August 2019
Special Advisor Submits Report to Minister to Reform Ontario's Recycling Program

2019-08-08 11:40:20 AM

David Lindsay, the Special Advisor on Recycling and Plastic Waste, has submitted his report to MECP (Ministry of Environment, Conservation, and Parks) Minister Jeff Yurek, which would see significant reforms to Ontario’s Blue Box program.

The report found that diversion rates have stalled at around 60% for over a decade and noted the need for the system to evolve since it first began in 1981. The report outlines recommendations that would transition the responsibility of the province’s Blue Box program from municipalities to producers of printed paper and packaging.

Under the current system, Ontario Regulation 101/94 of the Environment Protection Act assigns responsibility for municipalities with a population with at least 4,000 people to operate curbside blue box programs. The current recycling program is funded by local governments and Stewardship Ontario, a non-profit organization comprised of organizations that are producers of printed paper and packaging. Stewardship Ontario currently funds up to 50 percent of municipal net operating costs.

If implemented, Ontario would join British Columbia as the only other province in the country to implement such a system.

Below are recommendations proposed that may be of relevance to the municipal sector:

Timeframes for Transition

  • Transition should occur over a six-year period and would involve the following. The timeline from 2019-2025 is used as an example. 

    • Before the end of 2019: Minister issues transition direction to Stewardship Ontario outlining timeline for transition;

    • Over a one to one-and-a-half-year period: Government consults and finalizes regulations that specify how the blue box will move to producer responsibility;

    • Over a two-year period: Producers prepare to assume responsibility and engage all parties, including municipalities and service providers; and

    • Over a three-year period: Phased transfer of responsibility from municipalities to producers that transitions one-third of Ontario’s blue box tonnage each year.

  • It is also recommended that the proposed timeframe provide early notification of the government’s plans to ensure all parties have sufficient time to prepare for the transition. 

Ensuring a common collection system

  • Analyze the existing blue box and recycling system in Ontario to inform the regulation-making process that would combine the existing collection system and other collection methods.

  • Regulations would:

    • Allow for competitive procurement of collection services

    • Contain accessibility standards to be maintained 

    • Ensure residents under the municipal blue box services will continue to receive services once the transition occurs

    • Identify basic collection requirements across the provinces and outcomes 

  • To meet such regulations, the report anticipates that producers will contract with producer responsibility organizations to contract out services and fulfil regulatory obligations

  • The analysis of the existing system could include:

    • Programs and collection methods operated by municipalities

    • Expiry of municipal collection contracts and lifespan of waste facilities;

    • Municipal readiness to transition; and

    • Location of waste transfer, sorting and processing facilities.

Transitioning Municipal Assets

  • Currently, municipalities operate blue box programs, which involves investment into facilities and equipment to process the blue box materials.

  • The report notes that with the shift of responsibility to producers, such municipal infrastructure may not be needed.

  • It is recommended that:

    • If producers are given full responsibility, they should not be forced to use, or pay for, municipal assets they do not need.

    • Municipalities must be able to bid on the future services for producers and decide if and how their existing assets may be part of their bids.

Determining Eligible Sources for Blue Box Materials

  • The report notes that the transition must consider where and when it makes sense for producers to take responsibility for blue box services beyond curbside or depot collection.

  • It is recommended that:

    • Producers should provide blue box collection where previously provided by municipalities or Indigenous communities and will provide for future residential developments.

    • Following the transition, producers should expand collection in multi-residential buildings, parks, and public spaces where municipalities provide waste collection.

Promoting Increased Diversion from Landfill

  • The report outlines that a producer-run blue box system would maximize reuse and recycling while promoting the diversion of waste into landfills.

  • It is recommended that:

    • Reduce, reuse, and recycle be counted as diversion.

    • Incineration and energy-from-waste not count as diversion.

    • Where possible, producer responsibility regulations should recognize and reward producers for reducing waste and improving their environmental performance.

      • It is unclear what ‘recognize and reward’ entails.              

Other recommendations include:

  • Standardizing what’s in the blue box: clarification on what materials are recyclable and what are not.

  • Setting effective diversion targets: Setting regulated and enforceable targets to create achievable outcomes.

  • Thinking bigger than the blue box: seeking additional innovative ideas on how to increase waste diversion, reduce litter, and build a recycling economy in Ontario.

For more information, please see below:

AMCTO: Ontario Government Looking to Change Recycling Program

Report: Renewing the Blue Box: Final report on the blue box mediation process


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