Environment Minister Jeff Yurek says that in 2023, a year after the next provincial election, the costs of Ontario’s 240 municipal Blue Box programs will start to be borne by the companies that generate packaging waste.

Ontario municipalities are welcoming a provincial plan to shift responsibility for blue-box recycling to companies that produce packaging and other waste, but some environmentalists are skeptical.

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said Thursday that starting in 2023, one year after the next provincial election, waste producers will start funding and operating some of Ontario’s 240 municipal blue-box programs, with province-wide implementation by the end of 2025.

“Transitioning the Blue Box program to full producer-responsibility will promote innovation and increase Ontario’s recycling rates, while saving taxpayers money,” said Yurek, who stressed he wants a “seamless” transitio,n so residents don’t notice any reduction in curbside service.

The timetable, guidelines and goals for a program similar to B.C.’s producer-pay model — that is to say industry-run and -funded, with provincewide blue-bin rules — were developed by Ontario special adviser David Lindsay, who consulted local governments, waste producers and recycling companies.

Under a patchwork of collectibles and rules, Ontario’s municipalities now pay about half of recycling costs. Companies pay the rest through an agency called Stewardship Ontario.

Falling recycling revenues, after China closed the door to all but the most pristine materials, have sent collection costs soaring, prompting concern over the viability of blue-box services. Curbside recycling collection cost Toronto about $20 million last year.

The province is launching consultations and starting to write regulations to address thorny issues, such as targets for diverting waste from landfill, whether producers alone decide what is deemed recyclable, and what happens to recycling plants and trucks now owned by municipalities.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario, representing 444 local governments, not including Toronto, applauded the move toward producer-pay, which previous provincial governments had planned, but never executed.

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