Ontario is updating the blue box program

The province has finalized changes to Ontario’s blue box recycling program that is expected to take effect between 2023-2025.

It will standardize the blue box program across more than 250 municipalities and shift the cost to operate it from communities to waste producers — a move it estimates will save $156 million a year.

“The stronger, more effective program we are creating will have some of the highest waste diversion targets in North America,” Ontario's Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says.

On Thursday, Yurek announced more communities would have access to the recycling program and that more items can eventually be put in the bins.

Single-use products like stir sticks and plastic cups will eventually be accepted along with things like straws, plastic cutlery and packaging.

He says the program will also now mean additional items will be accepted in blue boxes including plastic cups, foils, trays and bags.

“Our goal is to maximize the amount that folks can recycle and make it standard across the province,” he says.

Yurek says the provincial blue box program would be consolidated into a standard program and that all communities except for the far north will have access to recycling services by 2026.

Tracey Ward lives in east Windsor and welcomes the idea of recycling more.

“I know bins are getting turned away and garbage bins are getting turned away because there’s things that shouldn’t be in there,” Ward says.

She says it’s frustrating when contaminated recycling bins are left behind on collection day.

“I think we should be recycling whatever we possible can and also I wish companies would stop packaging things in non-recyclable goods so that we don’t have to deal with the issue of the garbage man not taking this because it’s not recyclable,” Ward says.

“At this point in our generation and with the knowledge and technology that we have, nothing should be sent out in non-recyclable products.”

Currently, municipalities determine what can and cannot be accepted in the blue box.

City of Windsor manager of environmental services Anne-Marie Albidone reminds residents changes will not take effect immediately, noting there are still limitations to what can be recycled until the provincial consolidation.

“For you and I, as customers and residents of this area, not much is going to change,” Albidone explains. “We’re still going to put out our recycling the same way that we do now. What might change for us is we might be able to put in some extra items that today, we can’t.”

Albidone says an exact date for the provincial change to take effect in Windsor-Essex has not yet been determined and encourages anyone with questions about what’s recyclable to download the local “Recycle Coach” app. 

“Just type it in the search engine and it’ll tell you,” she said.

Ontario also intends to expand blue box services to some long-term care homes, apartment buildings, retirement homes and schools. There are also plans to increase recycling bins at public parks, playgrounds and transit stations.

Minister Yurek said there shouldn’t be any service disruptions to recycling as the province transitions.