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Ontario government proposes changes to Blue Box program

(Metro Creative Graphic image)

Province wants producers, not municipalities, to pay for the cost of recycling

TORONTO — The Ontario government is proposing changes to the province’s Blue Box program that would see producers, not municipalities, take on the costs associated with recycling.

The government estimates that municipalities spend $135 million annually on recycling.

The proposed changes were announced by Jeff Yurek, Ontario’s minister of environment, conservation and parks, on Monday to kick off Waste Reduction Week.

“We’re creating a stronger and more effective Blue Box program that actually works,” said Yurek in a press release.

“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.”

Other proposed changes to the program include:

  • 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;
  • expand Blue Box services to more communities, such as smaller, rural and remote communities, including those under 5,000 people; and
  • 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.

Some producers and organizations have expressed their support of the proposed changes, including the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA).

“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,” said Mike Chopowick, CEO of the OWMA.

“Shifting funding responsibility of the Blue Box to producers will create a catalyst to improve Ontario’s recycling performance. 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.”

The government is seeking feedback on the draft Blue Box regulation. The draft has been posted online at https://ero.ontario.ca/notice/019-2579 and feedback is open until Dec. 2.