August 2019
Backgrounder
In June 2019, the Province engaged David Lindsay as a Special Advisor to deliver a report on how to tackle plastic waste and litter, improve recycling, increase products that can go into the Blue Box, and ensure producers are responsible for managing plastic and other packaging at end-of-life. The report was delivered to the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks on July 22, 2019.  

On August 6th, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks posted Mr. Lindsay’s final report on the Blue Box mediation process. The link to the report can be found here.

The report recommends a six-year transition of the Blue Box program to full producer responsibility (i.e. the Minister provides direction in 2019, a timeline of 12-18 months for regulation development (2019-2020), a two-year preparation process (2020-2022), and a three-year transition for all municipal programs (2022-2025).

The recommendations within the report, which will inform the Minister’s next steps, are generally aligned with municipal positions. It is important to highlight that there will be many more opportunities for stakeholder and public input going forward.

The operational issues discussed during the mediation process included: the timing of transition, how to address ‘stranded’ municipal assets, the list of materials, definition of eligible sources, recycling targets, definition of recycling, and a common collection system. AMO and members of the Municipal Resource Recovery and Research Collaborative (M3RC), were actively engaged in this process to communicate the municipal perspectives.

AMO is encouraged by the progress made to date by the government on this file. All stakeholders understand the compelling need for timely action on waste diversion and appear increasingly aligned on the necessary next steps. With global momentum building to reduce waste, increase diversion and improving recycling, transitioning the Blue Box program is an opportunity for Ontario to show commitment and leadership.

We are hopeful that the plan that is ultimately put forward by the province incorporates municipal advice and allows for adequate time and certainty for all stakeholders to plan and collaborate successfully. At this time, the details on how the largest and best known program in Ontario – the Blue Box program – will transition to full producer responsibility has not been yet established.

Context:
Since the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act came into force in 2016, municipal governments, service providers, producer groups, and the provincial government have been working hard to transition Ontario’s waste diversion programs to full producer responsibility.

Under full producer responsibility, producers are operationally and financially responsible for the management of their end-of-life products and packaging. Municipal governments have been advocating for this transition because municipal waste systems are not well positioned to respond to the rapidly changing composition of products and packaging, the necessary investments in collection and processing infrastructure, and the demands of end markets.

The shift to full producer responsibility for the (Used) Tires Program happened on January 1, 2019. The transitions of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) and the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) programs are currently underway. AMO is actively engaged with municipal staff and other stakeholders to determine what requirements should be included in the regulations that are scheduled to come into force in 2020 and 2021, respectively.

There’s growing consensus that action is needed. Recycling rates have been stalled for 15 years and there are increasing concerns related to plastic pollution and litter.  Over 240 municipalities have their own separate lists of accepted recyclable materials and program costs are expected to increase by approximately $10 million per year after 2019.