Changes are coming to your blue box collection program as municipalities across the province begin to transition to the government’s new regulatory framework which shifts the responsibility for recyclables collection to producers.
“The Blue Box Program will transition to the new regulatory framework for resource recovery starting on July 1, 2023 through to December 31, 2025, with all municipalities in Ontario transitioning at a time (that) makes the most sense for the individual municipality,” municipal staff advised council in a report outlining the Municipality of Meaford’s first steps toward that transition.
Staff advised that the municipality will be entering into a contract with Circular Materials Ontario to provide recycling collection along with promotion and education services, which will help to deliver a seamless transition to producer responsibility by January 1, 2026.
Since 1994, the province has required most municipalities to operate a blue box program, but in 2021, provincial regulation 101/94 was amended to require municipal operation of blue box programs until each municipality has transitioned to the producer responsibility model.
“In June 2021, the Province passed O. Reg. 391/21, known as the Blue Box Regulation and was officially adopted under the RRCEA. This made a producer responsibility regulation for producers of paper products, packaging, and packaging like products and held them financially and operationally responsible to meet certain outcomes such as lower diversion rates beyond the 30%,” staff advised council.
Though the transition has begun, there is a long road ahead.
“During the summer of 2022, CMO collected all important data from Municipalities to help form the end contracts for transitioning to the new recycling system. This included total residences and facilities being serviced currently and all other details surrounding sources of recycling materials,” staff noted in their report to council. “In December 2022, the Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks issued a revised transition schedule and the CMO started to issue RFPs for Collection contracts with all of the collection areas. Meaford, being collection area 17, hasn’t had an RFP issued for this area. RFPs for the receiving facilities have been issued and closed, but have yet to be officially awarded.”
For residents of the Municipality of Meaford, nothing changes in the short term, as the municipality has extended its contract with Miller Waste through to the end of 2025 when the transition should be complete.
“The transition period for eligible communities to move from their own existing blue box programs to the producer responsibility model is from July 1, 2023 to December 31, 2025 – with all eligible communities being fully transitioned by January 1, 2026. From this point on, producers will be fully responsible for operating and financing the entire blue box program in all Ontario municipalities. They will also take over the role of communications, replacing the blue boxes/bins and dealing with complaints/concerns from residents as it pertains to the program. Eligible communities could choose to negotiate with their PRO to continue service delivery or fully divest their existing responsibilities,” staff explained to council. “On October 1, 2020, the Municipality of Meaford entered into a three year contract with Miller Waste, to complete the collection and disposal of waste, recycling and organic material for residents in Meaford. This contract comes to an end September 2023 and has two one-year extension clauses. Based on the complexity of transitioning to User Responsibility and wanting to ensure a smooth transition for all residents of Meaford, the Municipality has opted to extend their existing contract from September 2023 until the end of 2025 at which point the recycling program will fully transition to CMO.”
One hurdle that will face council as the municipality moves toward the transition is the collection of commercial recyclables. At this point, the provincial program is limited to residential collection, leaving businesses wondering about their recyclables.
That could change in the two years before the transition begins, staff told council, though at this point, it is uncertain who will collect recyclables from businesses, and who will pay for it after January 1, 2026.
The upside for the municipality and its ratepayers is that once the transition is complete, the municipality will no longer be responsible for the cost of recyclables collection.
“As of January 1, 2026, the Municipality will no longer be involved in the collection of residential recycling. The full cost of all recycling activities will be the responsibility of the producers through Circular Materials Ontario (CMO). Municipality will see the overall collection and processing for residential recycling costs reduced to zero. Council will need to make decisions prior to this regarding the collection of non-eligible sources which may have a cost associated based on council decisions on this,” staff noted in their report.