The Blue Box Program and the Benefits of Producer Responsibility
The Current Blue Box Program: Municipally Managed
Since the 1980s, municipalities have been responsible for managing residential blue box recycling programs in Ontario. There are currently over 240 municipally-based blue box programs, each with its own rules on what can and cannot be recycled through the blue box. For example, plastic shopping bags and other flexible plastic film is accepted in Toronto blue boxes, but not in Waterloo's blue boxes.
The cost of managing Ontario's blue box programs is split between municipal taxpayers and the producers of products and packaging (e.g., companies that produce and manufacture glass bottles, cardboard boxes, aluminum cans, etc.). With the current program, blue box costs are expected to increase by approximately $10 million per year after 2019.
The Future Blue Box Program: Producer Responsibility
Producer responsibility means producers are fully responsible for managing and paying for the life cycle of their products and packaging. Producer responsibility is based on the idea that the companies that design, create and market products and packaging are in the best position to reduce waste or increase resources that can be recovered from their products.
Benefits for the general public
- Makes recycling easier by creating a standard list of materials that can be recycled in blue boxes across the province.
- Saves taxpayers' money, as municipalities will no longer have to fund the blue box programs.
- No disruption in service or frequency for the Blue Box Program during the transition period.
- Opportunity to expand blue box service, such as to parks and public spaces across Ontario.
- Opportunity to create new and alternative collection methods to divert materials that can't be recycled by the Blue Box Program or that might contaminate collected materials.
Benefits for producers
- Producers will be able to fully manage the system and gain the ability to contain and control costs.
- Encourages competition and innovation among producers. When producers are responsible for diverting the waste from their goods, they have incentives to redesign products and make them easier to recycle.
Benefits for municipalities
- Municipalities will no longer be burdened with the cost of running a recycling program.
- Based on 2017 costs, once full producer responsibility is in effect, Ontario's municipalities will save a total of about $125-175 million annually.