Ontario's got the blue box blues

Ontario's got the blue box blues
Antonella Artuso
August 11, 2019
August 11, 2019 6:56 PM EDT
Toronto Sun files
Ontario is rethinking the blue box as municipalities are forced to dump more and more property tax dollars into the recycling program.
The ground-breaking program was supposed to pay for itself through the sale of material and diversion from expensive landfill, but Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said costs are soaring and about 30% of blue box waste ends up in the dump, anyway.
The province is now trying to figure out how to hand over responsibility for the program to the companies that produce the material while still protecting the curb-side pick up so popular with residents.
“We want to make it as smooth a transition as possible,” Yurek said. “I think the pick up at homeowners’ places right now would stay the same except I would envision that there would be more product placed into the blue box that would be recycled.”
Advisor David Lindsay’s blue box report, commissioned by the Ontario government and released last week, recommended producer responsibility for the program be phased in fully by 2025.
This Toronto Sun file photo shows a pile of rubbish at at Toronto’s Dufferin sorting station.
Lindsay’s report noted that diversion rates have stalled at about 60% for more than a decade, as the glass, newsprint and steel containers that once filled the iconic blue plastic tub are increasingly replaced with difficult-to-recycle black plastic, plastic films, laminates and polystyrene.
Prices for much of the recycled material has dropped and some places refuse to take it.
One of the goals of the revamp is to create uniform standards for what goes in the blue box.
Right now, a paper coffee cup goes in the garbage in Toronto, in the green bin in Hamilton and in the blue box in Markham, the report noted.
“There’s 240 different blue box programs in the province,” Yurek said. “Unfortunately, if people are putting the wrong items into the blue box, it could contaminate any form of recycling going forward and it ends up in the landfill.”
Without a change in the program, annual costs to municipalities to fund the Blue Box will begin increasing next year by a reported $10 million, he said.
“It’s going to become unsustainable down the road for municipalities, for Stewardship Ontario,” Yurek said. “And change needs to happen if we truly want to get a handle on the recycling and improve the environment for the province.”
Mayor John Tory said the city fully supports having waste producers assume responsibility for the blue box and to standardize what’s accepted across Ontario.
“I know people get frustrated by the fact that municipalities have different rules for different items — it leads to confusion and either people don’t bother recycling or they do it in a way that contaminates the recyclables,” Tory said in a statement.
“If we are to achieve (a seamless transition), it is very important that a renewed program include, at a minimum, all items currently accepted in Toronto’s Blue Bin Program. I have raised this directly with the province as a very important concern and I believe it is crucial to our future success.”
While transferring responsibility for the blue box programs will save municipalities and their taxpayers money, there remains the issue of what cost the changes will carry for the consumer.
“End users — I don’t think they’ll see a huge cost for the recycling program being shifted to the producers,” Yurek said.
The companies that sell products to Ontario residents will be more inclined to think hard about their packaging — and possible after markets — if they are responsible for recycling, he said.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is looking at a possible ban on single-use plastics by 2021.
Yurek said he’s willing to work with the federal government on single-use plastics and packaging, if it’s willing to work with him.
“I know they tend to, during an election year, want to position us as the bad guys, but I think we see eye to eye on fixing recycling in this province,” Yurek said.
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Disposable coffee cups, lids and the blue box — it’s complicated:
Cup – garbage
Lid – blue box (garbage if black or compostable plastic)
Cup – garbage
Lid – garbage
Cup – green bin
Lid – blue box
Cup – green bin
Lid – garbage
Cup – blue box
Lid – garbage
(Source: David Lindsay’s Renewing the Blue Box: Final report on the blue box mediation process)
The blue box program, at least in Ontario, has been a disaster since day 1.
Curious Cdn
If they'd stick to aluminum containers, it would be a big revenue generator. Empty aluminum pop cans subsidize the rest of the recycling program.
Ontario to put Blue Box program onus on product producers
Canadian Press
August 15, 2019
August 15, 2019 1:29 PM EDT
Jeff Yurek is sworn into his new role as Ontario's Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
Ontario plans to make product manufacturers responsible for the province’s Blue Box recycling program by 2025.
Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says the program, which is currently run by municipalities, will be transitioned in phases starting in 2023.
He says the move will encourage industry to change how it packages products to cut down on waste that is sent to landfills.
Ontario’s got the blue box blues
The new program would also streamline 240 existing municipal Blue Box programs in the province that have their own lists of accepted materials.
A government discussion paper released earlier this year said shifting the Blue Box recycling program to full producer responsibility is estimated to save municipalities more than $125 million annually.
Yurek says consultations will begin this fall on a new framework for the Blue Box program, including details on how producer responsibility would work.
Curious Cdn
Which waste disposal corporation does Jeff Yurek own, I wonder?

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