The Ontario government recently announced plans to expand its Blue Box program to make producers financially responsible for recycling their products. The expansion is expected to begin in 2023, according to a news release from province officials.
“Producers and municipalities have been advocating for an enhanced, producer-led Blue Box program for over a decade, and I’m proud that our government has finalized these improvements,” says Jeff Yurek, minister of the environment for Conservation and Parks. “Our goal is to ensure our program remains convenient, affordable and right for communities.”
The Blue Box Program is Ontario’s EPR system for printed paper and packaging. The program's expansion involves standardizing the list of accepted materials across the province, bringing collection services to more communities and reducing the financial burden on municipalities.
The first group of Blue Box programs will transfer the responsibility of their programs to producers in 2023. By 2025, producers will be fully responsible for providing Blue Box services provincewide, according to a news release from the province.
“This program will better allow producers to effectively and accountably promote waste diversion, better manage the handling of 800,000 tons of products and packaging at the end-of-life stage and reduce the burden on municipal taxpayers,” says Mike Chopowick, CEO of the Ontario Waste Management Association.
Additionally, the expansion includes adding single-use foodservice items like straws and paper plates to the accepted material list. It also expands service to more types of facilities, like apartment buildings, municipally run or nonprofit long-term care homes and retirement homes, and schools.
Graydon Smith, the president of the Association of Municipalities Ontario, says making producers responsible for recycling will save municipalities about CA$156 million (about $129 million) annually.
The announcement comes five years after Ontario lawmakers passed the Waste-Free Ontario Act. The legislation mandates producers to pay the full cost of recycling printed paper and packaging.
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, the ministry says.