TLTI briefed on blue box changes

Like municipalities across Ontario, the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands is preparing for big changes to recycling operations.

Peter Hargreave, working with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), this week appeared as a delegation to discuss transitioning the blue box program to full producer responsibility.

The delegation took place Monday, Nov. 6, in the TLTI council chambers and was for information only. A subsequent report is expected to come to council.

“The program was pitched as something that was going to be a financial boom for municipalities, this was really never the case,” said Hargreave about the blue box program.

“In the 2000s, to support municipalities, an agreement was reached with producers to move forward with a shared funding model. Producers of packaging and paper products were required to pay roughly half of the bill for recycling of their materials, while municipalities would pay the other half and were also required to run recycling programs."

“The relationship between producers and municipalities was always difficult," he added.

Hargreave said producers felt municipalities were inefficient at running recycling programs. Municipalities, on the other hand, pointed to an ever-changing complex of packaging materials that caused confusion to consumers, were often difficult to recycle.

"Under the shared responsibility relationship, neither party was fully accountable,” he added.

And as a result, over time, costs rose dramatically and performance began to drop, Hargreave added.

“So, municipalities, as a result, argued that producers should be fully responsible for the recycling system, as they had greater abilities to influence markets through their purchasing, to establish a more efficient collection and processing system and, obviously, they had the ability to design products and packaging that were more recyclable.”

The province's Blue Box Regulation was finalized June 3, 2022. It made producers fully operationally and financially responsible for the management of the packaging they put into the marketplace.

There are two phases to the regulation, Hargreave said. First is the transition phase, which started in July and runs to the end of 2025. Full implementation then begins Jan. 1, 2026.

The new regulation does bring some improvements around the types of materials that are designated, said Hargreave. Under the new regulation there will be a standard list of materials that need to be collected across the province.

“If it's a type of packaging, paper, metal, plastic or glass, it will need to be collected under the new program,” said Hargreave. “There will be, as well, an expanded list for all municipalities and it does include single-use plastics and packaging-like products, like utensils, plates, that producers will be required to collect as well.”

There are targets in place that producers will have to meet for each of the broad packaging material types, he said.

“The regulation does include consequences if producers do not meet the targets that are in place,” said Hargreave.

Coun. Mark Jamison expressed worries.

“It is very concerning to me to see these thresholds, because I don’t think it will serve rural Ontario very well. Personally, my message back to AMO is, we’re going to have to try really hard to ensure rural municipalities don’t go under the bus here,” said Jamison.

(Keith Dempsey is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the Brockville Recorder and Times. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.)

Keith Dempsey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times