What you need to know about how waste is managed in the province, including Ontario’s new approach to reducing litter and waste in our communities.
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Ontario is committed to shifting to a waste management approach where producers are responsible for the waste generated from their products and packaging, and waste is seen as a resource that can be recovered, reused and reintegrated back into the economy. This will support the health of both Ontario’s environment, communities and economy.
Our new approach will:
- reduce litter and waste in our communities
- protect the environment
- drive innovation, performance and competitiveness
- stimulate economic growth and development
Feedback on the province’s Reducing Litter and Waste in Our Communities discussion paper is currently being reviewed and will be taken into consideration as the government begins to implement the next steps of its new waste management approach.
Blue Box Program transition to producer responsibility
Ontario is transitioning the current Blue Box Program to a producer responsibility model. The new model means transitioning costs of the Blue Box Program away from municipal taxpayers and making producers of products and packaging fully responsible for the litter they create.
The model will improve recycling across the province by:
- addressing the serious problem of plastic pollution and litter
- expanding collection to all communities outside the Far North by 2026
- standardizing what can be recycled across Ontario
- accepting common single-use and packaging-like products such as paper and plastic cups, foils, trays, bags, and boxes sold for home use
- collecting single-use items that are distributed or sold to consume food and beverage products, like stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates
We finalized our blue box regulation and will begin to transfer responsibility to producers starting July 1, 2023. By December 31, 2025, producers will be fully responsible for providing blue box services across Ontario. See when your community will be transferred.
The new plan will ensure that the Blue Box Program continues to be convenient and accessible for all Ontarians by:
- standardizing what goes in the blue box across the province
- taking the cost burden off municipalities and allowing producers to innovate
- expanding recycling services to more communities, including smaller, rural and remote communities
- putting recycling systems in places like parks, schools, apartment buildings or industrial sources
- providing producers with greater options for recycling while maintaining Ontario’s alcoholic beverage deposit return program
- setting high targets to drive collection from more sources
Standardizing what goes in the blue box across the province
We are proposing a consistent list of materials that residents can recycle at more locations. This means:
- less confusion about what goes in the blue box
- recycling will be as easy as possible
Taking the cost burden off municipalities and allowing producers to innovate
The cost of the current Blue Box system is not sustainable and is expected to increase significantly in the coming years.
The new regulation shifts the cost of operating the current system from municipalities to the producers who create the product and packaging waste. At the same time, we are giving producers the tools to find efficiencies and lower costs. This will:
- allow producers to find cost efficiencies to improve the collection and management of materials
- encourage producers to make packaging that is easier to recycle
- put valuable materials back into the economy
Minimizing the costs for consumers and families
The new model will create competition in the market for producers to find new and innovative ways to manage their products and minimize costs to consumers for their everyday purchases.
Additional costs for most consumer goods would be less than a penny. The estimated costs increase for common items are:
- a penny or less for a cup of coffee, a can of soup, or a plastic bag or plastic cutlery that comes with a take-out meal
- one cent for a box of cereal
- two cents for a pack of yogurt cups
- three cents for a pizza
Expanding to more communities, including smaller, rural and remote communities
If you currently use the blue box system, you will continue to have recycling under producer responsibility, no matter how big or small your community is. This includes municipalities with populations under 5,000.
Producers will have to ensure that all communities outside the Far North have some form of blue box service. This will mean curbside recycling collection in communities where there is garbage curbside collection or recycling depots where garbage is collected at depots. In some limited cases alternative collection systems may be setup by producers (such as a mail back program).
Some form of blue box service will be made available to each municipality in this province. This will help ensure the blue box remains viable over the long term, and that it remains at the heart of residential recycling in Ontario.
Putting recycling systems in places like parks, schools, apartment buildings or industrial sources
Public space (such as parks and sidewalks) recycling is part of a comprehensive approach to reduce waste and litter in our communities and environment.
The new producer responsibility model will also see recycling services extended to additional locations such as:
- apartment buildings
- municipally-run and not-for-profit retirement homes and long-term care homes
- transit stations
Commercial and industrial buildings are not currently part of municipal residential blue box collection programs. Recycling in these buildings will continue to be separate from this enhanced Blue Box Program.
