Getting The Facts Straight On Ontario’s Blue Box BY JOHN MULLINDER
Board Converting NEWS INTERNET DIRECTORY
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The current debate over what to do about Ontario’s Blue Box frequently confuses at least four distinct but interre-
lated issues: waste management in general; the recycling option; the relative roles of industry and householders; and the nature of the Blue Box program itself. First, the broader context. The Blue Box program is just one waste collection system, among many. Others include the depos-
it/return systems for beverage containers run by the Beer Store and the province itself through the Liquor Control Board of Ontario; some industry stewardship programs; private sector recycling efforts; and numerous return-to-re- tail options. The Blue Box program does not, and was never intend- ed to, address the almost 13 million tonnes of waste that Ontario generates every year. To suggest, as some crit- ics have, that the Blue Box is somehow failing because it focuses on only about 10 percent of Ontario’s generated waste, totally ignores its objective and scope. What are these critics suggesting? That we should load up our Blue Boxes with meat scraps and leaves, rusty fridges and stoves, and old planks of plywood? These are best handled in other ways (used tires, laptops and cell- phones, for example, already have separate, industry-led stewardship programs). But the province does need to act more urgently on this front because it will run out of landfill space within 12 years. Typically, it takes between five to 10 years of consul- tations and reviews just to get all the approvals in place to site a new one. Remember NIMBY and NIMTOO (not in my backyard and not in my term of office)? The clock is ticking on this one. Disposal bans and landfill surcharges have been adopt- ed in other provinces and regions, with varying degrees of success. For its part, the paper packaging industry has for seven years now lobbied successive Ontario ministers of the environment to introduce disposal bans, specifically on organics and paper (which give off greenhouse gases when left to rot in landfill). The province has talked a lot but done little. Blue Box Is A Residential System Second, the Blue Box program is a residential waste collection system. It focuses on what is in Ontario homes. It was never intended to collect materials from factories or supermarkets, offices or hospitals. And for good rea- son. The wastes from these operations are quite different in both nature and percentage composition. A Blue Box for wire strapping, chemicals, steel drums, and wooden
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September 21, 2020
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