Offices in Ottawa and Perth
(613) 722-1500

CONTACT US (613) 722-1500

Proposed Blue Box Changes are Announced

Proposed Blue Box Changes are Announced


Mann Lawyers

Posted November 10, 2020

The Provincial government has announced a major overhaul to the province’s blue box recycling program.  The changes, which the government estimates will save municipalities $135 million per year, would see responsibility for recycling shift from municipalities to the producers of the materials to be recycled.

The proposed regulation, under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016, would require producers to operate a common collection system to collect blue bin recycling and manage recycling in the province.  Sources of recycling materials for collection would be permanent and seasonal dwellings, multi-unit residential buildings, schools, long-term care and retirement homes and certain public parks and playgrounds.  Industrial and commercial sources are not subject to the proposed regulation.

Producers with less than $2 million in annual sales would be exempt from collection and management requirements.

A link to the posting of the proposal for the proposed changes on the Environmental Registry of Ontario can be found here.  The proposal is open for a 45-day comment period commencing October 19, 2020.

The proposed changes would also see uniformity across the province as to what materials may be disposed of in blue bins for recycling.  Currently, what materials may be recycled varies by municipality.

In addition, the proposed changes expand the types of materials that can be recycled, such that paper and plastic cups, wraps, foils, trays and single-use bags, stir sticks, straws and utensils would be able to be deposited into the blue bin.

The proposed regulation establishes diversion targets for recyclable products based on six categories of materials.

These targets for recycling over the next decade and beyond are:

Material          Proposed Target: 2026-2029                       Proposed Target: 2030 onwards

Paper                                       90%                                                                 90%

Glass                                        75%                                                                 80%

Metal                                       67%                                                                 75%

Rigid Plastic                           55%                                                                 60%

Flexible Plastic                       30%                                                                40%

Non-alcoholic Beverage        75%                                                                80%


It is expected that these targets will be achieved by the producers.  It is also expected that they will make best efforts to achieve these targets during the transition period between 2023 (when the regulation would be fully implemented) and 2026.  The regulation includes mandatory annual reporting requirements on producers to enable assessment as to whether recovery requirements are being achieved.

While changes to the blue box recycling program are welcomed, it is unclear at this stage whether the proposed changes will be an improvement over the current situation, where recyclable materials are not being properly diverted and questions are being raised as to whether all materials diverted to recycling are actually being recycled.  Regulating diversion targets is one way to improve the system, but it takes many participants in the consumer chain to achieve those targets, from the manufacturer producing less materials to the end consumer properly disposing of recyclable materials.

It would appear that a main goal of the regulation is to reduce the amount of materials introduced into the consumer chain in the first place.  The regulation establishes a hierarchy of producers to determine which entity will be primarily responsible for the cost of recycling.  One example given is the Canadian brandowner of a pair of shoes.  The brandowner would be responsible for the shoebox provided with the shoes, however the retailer who provides a plastic bag when selling the shoes would be responsible for the bag.  Where no brandowner is resident in Canada, it would be the Canadian importer or others in the supply chain who supplied the goods to the Ontario market who becomes the responsible producer.

This type of structure may encourage retailers to refrain from using plastic bags or from selling products with excessive packaging.

However, under such a hierarchy, importers and retailers could be responsible for all packaging materials, despite having no role in the decision to use such materials in the first place.  It seems unlikely that foreign producers of goods imported into Ontario will change packaging solely for the Ontario market.

The regulation also targets out-of-province retailers who supply recyclable materials to Ontario consumers over the internet.

While the goal of reduced packaging is admirable and necessary, it is unclear whether the proposed regulation will have the desired effect.  It is possible that the result could be a reduction in the range of goods available to avoid responsibility for packaging materials.  It is also possible that producers will revert to non-recyclable materials to avoid the cost of recycling.

One concern which has been raised in the media is that the cost of goods will increase to off-set the additional costs to producers for recycling.  This is of particular concern in respect of the cost of food and beverages which are sold in recyclable packaging.  Increases in the cost of food have the greatest impact on those who can afford it least.

The regulation contemplates a phased in transition schedule, with Ottawa transitioning in 2023, the first year of the proposed changes.

This blog post was written by Cheryl Gerhardt McLuckie, a member of the Environmental Law team.  Cheryl can be reached at 613-369-0365 or at

More Resources

Blog |
Real Estate
A tax sale is a sale process used by a municipality, in order to recover property tax arrears that have remained outstanding for at least[...]
Blog |
Wills, Trusts and Estates

Posted March 21, 2024

If someone wishes to make a Will or appoint a Power of Attorney, they must have the requisite capacity. The determination as to whether someone[...]
Blog |
Business Law

Posted March 13, 2024

A not-for-profit corporation incorporated pursuant to the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act (Ontario) (”ONCA”) is required to maintain certain records regarding the corporation, its members, directors and[...]
Blog |
Business Law

Posted March 5, 2024

With India having touched down on the surface of the moon last year, an impressive achievement by all accounts, we are reminded of the dozens[...]
Blog |
Family Law
Co-parenting with your ex-partner can be challenging. It involves constant coordination and communication about various aspects of your children’s lives. Whether it is about schedules,[...]
Blog |
Wills, Trusts and Estates
Over time, individuals could acquire assets in different jurisdictions that are governed by different legal systems. Similar to the consideration of double wills in distinguishing[...]
Cheryl Gerhardt McLuckie

Cheryl Gerhardt McLuckie

I practice in the areas of environment law and commercial litigation and am an active member of the environmental law group at Mann Lawyers LLP. Prior to joining Mann Lawyers in June of 2020, I practiced with a small law firm in Ottawa.  When the opportunity arose to join Mann Lawyers and become part of its exceptional team, I welcomed it.  Being part of a firm that offers a broad range of services will be of great value to my clients. In my environmental law practice, I assist my clients with all manner of issues arising from environmental contamination.   I have extensive experience in land contamination issues, an area which has undergone significant evolution in recent years.  I provide clients with a wide range of services in environmental law including litigation of environmental claims, defending environmental claims, advising on environmental risk, obligations and liabilities, engaging with the Ministry of the... Read More

Read More About Cheryl Gerhardt McLuckie

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.