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Ontario shifts responsibility for Blue Box Program away from municipalities

The Ford government has announced its intentions to standardize blue box programs across the province and shift responsibility for operating it to producers.

Those would be the companies that create products stored in recyclable containers, paper, and other types of waste.

Minister for the Environment, Conservation and Parks Jeff Yurek and Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark announced the changes Thursday morning.

The province will consult shareholders starting this fall, including municipalities and industry, and develop new regulations to support the new Blue Box Program. By the end of 2023, producers will be fully responsible for the program.

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

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Recycling rates in Ontario have been stagnant for the past 15 years, and 30 per cent of what residents put in their blue boxes ends up in landfills.

Across Ontario, there are more than 240 municipal blue box programs with their separate lists of acceptable recyclable materials.

Stewardship Ontario currently manages the program and will submit a plan to transition it by June 30, 2020. The Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority approves the plan no later than December 31, 2020.

“Our government is supporting municipalities by moving to put accountability for recycling where it belongs; on the companies that make the products,” said Clark. “We will take the time to get it right by supporting our municipal partners to make sure future policy reflects local needs and concerns.”

Residents who currently have municipal blue box services will continue to receive the same services throughout the transition period. The government believes Ontarians may even have improved services by the end of the transition period.

Already some stakeholders said they support the changes.

“Retail Council of Canada supports the Ontario government’s commitment to improving the blue box recycling system,” said Diane Brisbois, president and CEO. “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 the landfill.”

Jim Goetz with the Canadian Beverage Association, echoed the Retail Council of Canada’s support, as did Food & Consumer Products of Canada.

“The orderly transition to full producer responsibility is a positive and necessary step in achieving a harmonized, efficient, and cost-effective residential recycling program,” said CEO Michael Graydon. “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.”