Some looming questions for Ontario’s Blue Box program

Ontario municipalities are currently filling out the annual data surveys that provide all sorts of information on the various materials recovered in the provincial Blue Box recycling system, and the costs for doing so. This information will then be collated and analysed with other data from stewards’ reports and selective waste audits before all the numbers are crunched and steward fees for next year determined. There are some interesting questions and data that we will be looking for over the coming months:

      • Is it “good enough” that the container stream (plastic, glass and metal packaging) has only just reached a 44% recovery rate, after eight years of industry-funded EPR? The fibre stream, on the other hand, is already at 73 per cent.  Is it “good enough” that “packaging” as a whole, has only just got to 50% over the same eight-year period? What implications, if any, does this Ontario trend have for the proposed BC and Saskatchewan EPR programs? On how residential materials are collected? On how soon recycling targets are likely to be met?
      • Will the newspaper decline continue? Residential generation of newspapers in Ontario has tumbled about 10% over the last eight years because of the impact of the internet and younger generations who don’t get their news from newspapers any more. But in the last data year (2011), there was a slight uptick. Will newspaper generation stabilise?
      • Will corrugated and boxboard packaging generation continue to close the gap, and actually exceed newspaper generation within five years? Certainly there will be more corrugated and boxboard available to be captured, because their current capture rates are lower than that of old news. What implications does the changing fibre mix have for collection and processing? Some municipalities are not asking for old news any more, just old corrugated (OCC) and mixed paper. How long will it be before material recovery facilities (MRFs) do a positive sort for news rather than the current negative sort?
      • What are the implications of the massive under-recovery of plastics packaging (almost 60% of container generation but only 26% recovered), and will this continue? Isn’t now a good time to push for separate (paper) fibre and container streams? There is adequate evidence that two-stream collection is cheaper; that it produces less contaminated product and therefore higher revenues; that it’s simple for householders (fibres one week, containers the next); and that alternating fibre and container collection can fit neatly around garbage and organics collection systems.

Bring on the data!

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