Stewardship Ontario greatly appreciates the substantive investments in time, involvement, and thoughtful feedback provided by everyone during Phase One of the consultation and engagement process for an amended Blue Box Program Plan (a-BBPP). Input from our many stakeholders – stewards, municipalities and First Nations communities, waste management industry, ENGOs and numerous others – has resulted in a draft Blue Box Program Plan that reflects the many important suggestions and counsel provided by all who have engaged with us over the last several months. Key features of the draft Blue Box Program Plan are summarized below.
The draft Blue Box Program Plan began with a vision for gradual transition to full producer responsibility, first jointly developed and set out by producers and municipalities in a July 2017 Accord. The Accord, which was predicated on shifting the economic burden of recycling to business in exchange for business taking over the management of their paper products and packaging (PPP), stipulated that the transition must:
- Not negatively impact Ontarians’ experience with and access to existing recycling services
- Improve environmental outcomes
- Create a consistent recycling experience for all Ontario residents
In August 2017, Chris Ballard, the Ontario Minister of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) issued a letter directing Stewardship Ontario and the Authority to prepare an amended Blue Box Program Plan that builds on the municipal/producer Accord. In his letter, the Minister requested that the transition be achieved in a thoughtful, orderly and step-wise way that maintains Ontarians’ experience with and access to the Blue Box services and improves the program’s environmental performance.
A Major Change Management Initiative
The Blue Box Program’s transition from its current shared cost model to full producer responsibility will entail a major change management process, in which Ontario’s municipal and First Nations communities will play key roles. Stewardship Ontario, on behalf of its stewards, will assume both financial and operational responsibility (and accountability) for paper products and packaging (PPP) collection and management.
Over time, Stewardship Ontario, acting on behalf of its stewards, will systematically replace the agreements that exist today with hundreds of its own agreements with communities and service providers for collection and management of PPP. Today, there are over four hundred collection and processing contracts between communities and service providers with varying expiry dates representing over 90% of the almost 1 million tonnes recycled annually in Ontario. By 2025, assuming the draft plan is approved by June 1, 2018, Ontarians will enjoy a fully integrated, province-wide PPP recycling system.
First Rights of Refusal Key Feature of Transition Approach
In keeping with the Accord and the Minister’s Request Letter, the draft plan provides choice to municipal and First Nations communities regarding their role in providing collection services on behalf of Stewardship Ontario. They can opt to enter into commercial contracts with Stewardship Ontario as collection service providers, thereby enabling them to retain their existing operational staff. Or they can choose to cease managing PPP altogether, in which case Stewardship Ontario will service the community directly, through tendered contacts. In either case, it will mean substantially less cost burden to municipal and First Nations communities.
In return, Stewardship Ontario, on behalf of its stewards, will assume full financial and management control of the PPP that they will supply to Ontarians. The current net cost of Ontario Blue Box Program is $258,540,366.
The draft plan outlines the process by which communities will be able to transition to full producer responsibility, and the choices they will have to effect that transition. The approach is based on feedback received from communities during the Phase 1 consultations, just completed, and provides the necessary certainty to communities, service providers and stewards to ensure a smooth transition with no interruption to services.
Importantly, the plan addresses how Stewardship Ontario will procure and pay for services in a manner that promotes competition and innovation in the marketplace.
Enhanced Environmental Performance
The new Blue Box Program Plan will preserve the integrity of PPP recycling for Ontario residents and will significantly improve its environmental performance in a number of significant ways:
- A wider scope of materials will be obligated under the Blue Box Program.
- Paper products such as wrapping paper, paper plates, cups and more will be new to the program; and
- Products resembling packaging, such as aluminum pie plates, paper plates and cups sold as product are also new to the program.
- Over time, the program will achieve a 75% general diversion target, a substantive increase over today’s 64% recycling rate.
- Material-specific targets will be introduced in Canada for the first time. The plastics diversion target will be set at an ambitious 50% — representing a 43% increase over its current recycling rate of 35%.
- Over time more of the really difficult-to-recycle materials (primarily in the plastic category) will be targeted for collection because Stewardship Ontario will allocate funds specifically for this purpose. Producers will invest in research and innovation to create end-markets for material that cannot be recycled today. Collaboration forums, composed of producers, waste management industry and packaging designers and manufacturers, will find solutions not yet envisioned.
Convenience and Consistency for Ontario Residents
The list of collected materials will be broadened and standardized across the province, establishing, for the first time, a consistent recycling experience for all Ontarians. By 2025, there will be no difference between recycling in one community versus another. Stepped up province-wide Promotion and Education (P&E) campaigns will address Ontarians’ current confusion and clarify how they can do the right thing. Increased consumer awareness of what goes in the Blue Box will help reduce contamination (unwanted or badly soiled material) levels in the Blue Box – meaning more material will be successfully recycled.
Collection will be expanded to include the 300,000 multi-family households (e.g., located in condominiums, apartment buildings) that are not serviced by communities today.
Consideration will be given to expanding collection services to communities that currently do not have such services and existing service-levels will be maintained or improved.
Improved Province-Wide Recycling Infrastructure
Over time, Ontario will develop a best-in-class recycling infrastructure that will improve recycling efficiency and promote systemic innovation. A single unified provincial PPP recycling system will provide the advantages of scale not available under current programs because each community runs its own program, makes its own operational and material marketing decisions.
Next Steps in the Consultation Process
With release of the draft Blue Box Program Plan, Stewardship Ontario is launching Phase 2 of its stakeholder consultation and engagement process. We ask that all interested parties provide their feedback by January 15, 2018.
A webinar, scheduled for January 8th from 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. (EST) will review and discuss key components of the draft plan and answer participants’ questions. Following the webinar we will distribute a Consultation Workbook for you to complete. In the meantime, feedback and questions can be submitted to Stewardship Ontario at any time through the feedback button on the Stewardship Ontario site, the Consultation Workbook or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Draft Blue Box Program Agreement for the Amended Blue Box Program Plan and Rules for Stewards Also Available
In addition to the draft Blue Box Program Plan, two other important documents will govern the transition to full producer responsibility for paper products and packaging. They are:
- The Draft Blue Box Program Agreement: The Program Agreement is a contract between Stewardship Ontario and the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (the Authority) that defines the roles and responsibilities of both organizations in the oversight and operation of the Blue Box Program. It will constitute Appendix D to the final Amended Blue Box Program Plan, if it is submitted by the Authority to the Minister for approval. In the meantime, the Authority has posted it on its website for consultation. Click here to review the Blue Box Program Agreement.
- The Rules for Stewards: The Rules for Stewards will be appended as Schedule B to the Blue Box Program Agreement. These Rules are very similar to the existing 2018 Rules for Stewards, except that they reflect the definitions such as “Steward”, “Paper Products” and “Packaging” as they are used in the draft Blue Box Program Plan. They also reference the Four-Step Fee Methodology (with which stewards are familiar from the 2016 Fee Methodology Project and Consultation). The intention is the use the Four-Step Fee Methodology to set steward fees under the Blue Box Program Plan upon its approval. These Rules for Stewards are available here for consultation.