Changes are coming for the West Nipissing Blue Box Program, which will see the financial onus for recycling blue box materials placed firmly with the producers rather than the end consumer.
Jason Sullivan, manager of WN Environmental Services, told municipal council at the August 17 meeting that the proposed changes, scheduled to take place by 2025 in West Nipissing, will not disrupt current curbside pick-up, but will herald changes that environmentally conscious citizens have been striving for – having producers manage and pay for the program, compelling changes in packaging, collection, and the kinds of waste that can be recycled in the north.
Sullivan told council that the new legislation has been finalized and will be going into effect in the hopes of reducing waste and saving municipalities the cost of running their recycling program. Recycling rates in the province have been stalling and as much as 30% of materials currently put in blue boxes ends up in landfills. According to Sullivan, the revamped program is “replacing the historical waste diversion that initiated the Blue Box program… which was started 20 years ago.”
“Right now, it’s a 50/50 program operated by Stewardship Ontario – 50% of the cost is the responsibility of taxpayers and 50% paid by Stewardship Ontario… Each year we have to do a blue box evaluation of our program and we have to submit our costs, expenses, and our recycling numbers. We are assessed and evaluated for our costs and it’s returned with a cheque.” Sullivan said that will now change to ‘Producer Pay’, although it remains unclear how the new process will be implemented. “The goal is that it will be fully funded by the producers,” he said. “Single-use plastic is part of the mandate – part of the plan is to introduce single-use plastics into the blue box program… with the general idea that now that producers are responsible for their waste, they will start to manage it properly… Right now producers can make all the stuff they want and hand a cheque to the municipalities and ‘here, you take care of it, you’re on your own’.”
Sullivan said that the blue box program has been effective and he has seen changes over the course of his time, such as a transition to lighter, lower density plastics. “[Producers] were trying to contribute in a positive way but it was still ‘out-of-sight out-of mind’. But now, if they are literally responsible for the packaging they produce, they might choose to use alternatives or reusable packaging.” He noted that the government is well aware of who is producing what, that it’s a small number of companies – “Johnson & Johnson, Nabisco, Pepsi, Coke, Nestlé” – and that the waste they produce will be quantified. Those companies will be able to establish their own association, rather than Stewardship Ontario, but will be required to address the problem. The way programs in the north will be impacted isn’t yet clear, but there is opportunity.