Improving the Blue Box Program in Ontario

Published on June 09, 2021

Producers and municipalities have been advocating for an enhanced, producer-led blue box program for over a decade and we're proud that the government has finalized these improvements.


Our goal is to ensure our program in Ontario remains convenient, affordable and right for communities.


That’s why we are creating a stronger and more effective blue box service that will have some of the highest waste diversion targets in North America to promote greater innovations in recycling technologies and increased use of recycled materials.


Making producers responsible for the delivery of Ontario's Blue Box Program will ensure that our recycling program can divert more waste from landfills. These changes will make recycling more convenient and accessible for Ontarians. Once producers are fully responsible for the program, all Ontarians will experience improved access to blue box services across the province.


The new producer responsibility model will also provide people more opportunities to recycle by expanding recycling services to additional locations, such as multi-unit residential buildings, schools, retirement homes, long-term care homes and some public spaces, like parks, playgrounds and transit stations, more than tripling the number of public space recycling bins funded under the current program.


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Learn the facts about improving Ontario’s Blue Box Program


MYTH: Full producer responsibility is a bad idea, that’s why its never moved forward for over a decade under previous governments.


FACT: For over 10 years the previous Liberal government couldn’t find a path forward that worked for residents, municipalities and producers. This government has taken the time to get the regulation right and consulted extensively with stakeholders over the past two years. Developing and finalizing the producer responsibility regulation required several steps with significant stakeholder input to be sure we have properly considered the concerns of, and potential impacts to, all affected parties. 


Producers and municipalities have been advocating for change and are looking for a Blue Box program where they are in control for over a decade. This approach aligns with many producers’ corporate commitments to reduce plastic waste and increase sustainability of their products and packaging. The shift to producer responsibility is also happening across Canada and around the world.


MYTH: The new Blue Box regulations are basically another tax on business.


FACT: Not at all - the producer responsibility model has the potential to help mitigate cost pressures through innovation and economies of scale. Giving producers full control can help promote operational savings in administration, collection, and processing to reduce costs and make the program more efficient.


Producers that find innovative ways to make their products more recyclable, easier to collect, or more efficient to recycle will benefit from cost reductions and competitive advantages.


MYTH: The new Blue Box regulations will massively increase the price of groceries.


FACT: The regulation is not expected to noticeably increase the cost of items managed by the Blue Box Program.


The cost of recycling most packaging and single-use items is projected to cost a penny or less a can of soup, a pack of pork chops, or a plastic bag or plastic cutlery that comes with a take-out meal. Costs would be about 1 cent for a box of cereal, 2 cents for a pack of yoghurt cups, and 3 cents for a pizza.


Many factors influence the cost of consumer goods, including research, design, manufacturing, marketing, distribution, and sale, as well as costs for raw materials, labour, and energy.


Comparatively, recycling is a very small proportion of the overall cost of items diverted through the Blue Box.


MYTH: The new Blue Box regulations will make life more expensive, especially for rural and northern residents and low-income families.


FACT: Making producers responsible for the Blue Box collection system will actually save taxpayers money.


Once fully implemented, municipal taxpayers will save $156 million a year because local communities will no longer have to fund Blue Box programs.


The Blue Box regulation expands collection to all communities and apartment buildings located outside the Far North.  Producers will provide collection free-of-charge, making sure that rural and northern residents can recycle the same materials their urban and southern counterparts.


MYTH: The new Blue Box regulations will bury businesses in red tape and they pose a massive trade barrier.


FACT:  Right now, local communities operate more than 253 local Blue Box programs. Combining these into a single provincial collection system will benefit producers by streamlining administration, simplifying operations, and improving efficiency.


The new Blue Box regulation will allow producers to find the best way to achieve clear, regulated recycling outcomes including flexibility to find the best ways to provide collection to Ontarians.


By giving producers control over recycling will also drive innovation by rewarding producers that recover value from waste and make their products easier to recycle – fueling job creation, attracting investment, and putting valuable materials back in the economy right here in Ontario. The regulation only applies to producers for the products they sell into Ontario.


The regulation contains exemptions for small businesses and others that market minimal amounts of blue box material each year.


MYTH: The government has not done its due diligence and these regulations are a trade barrier and in violation of the World Trade Organization’s rules.


FACT: Producer responsibility is a policy that has been implemented across Canada and the world, including right here in Ontario for used tires, batteries, and electronic and electrical equipment.


British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Québec all make producers responsible for collecting printed paper and packaging. Alberta and New Brunswick are consulting on the same idea. The regulation only applies to producers for the products they sell into Ontario.


Producer responsibility has also been implemented in Europe, where more than 20 member states have put in place producer responsibility requirements for a wide range of wastes, leading to some of the world’s best collection systems and recycling rates.


MYTH: The new Blue Box regulations contradict Ontario’s work to reduce burden on businesses and create jobs.  


FACT: Producers and municipalities agree that the current Blue Box program is not sustainable, and that producer responsibility is needed to drive efficiencies and improve effectiveness.


The Blue Box regulation allows producers to choose the most efficient way to meet clear regulated recycling outcomes. Making producers responsible for collecting and managing their wastes will drive them to find cost-effective ways to divert these materials from landfill and use these resources in new products and packaging.


Municipal and First Nation Blue Box programs are an important part of Ontario’s economy, employing more than 4,500 Ontarians and generating more than $440 million in GDP.  Expanding the Blue Box to more communities, facilities, and adding new materials could create new economic opportunities right here at home, creating up to 1,200 additional jobs and another $120 million in GDP.