York Region is calling for improvements to the municipal blue box program in advance of legislation that comes into effect in 2023 that will make producers fully responsible for managing their products and packaging. The Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016 includes plans to divert more waste from landfills by re-examining what gets recycled through municipal blue box programs.
“York Region and other stakeholders have been advocating for improvements to the blue box program for a number of years,” Wayne Emmerson, York Region chairman and CEO, said in a news release. “While the new legislation will make producers fully responsible for managing their products and packaging, it may also motivate these companies towards more sustainable choices, such as reducing the amount of packaging they use or incorporating more recycled content into their wrapping before it lands in the blue box.”
Municipal governments and the companies that produce the packaging and paper products placed in the blue box for recycling currently split the cost to operate the program in Ontario. The current model costs Ontario municipalities about $130 million a year to operate. The Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016 is designed to encourage more innovative packaging design, reduce packaging waste and overall environmental impact, result in cost-savings for municipalities and improve the recycling program experience.
According to the provincial government, more than eight million tonnes of waste is sent to landfill each year and absolute greenhouse gas emissions from Ontario’s waste rose 25 per cent between 1990 and 2012. The province plans to finalize its draft strategy for a waste-free Ontario within three months of the legislation coming into effect. The strategy outlines Ontario’s vision for a zero waste future and proposed plan to implement the legislation.
“York Region continues to lead among large municipalities in Ontario for waste diversion and recently ranked highest overall in the province with a diversion rate of 65 per cent,” reports Mario Ferri, City of Vaughan regional councillor and environmental services chair.