News / Ottawa

City confident in Stewardship Ontario's "aggressive" transition timeline

The city says it could potentially be fully transitioned to an industry-led recycling program by the end of next year.

Frank Matys/Metroland

City staff acknowledged that their blue box and green bin programs are not working as well as they could be, but are hesitant to make significant changes to the blue box program as it awaits changes at the provincial level.

As part of the Waste Free Ontario Act passed in 2016, the province is planning to transition the blue box program to be fully run by Stewardship Ontario, an industry-run organization.

But there are plenty of questions about how quickly that plan can be implemented. Originally, the province identified the blue box transition as one of the more complicated programs to implement. But this past summer, things were accelerated, and a final report is expected to hit the minister’s desk next February.

City staff are bullish on the new timeline, and say they could be implementing the new program as early as next year—and are holding off on new plans for the blue box program, which is still municipally-run.

“We potentially could be transitioning in 2018,” said Marilyn Journeaux, director of solid waste services. “So, it’s a bit of the cart before the horse. We’ll have to see what the province is proposing before we see what we can undertake.”

Kevin Wylie, head of public works, called the Stewardship Ontario timeline “aggressive” but acknowledged that there was willingness from municipalities to move quickly on it.

Staff also suggested that promotion of the recycling program will become an industry responsibility. “The onus will be on them to meet those targets,” said Journeaux. This year, the city has spent $350,000 on promoting its green bin and blue box programs.

Critics of the city’s waste diversion efforts say that it is unlikely that the transition plan will be as clear as the city thinks it will be when a final report is released next February.

“All that’s going to happen in February is the minister is going to get a report and a recommendation,” said Duncan Bury of Waste Watch Ottawa. “That then goes to ministry staff, they then have to start responding and reviewing it.”

With a provincial election looming shortly after the final report is sent to the minister, will there be enough time to pass the regulations before the writ is issued?

“Not going to happen,” said Bury, noting that when British Columbia transitioned to an industry-run recycling program, it took a number of years before the transition was complete.

Wylie said that Ottawa is well positioned to be an early adopter of the new program, since it doesn’t own its recycling facility, but that the specifics hadn’t been decided upon yet. Council will also need to approve various aspects of the transition before it can be implemented.

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