We were struck by a sentence in the recently released draft Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario. Not by what was said, but rather by what was not said.
In a chapter titled Transforming Ontario into a Leader, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change pays tribute to the Blue Box: “an internationally recognised recycling program (that’s) available in 97% of households and (that) keeps approximately 66% of residential printed paper and packaging from landfills.” All good and true. Then it gives the credit: “Residents, municipalities, businesses, and waste management companies are responsible for its ongoing success.”
What! No mention of end-markets? Where does the ministry think all this material goes to? Where’s the credit for companies like Atlantic and Abitibi/Resolute that pioneered the recycling of old newspapers in this province? Where’s the credit for Cascades/Norampac, Strathcona Paper and others, that pioneered packaging recycling in Ontario back in the 1990s, including being the first mills in the whole of North America to use and develop a market for old boxboard?
Every single packaging mill in Ontario now uses old corrugated boxes from industrial and/or residential sources to make new packaging, most of it 100% recycled content. All provide jobs to Ontarions. All pay municipal taxes. As for the Blue Box, paper materials represent 75% of what’s collected and 50% of total Blue Box revenues. And that’s just the paper end-markets. There have been end-market innovations with other materials as well.
We are not saying that municipalities and their residents, businesses (especially those that supported the early work of OMMRI, CSR and now Stewardship Ontario), or the waste haulers, have not played an important role in the Blue Box success story. They have. We just want some of the credit too! There is no great Circular Economy without us. Our importance needs to be recognised. Give us some love!