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Ontario government may ditch blue box program after report finds 30% goes in trash

Up to 30 percent of what is put into blue boxes is sent to landfill, according to a report.
Up to 30 percent of what is put into blue boxes is sent to landfill, according to a report. The Canadian Press Images-Mario Beauregard

The Ontario government is considering the value of the province’s blue box recycling program after a report was delivered to the government with some significant findings.

David Lindsay, appointed in June as a special advisor on the management of recycling and plastics, gave his report to Environment Minister Jeff Yurek on Tuesday after six weeks of research and meetings on the issue.

“It’s clear that Ontario’s current Blue Box Program is unsustainable,” Yurek said in a statement.

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Lindsay’s report notes that recycling rates have stalled for 15 years and up to 30 percent of what is put into blue boxes is sent to landfill.

No uniform standards currently exist for blue box contents, and Yurek says that is a problem.

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“Over 240 municipalities have their own separate lists of accepted recyclable materials, which affects cost savings and contamination,” Yurek said. “Program costs are expected to increase by approximately $10 million per year after 2019.”

Overhauling the program could take years but Yurek believes there will be cost savings for municipalities.

READ MORE: The biggest recycling mistakes Canadians continue to make

“Hopefully by the end of the day we create a new economy of recycled products here in Ontario because of the program that’s going to be put in place.”

The recycling costs currently incurred by cities and towns will eventually be borne by producers, says Yurek.

“The cost of the program will be transferred over to the producers of the waste, the businesses and industries creating the waste they will be the ones who will be paying for the recycling program when this change occurs.”

In an interview with Global News on Wednesday, Emily Alfred with the Toronto Environmental Alliance said the organization is monitoring how the province moves forward.

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“We will be watching closely,” she said.

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Alfred says her group has been advocating for major changes to the program for some time.

“The province has been talking about overhauling the blue box for a number of years,” she said. “This shift to holding producers responsible for waste management is long overdue.”

Alfred says Yurek’s ministry has an opportunity to design a province-wide recycling program that is more robust.

READ MORE: Canada’s recycling industry is on life-support. Here’s how to fix it

“We need to be sure that the new system has high recycling targets, especially for plastic, to make sure this actually works,” she said.

The environmentalist is also optimistic that a reconfiguration of the current system will make corporations more accountable.

“This will save money for municipalities, but most importantly it gives companies that are designing packaging and products an incentive to reduce waste and make their products easier to recycle.”

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