The Province of Ontario is kicking off Waste Reduction Week by unveiling regulations to improve the blue box program. The enhancements include expanding the items that can be recycled and making producers of products and packaging fully responsible for the waste they create.
“We’re creating a stronger and more effective Blue Box program that actually works,” said Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Jeff Yurek. “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.”
The proposed new Blue Box regulation will:
- Standardize and increase the list of materials accepted in the blue box including paper and plastic cups, wraps, foils, trays, and bags and other single use items such as stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates.
- Transition the costs of the program away from municipal taxpayers by making the producers of products and packaging fully responsible for costs, resulting in an estimated savings of $135 million annually for municipalities.
- Expand blue box services to more communities, such as smaller, rural and remote communities, including those under 5,000 people.
- Set the highest diversion targets in North America for the various categories of waste producers are expected to recycle such as paper, glass, beverage containers and rigid and flexible plastic, encouraging innovation such as better product design and the use of new technologies for better environmental outcomes.
The province will also expand blue box services to facilities such as apartment buildings, long-term care homes, schools and municipal parks in 2026 to provide the people of Ontario with more opportunities to recycle and keep their communities clean.
“The Ontario Waste Management Association supports the Ontario government’s commitment to strengthen the Blue Box recycling program and set some of the highest waste diversion targets in North America. Shifting funding responsibility of the Blue Box to producers will create a catalyst to improve Ontario’s recycling performance,” said Mike Chopowick, CEO of the Ontario Waste Management Association. “This is not only good for the environment, it is good for the economy, and will encourage investment, job creation and innovation in the recycling and resource recovery sector.”
However, other environmental organizations such as Environmental Defence, Recycling Council of Ontario and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, have criticized the proposed regulations. A joint statement from these and other organizations states:
“The best and most important opportunities to improve recycling are missing from Ontario’s draft Blue Box regulation. While shifting the cost of the Blue Box program to producers is vital, this regulation does little more than that. Its narrow scope, low targets, and long transition period will mean millions of more tonnes of single-use products and packaging ending up in Ontario parks, lakes, landfills, and incinerators—an outcome that is out of step with public sentiment and the province’s own commitment to reducing litter and waste.”
The draft Blue Box regulation will be posted for 45 days for public feedback, ending December 2, 2020.