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Producer-led Blue Box system could save city $1 million

Troy Shantz Sarnia could be out of the Blue Box recycling business by 2023. Ontario is planning to make product manufacturers and retailers take over the Blue Box program, with companies that create recyclables in charge of collecting them.
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Troy Shantz

Sarnia could be out of the Blue Box recycling business by 2023.

Ontario is planning to make product manufacturers and retailers take over the Blue Box program, with companies that create recyclables in charge of collecting them.

The shift can’t come quickly enough for city engineer David Jackson.

“It is a significant cost to a municipality to run that program, so the sooner we can get out of that the better.”

It costs Sarnia about $2 million annually to provide its Blue Box program. That’s offset by $500,000 from Ontario and the proceeds from selling collected recyclables, which can bring in another $200,000 to $700,000 a year, depending on commodity prices, Jackson added.

“It will incentivize (companies) to use less material, to be more efficient because they’ll be responsible for collecting all of the material.”

A producer-run Blue Box program would standardize 240 different municipal programs in place, and it would save local taxpayers about $1 million a year, he said.

However, those savings might be short-lived. Ontario is also planning to introduce an organic food waste collection system, one that could be mandatory for municipalities by 2025.

“That is likely going to cost at least a million dollars,” Jackson estimated. “We don’t think we’ll have a great surplus after getting rid of one program and starting a new one.”

Sarnia and Point Edward are among hundreds of municipalities that use the “Recycle Coach” app. Available for Android and iOS, the free app explains what can and can’t be recycled.

Despite the app and education campaigns, confusion over what to place in the Blue Box is widespread.

In Sarnia, as much as 40% of what’s collected is sent on to landfills because the stream is contaminated with unrecyclable waste.

British Columbia already has a producer-led Blue Box program. In 2018, the system reportedly recycled 87.3% of materials collected, and 99% of plastics were processed in Canada.