Providing producers with greater options for recycling, while maintaining Ontario’s alcoholic beverage deposit return program
Our framework ensures that programs like the Beer Store’s deposit return program can continue.
Setting high targets to drive collection from more sources
We will have the highest recycling targets in North America. These tough but fair targets will:
- drive producers to collect recycling from a broad number of sources
- ensure producers reach a diversion rate that will be effective
- encourage innovation and competition
- help create a better collection system for all communities
Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program transition to producer responsibility
Ontario is transitioning the current Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) Program to a producer responsibility model, which makes producers environmentally accountable and financially responsible for managing their products at end-of-life, and will:
- ensure these hazardous and special products are properly and safely collected and managed
- protect our environment by keeping these products out of our landfills
Beginning October 1, 2021, the new Hazardous and Special Products regulation will apply to producers of products such as paints, solvents, pesticides, oil filters, antifreeze, oil containers, pressurized containers, mercury-containing devices and fertilizers. This will replace the existing municipal hazardous and special products program, which will end September 30, 2021.
Waste diversion programs
Our Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan commits to making producers responsible for the waste generated from their products and packaging.
Ontario has several diversion programs to reuse, recycle or safely dispose of waste:
- Tire Collection and Recovery requirements under a new regulatory framework, which makes tire producers responsible for creating an accessible, convenient and free tire collection and recycling or retreading network across the province, is now in place. This replaces the Used Tires Program which ceased operation on December 31, 2018.
- Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment requirements under a new regulatory framework, which makes producers of electronic equipment like computers, televisions and stereos responsible for creating an accessible, convenient and free collection and recycling or refurbishing network across the province, is now in place. This replaces the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program which ends on January 1, 2021.
- Hazardous and Special Products requirements under a new regulatory framework, which makes producers of products such as paints, pesticides, solvents, oil filters, antifreeze and pressurized containers responsible for creating an accessible, convenient and free collection network, is now in place. This will be phased in to replace the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program, starting on October 1, 2021.
- Battery Collection and Recovery requirements under a new regulatory framework, which makes producers of all primary and rechargeable batteries that weigh less than 5kg responsible for creating an accessible, convenient and free battery collection and recycling or refurbishing network across the province, is now in place. This replaces the Used Battery Program which ceases operation on July 1, 2020.
- Blue Box Program recycles printed paper and packaging (plastics, paper, glass, aluminum, steel).
- The Ontario Deposit Return Program for beverage and alcohol containers.
Learn more about how Ontario is making producers responsible for managing the waste generated from their products and packaging to promote innovation, reduce waste and lower costs for taxpayers.
Hazardous waste is primarily generated by industrial and manufacturing processes, and includes a broad range of materials such as:
- materials from manufacturing (for example, waste acids, contaminated sludges and chemicals)
- biomedical wastes from hospitals and other health care facilities
- waste solvents
- waste pesticides
- polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
- industrial lubricants and oils containing heavy metals
- perchloroethylene (perc) waste from dry cleaners
- discarded batteries
Household products such as paints, solvents, pesticides, oil filters, antifreeze, oil containers, pressurized containers and mercury-containing devices are also hazardous to the environment or human health if not managed properly. To keep these out of our landfills, we are making producers of these products responsible for their collection and management, either through recycling or disposal.
Non-hazardous waste is generated by households, as well as businesses and organizations in the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector. It includes:
- printed paper and packaging (plastics, paper, glass, aluminum, steel, other material)
- organics from food and yard waste
- cement, metals and glass from construction and demolition
Pharmaceuticals and sharps
Pharmaceutical or sharp (needle) producers must establish a minimum number of locations where these products can be collected and properly disposed.
A minimum number of collection locations is required, based on either:
- the lesser of a specified percentage of the number of retail locations where products are sold
- a specified percentage of the total number of pharmacies in Ontario as of October 1 in the preceding year
For 2020, the minimum number of collection locations required is 4,089 and for 2021 is 4,178.
Food and organic waste
Ontario residents generate a lot of food and organic waste – about 3.5 million tonnes every year. It is equivalent to filling up the Rogers Centre in Toronto nearly five times. It comes from our homes, our offices, our businesses. And all too often, it ends up in a landfill, creating greenhouse gas pollution as it breaks down. In fact, 4% of Ontario’s greenhouse gas emissions come from waste.
