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Ontario announces next steps to improve recycling and tackle plastic waste

"Transitioning the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility will promote innovation and increase Ontario's recycling rates while saving taxpayers money," said Minister Yurek.
"Transitioning the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility will promote innovation and increase Ontario's recycling rates while saving taxpayers money," said Minister Yurek.

Ontario is taking action to improve recycling across the province and address the serious problem of plastic pollution and litter, as committed to in the province's Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.

Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, made the announcement at one of Canada Fibers Ontario facilities this week on the next steps to transition the costs of the Blue Box Program away from municipal taxpayers and make the producers of products and packaging fully responsible.

"Transitioning the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility will promote innovation and increase Ontario's recycling rates while saving taxpayers money," said Minister Yurek. "This shift is a big step towards diverting waste, addressing plastic pollution and creating a new recycling economy that everyone can be proud of in Ontario."

According to a statement from the province of Ontario, they are moving forward immediately by issuing direction to Stewardship Ontario outlining the next steps and timelines to transitioning the program to producer responsibility, starting in 2023. Over the coming year, the province will develop and consult on regulations to support the new producer responsibility framework for the Blue Box Program. Once producer responsibility is fully in place, recycling across Ontario will be more consistent, with a standard list of materials that can be recycled.

Based on recommendations from Special Advisor David Lindsay's report on Recycling and Plastic Waste, the Blue Box Program will transition to producer responsibility in phases over a three-year period. This approach will provide time to consult with the public, stakeholders and Indigenous communities, while providing certainty for municipalities and adequate time for producers to engage service providers. The first group of municipalities or First Nations will transfer responsibility of their programs to producers starting January 1, 2023. By December 31, 2025, producers will be fully responsible for providing blue box services province-wide.

Starting this fall, Ontario will begin early engagement with a broad range of stakeholders, including the municipal and industry stakeholder working group that took part in Mr. Lindsay's previous mediation sessions, to continue thorough consultations and facilitate the Blue Box Program's transition to producer responsibility. The province says the Blue Box Program will continue to be convenient and accessible for the people of Ontario and residents who currently receive municipal blue box services will continue to receive the same services throughout the transition period. Once producers are fully responsible for the program, Ontarians are expected to experience the same or improved access to blue box services across the province.

Reducing plastic waste and litter and making producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products is a key part of the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commitment to balance a healthy economy and a healthy environment and keep our province clean and beautiful.

Quick Facts

  • Ontario's recycling rates have been stalled for 15 years and up to 30 per cent of what is put into the blue box is sent to landfill.
  • There are over 240 municipal blue box programs that have their own separate lists of accepted recyclable materials, which affects cost savings and contamination.
  • In June, Ontario engaged David Lindsay as a Special Advisor on Recycling and Plastic Waste to help address plastic litter and improve recycling in the province.
  • For six weeks, Mr. Lindsay held mediation sessions with municipal and industry stakeholders, and in July delivered his report on how Ontario can better manage recycling and plastic waste.
  • Stewardship Ontario, which manages the current Blue Box Program, will submit a plan to the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority by June 30, 2020.
  • The Blue Box Program will begin preparing for transition once the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority approves the plan, no later than December 31, 2020.

Background Information

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"Our government is supporting municipalities by moving to put accountability for recycling where it belongs - on the companies who make the products. Municipalities are the closest level of government to the people, and we will take the time to get it right by supporting our municipal partners to make sure future policy reflects local needs and concerns."
Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing

"There's global momentum building to reduce waste, increase diversion and make sure plastic waste does not end up littering our land and waters. Transitioning the Blue Box Program to full producer responsibility demonstrates Ontario's commitment and leadership on these issues. Today's announcement is a testament to the collaborative efforts by the province, municipal governments and the business community to find solutions."
Mac Bain,  AMO Board Member, and Chair of AMO's Waste Management Taskforce

"Retail Council of Canada (RCC) supports the Ontario government's commitment to improving the blue box recycling system. For our part, retailers are committed to full producer responsibility. We share a common view that plastics, printed paper and packaging do not belong in landfill. RCC looks forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure better environmental outcomes."
Diane J. Brisbois, President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada

"The Canadian Beverage Association supports the move to full producer responsibility. We share the Government of Ontario's goals of reducing litter, increasing recycling and advancing innovation in the circular economy. We look forward to working with the provincial government, municipalities and producers to build on the success of the Blue Box Program by establishing a more harmonized recycling system for Ontarians."
Jim Goetz, President, Canadian Beverage Association

"Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) welcomes the government's commitment to strengthen Ontario's Blue Box Program. The orderly transition to full producer responsibility is a positive and necessary step in achieving a harmonized, efficient and cost-effective residential recycling program. By incrementally shifting costs and operational oversight to industry, full producer responsibility will allow for greater innovations in recycling technologies and the use of recyclable materials as we work toward achieving a circular economy, minimized disposal, and consistency in service for Ontarians."
Michael Graydon, CEO, Food & Consumer Products of Canada

"This is an important step forward in the evolution of Ontario's iconic blue box. It puts the responsibility for recycling on those that have the greatest ability to make change - the producers. Residents may not see a big difference at the curb, but it will make a difference for our environment, spur more innovation and importantly, lower costs for taxpayers."
AMO President Jamie McGarvey, Mayor Parry Sound

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