Last August, the Province announced a new recycling program that will improve its effectiveness and will transfer responsibility from municipalities to the “Producers”, that is to the companies that design, create and market packaging, paper and paper products. The program should reduce the amount of plastic finding its way into waterways and oceans and will be phased in between Jan 2023 and December 2025. When operational, the cost of all recycling will transfer away from the County and save almost $3M per year. At their next Council meeting on 17 June, County Council will be asked to approve a staff recommendation to begin the transition on 1 January 2023 and to adopt Option 2 of three alternative scenarios. More detail below.
The reason for the early date is to enable the sale of the MRF (Material Recovery Facility) in Grafton to a Producer entity who will be doing recycling and also to realize savings as soon as possible.
To be clear, the companies producing the waste will be responsible for recycling it – including the cost of doing that.
Work is in three phases:
- Wind-up plan to be submitted to the Province by 31 August 2020 and approved by the end of 2020.
- Planning, preparation and development of an implementation plan over the period of January 1, 2021 through to December 31, 2022.
- Transition phase planned to be implemented and expected to commence no sooner than January 1, 2023 and be completed by no later than December 31, 2025
All municipalities with a population more than 5000 are required to have Blue Box and Yard waste programs. As a result, there are 240 separately designed and managed Blue Box Recycling programs in the Province. Up to 30% of Blue Box content ends up in landfills. In 2016, the Waste-Free Ontario Act required producers to be responsible for their products and accountable for recovering resources and diverting their materials from landfill.
In 2018 and 2019, this was taken further with the following objectives:
- Standardization across the Province of what can be recycled in offices, parks, public spaces and homes;
- Improve diversion rates and increase what materials can be recycled;
- Reduce litter and waste in communities and parks;
- Improve Ontario’s Blue Box program by requiring producers to pay for the recycling of the products they produce, through achieving producer responsibility; and
- Maintain or improve frequency of Blue Box collection.
The three implementation options considered by staff were (summarized):
- No Longer Providing Blue Box Recycling Services – that is, sell the MRF and do none of the services related to Blue Box recyclables.
- Continue to Provide Collection, but Cease MRF Operations – that is, sell the MRF but continue to administer and oversee a contract to have Blue Box recyclables collected from residents. Some efficiencies gained with one large collection contract for Recyclables, Organic Waste, and Leaf & Yard Waste versus a collection contract that did not include the collection of Blue Box materials.
- Continue to Provide Collection and Processing of Blue Box Material. The County would bid on, and compete against the private sector for a processing Contract, and that contract would also likely require the County to process more than just recyclable materials from within the County. The County would have to enter into a contract with Producers and assume the risks associated with the terms and conditions of that contract.
It was noted that Options 1 and 2 would lead to the loss of 30 full time and 11 part time positions. If the MRF is sold as an operating entity, many of these jobs might be saved. This is one reason to transition early so that the MRF could be sold as an operating entity instead of being dismantled.
Staff recommend that the transition begins on 1 January 2023 and to adopt Option 2. County Council will approve this (or not) at their meeting on June 17.
The transition date is not firm – it would be a recommendation/request to the Province.
Also note that this change will not affect garbage collection – only recycling.
Update – 17 June 2020
At the County Council meeting on 17 June 2020, some items were clarified:
- The Council motion simply expresses preferences and intention and is not binding. Producers and the Province will have the final say.
- Option 1 where the County fully exits recycling is entirely under the control of the County but Options 2 and 3 depend on successful negotiations between the County and the Producers. So the County does not in fact have any guarantee that their preference will be honoured.
- There would be no penalty for any changes to current contracts that the County has with recycling contractors.
- The MRF is significantly smaller than usual for such facilities (a ratio of 18 to 50) so the MRF may not be attractive to a potential buyer. Also private wages are lower than paid by the County.
- Current MRF employees have been notified of what’s happening.
- Council passed the recommended motion with Option 2 but understands that if negotiations are not successful, then Option 1 will be the fall back.