To reduce food and organic waste, the province has issued the Food and Organics Waste Policy Statement that will:
- educate people about the importance of preventing and reducing food and organic waste
- expand green bin or similar collection systems in large cities and to relevant businesses
- set food and organic waste reduction and recovery targets of between 50% and 70%
- help more businesses, condos and apartment buildings across the province collect food and organic waste
- help rescue surplus food from grocery stores, restaurants and hotels
Household food and organic waste mainly includes:
- food waste (cooked or raw)
- yard and garden waste
Industrial, commercial and institutional (for example, restaurants, grocery stores, hospitals, universities, food processors) food and organic waste includes:
- food waste (cooked or raw)
- food processing/manufacturing waste and by-products
- leaf and yard waste
- other sources of organic materials not listed above including biosolids
The industrial, commercial and institutional sectors also work to redirect surplus food that is suitable for donation (perishable and non-perishable) while ensuring health and safety concerns are also met. This helps ensure that edible food is not lost to disposal.
Ontario’s rules and regulations ensure that food and organic waste is processed and used safely. These rules are specific to the diversion method.
A large amount of organic green bin and leaf and yard wastes are diverted from disposal through municipally operated programs. Please contact your local municipality for more information.
Surplus Food Redistribution Infrastructure Program
The Surplus Food Redistribution Program will provide support to help food rescue organizations, First Nation communities and Indigenous organizations get surplus food from grocery stores, restaurants, farms and other businesses to vulnerable communities impacted by COVID-19, helping prevent nutritious food from ending up in landfills.
This program provides funding:
- for food redistribution (such as refrigeration trucks)
- for food preservation (such as fridges or freezers, or cold storage)
- for preparation (such as industrial kitchen equipment, food dehydration equipment or food smokers)
- to cover associated costs of retrofits and construction or expansion of facilities
- to support the transportation and distribution of surplus food from food donors to community food charity organizations
The food rescue organizations selected to receive support as part of the new program include:
- Afri-Can Food Basket
- Food for Life Canada Charitable Corporation
- Food Sharing Ottawa
- Gathering Place, North Bay's Community Soup Kitchen
- Harvest Share Community Soup Kitchen
- London Food Coalition Inc.
- MAZON Canada
- Muslim Welfare Centre
- Parkdale Food Centre
- Regional Food Distribution Association of Northwest Ontario
- Road to Zero Waste
- Second Harvest
- The United Church Downtown Mission of Windsor Inc.
- Unemployed Help Centre of Windsor Inc.
Indigenous communities and organizations include:
- Anishinaabeg of Kabapikotawangag Resource Council Inc.
- Bimose Tribal Council
- Grand Council Treaty #3
- Matawa First Nations Management
- Mushkegowuk Council
- Nigigoonsiminikaaning First Nation
- Nokiiwin Tribal Council
- Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendships Centres (OFIFC)
- Shibogama First Nations Council
- Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI)
- Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig Health Access Centre
- Windigo First Nations Council
These organizations and Indigenous communities can use the funding to support the purchase of refrigerated trucks, storage space and other equipment to help ensure that unused, nutritious food from places like grocery stores and restaurants does not go to waste.
For more information on the Surplus Food Redistribution Program email RRPB.email@example.com.
The policies, rules and regulations that guide Ontario’s resource recovery and waste reduction include:
- Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016
- Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016
- Environmental Protection Act
- Environmental Assessment Act
- Nutrient Management Act
- Food and Organic Waste Policy Statement
The Environmental Protection Act addresses waste collection, disposal and environmental approvals, including:
- Landfill design standards under Reg. 232
- Standards for disposal sites, the management, tracking and disposal of hazardous and liquid industrial waste under Reg. 347
- Requirements for landfill gas collection under Reg. 217
- Requirements for municipal Blue Box programs under O. Reg. 101/94
- Requirements for IC&I sector to reduce waste and recover resource under '3Rs' regulations: O. Reg. 102/94, O. Reg. 103/94 and O. Reg. 104/94
- Requirements for producers of pharmaceuticals and sharps to establish free collection locations across Ontario for pharmaceuticals and sharps they no longer need under Reg. 298/12
- Ontario Compost Quality Standards under Reg. 347 and Guidelines for the Production of Compost