August 2017

The Province passed new legislation in November 2016 that will have a major impact on the way municipal solid waste is managed. The legislation, which replaces The Waste Diversion Act, establishes full producer responsibility for waste diversion programs like the Blue Box, municipal hazardous waste, electronics and tires.

Known as the Waste-Free Ontario Act, it includes both the Waste Diversion Transition Act and the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act. The new system transfers full financial and operational responsibility for existing and potential new materials (i.e. carpets, mattresses, furniture, etc.) to producers. This leads to a move from 50% to 100% producer pay for the Blue Box program. Each year Ontario municipalities pay about $130 million for Blue Box programs.  

The first program being transitioned is used tires. Ontario Tire Stewardship, the existing Industry Funding Organization, must submit a plan by October 31, 2017 for the program to wind up on December 31, 2018. Ontario Tire Stewardship will submit their plan to the new Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (formerly Waste Diversion Ontario). This process will set precedents for how other program transitions will work.

The new legislation is just the first step towards a circular economy. Regulations must be drafted and all the details of the new system must be resolved.

In response, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Municipal Waste Association, Regional Public Works Commissioners of Ontario, and the City of Toronto have joined forces to form the Municipal Resource Recovery and Research Collaborative (Municipal 3Rs Collaborative). This new collaborative will advocate for a smooth and timely transition to full producer responsibility, and for the protection of key municipal priorities, like maintaining service standards to residents.

Of all the programs, the Blue Box recycling program will experience some of the biggest changes. Municipalities will have new options. They can act as service providers to producers who are required to pay for these programs, work with private companies that may use municipal infrastructure, or opt out altogether.

As such, the Municipal 3Rs Collaborative is now working closely with key producers, and the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change, to revise the current Blue Box Program Plan. This would be the first step in transitioning the Blue Box to full producer responsibility.

2017 Steward Obligation for Blue Box

The 2017 Steward Obligation for the Blue Box program has been set at $123.67 million. This represents approximately $7 million or 5% less in funding than if it had been set using the Arbitrator’s methodology of verified, reported net costs.  

Representatives from AMO and City of Toronto had requested that the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority Board use the Arbitrators’ methodology to set the Obligation. The Board instead decided to use a methodology similar to last year that incorporates a number of factors and models. We continue to try to find agreement on what methodology should be used to set the annual Steward Obligation as part of the discussions with Stewardship Ontario on an amended Blue Box Program Plan.