Blue Box Recycling: who\’s performing and who\’s not

Report card time! We’ve graded the 22 different material categories used by Ontario’s Blue Box system according to their most recent (2018) “sent for recycling” numbers. We’ve also looked back to see how much printed paper and packaging was sent for recycling in 2003 to discern any improvements or otherwise. It was in 2003 that industry stewards (brand owners and retailers) first became legally obligated to fund 50% of Ontario Blue Box net costs and began collecting this data. Here are the rankings with some historical perspective thrown in:


Corrugated Boxes                                          98%  Magazines, Catalogues                               89% Recovery for these materials was estimated at 72% back in 2003 so they have done very well. This is the fourth year in a row that corrugated box recovery has reached 98%.   


Old Newspapers                                             80% Old Telephone Books                                    75% Clear Glass                                                      72% Steel Food & Beverage Cans                        70% Old Boxboard Cartons                                   62% The largest improvement in recovery percentage since 2003 has been for old boxboard cartons (up from 42%) followed by steel food and beverage cans (up from 53%) and clear glass (up from 57%).


Coloured Glass                                               57% Gable Top Cartons                                        56% PET Plastic Bottles                                       55% HDPE Plastic Bottles                                    54% Aluminium Food & Beverage Cans            47% Gable-top cartons have jumped from 10% back in 2003 to 56% but the others in this group have only made marginal improvements (between four and six points). The percentage of coloured glass sent for recycling has fallen four points over the period.


Other Printed Paper                                      38% Other Plastics                                                 34% Steel Aerosols                                                31% Aseptic Cartons                                             30% The biggest improvements in this group were Other Plastics (up from 6%) and Aseptic Cartons (up from 10%) in 2003. There is clearly an opportunity to promote greater recovery of printing and writing paper. It should not be scoring a D here!


Plastic Film                                                     10% Paper Laminants                                            9% Steel Paint Cans                                             7% Polystyrene                                                     4% Plastic Laminants                                          3% There has not been much progress in this group over the last 16 years of data. Paper laminants have gone from an estimated 1% to 9%; plastic film from 6% to 10%; plastic laminants from 1% to 3% and polystyrene from 3% to 4%. The recovery of steel paint cans has fallen significantly, down from 23%. By broader material grouping, paper (72%), glass (68%) and steel (62%) scored a B; aluminum (41%) a C; and plastics (30%) a D. These material rankings and the progress (or lack of progress) shown since 2003 should form the basis of current discussions over the future of Ontario’s Blue Box system. It is doing well in some respects but poorly in others. Why this is so, and how to address the “under-performers” (let alone set targets!), are key issues as we move ahead Source: PPEC  

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  Analysis of Stewardship Ontario Blue Box data between 2003 and 2018

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John Mullinder

Executive Director Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council (PPEC)

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