope of the designated materials, e.g.:

  • What products and/or packaging materials must be managed? (e.g., convenience, transport and primary/secondary packaging; single use plastic and paper products)?
  • How should material categories be set?; Should categories help discern between highly recyclable and poor performing materials, and should there be a few broad categories or long lists of materials?
  • What factors should be considered making changes to designated materials or material categories? What information exists, and how can it be transparently shared, to substantiate any decisions on changes?
  • Are there materials which could have obligations outside the Blue Box common collection system? (e.g., compostable packaging, or packaging managed through deposit return, take back or green bin programs such as coffee pods)

2. Collection and accessibility requirements, e.g.:

  • What sources must be collected from?
  • What should be the minimum standard level of service in communities?
  • What standards should be required for collection bins?

3. Management requirements that producers must meet, e.g.:

  • What would be appropriate targets for highly recyclable materials and poor performing materials?
  • What should count towards diversion? (e.g. reuse; recycled and used in making new products; used as aggregate)
  • How to reduce residual materials sent to landfill? (e.g. energy recovery when all other options are exhausted)
  • What recycling standards or other requirements should be required by regulation to ensure recycling facilities can process materials at a satisfactory level?
  • How can the regulation recognize, encourage, or require waste reduction? (e.g. recycled content; recyclability; refillable containers; etc.)

4. Transition approach – what criteria should be used to select which communities will transition from the current Blue Box program to the new producer responsibility framework under the RRCEA in each of 2023 2025?

In addition to these key areas, the ministry will also consider:

  • Defining the responsible producer
  • Registering, reporting and record keeping requirements
  • Audit requirements

For copies of the presentation slides from last week’s webinar, click the image below.  

The CHHMA will keep members updated on the progress of the new regulations and transition plans to full producer responsibility and dates of the future webinars and document postings.

Further questions can be directed to the Resource Recovery Branch at RRPB.mail@ontario.ca.