Ontario looking to revamp recycling and plastic waste programs

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The Ontario government recently appointed a special advisor to assist in revamping the Province’s recycling programs.

The Ontario government has engaged David Lindsay, currently the President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, as a Special Advisor on Recycling and Plastic Waste prepare a report by the end of the summer on how to tackle plastic waste and litter, improve recycling, increase products that can go into the blue box, and ensure producers are responsible for managing plastic and other packaging at end-of-life.

Ontario Environment Ministry, Rod Phillips, stated in the news release that he was engaging Mr. Lindsay in an effort to find solutions to the Province’s languid recycling rates. The current Blue Box Program has been in place since the 1980s and had world-renowned success in recovering residential printed paper and packaging for recycling. However, Ontario’s waste diversion rates have stalled at just over 60 per cent for the past 15 years.

“Ontario families take pride in doing their part for the environment. In fact, our own city of Kitchener was the birthplace of the world’s first Blue Box program,” said Minister Phillips. “Knowing this, I was disappointed to learn that, while Ontario families work to sort and recycle properly, government and industry are failing them. Ontario’s recycling rates have been stalled for 15 years and up to 30 per cent of what is put into blue boxes is sent to landfill. Not to mention, recent stories highlight how some of Ontario’s plastic waste is being unsustainably shipped across the ocean to the Philippines and Malaysia.”

In the open-facing letter to the Special Advisor, the Environment Minister has requested that work be guided by the following public policy objectives:

  • Standardization across the province of what can be recycled in offices, parks, public spaces and homes;
  • Improve diversion rates and increase what materials can be recycled;
  • Reduce litter and waste in communities and parks;
  • Improve Ontario’s Blue Box Program by requiring producers to pay for the recycling of the products they produce, through achieving producer responsibility;
  • Maintain or improve frequency of Blue Box collection; and
  • When increasing diversion in the residential sector, consider how these policies can also enable diversion in the institutional, commercial and industrial sector.

As Special Advisor, Mr. Lindsay has limited direct experience with waste issues. Prior to his current role as the President and CEO of the Council of Ontario Universities, he was President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada and of Colleges Ontario, an advocacy organization for the province’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology. Mr. Lindsay has experience in the Ontario Public Service previously holding the position of Deputy Minister for the Energy and Infrastructure, Northern Development, Mines and Forestry, Natural Resources, and Tourism and Culture portfolios.

David Lindsay

“I’m looking forward to helping Ontario’s municipalities and producers work together to address plastic litter and improve recycling in our province,” said David Lindsay. “Having stakeholders come together to identify concerns and find solutions will be integral to reinvigorating the province’s Blue Box Program and solving the problem of plastic litter and waste.”

In the Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan, Ontario committed to transitioning the costs of the Blue Box Program away from municipal taxpayers to make the producers of products and packaging fully responsible. Shifting to producer responsibility will obligate producers across the province to pay for and manage their materials. Based on 2017 costs, municipalities would save about $125 – $175 million annually once full producer responsibility for the Blue Box Program is put in place.

Reducing plastic waste and litter and making producers responsible for the end-of-life management of their products is a key part of Ontario’s Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan.