WELLINGTON COUNTY – The County of Wellington is a little more than a year out from its blue box program’s transition to full producer responsibility but the county’s solid waste services is preparing for what this will mean for residents, businesses and itself.
In 2021, the province announced municipal blue box programs will transition to full producer responsibility, a system where producers of printed paper and packaging are responsible for managing and funding all aspects of residential recycling across Ontario by Jan. 1, 2026.
Producer responsibility organizations (PRO) have been set up with the largest being Circular Materials which has signed on the most and largest producers and is generating rules which will apply to transitioning communities.
A solid waste services report estimates annual savings of $1.8 million to $2 million when 100 per cent of recycling program costs are compensated for.
The County of Wellington’s blue box program is set to transition to producer responsibility on July 1, 2025 with a six month transition period through to Dec. 31, 2025.
“It is expected that the majority of Wellington County residents will not observe any substantial changes during the transition period,” the report says.
It is expected Circular Materials will finalize an agreement with the county’s curbside collection contractor to continue to provide services through this transition period, meaning collection will remain on the same day it currently is.
PROs will from this point be responsible for any promotion, education, inquiries and complaints about recycling and no longer the county.
Beyond residential recycling, PROs will also be responsible for recycling at schools, municipal or not-for-profit long term care and retirement homes, parks and playgrounds and transit stations.
As of Jan. 1, 2026, the county report says residents will experience notable changes to recycling services.
Blue box programs will become expanded and standardized across the province.
It is expected residents will be provided with large, wheeled recycling carts for storage and pick-up. Collection days will also change for a majority of residents.
Recycling sources not being handled by the PROs include:
- Municipal buildings and facilities
- Industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) organizations including business improvement areas
- Places of worship
- Not-for-profit organizations
“Businesses and many institutions may lose access to recycling services. Municipalities are being offered the opportunity to utilize curbside collection crews under contract with Circular Materials to continue to provide collection to IC&I organizations along collection routes, at a cost,” the report says, and this will be for the transition period only.
PROs will also not be funding recycling at waste facilities in municipalities with existing curbside collection services, meaning the county would need to have an agreement with a PRO at a cost to the county.
After Jan. 1, 2026, municipalities wishing to maintain recycling depot services or IC&I collection will do so at their own cost.
County council will need to decide if the county should have a role in recycling post-transition and what that should be.
The report says potential options for limited recycling services for residents and businesses include:
- Allow residents and/or businesses to use depots for recycling disposal
- Establish business recycling collection routes in downtown areas
These options will be available with limited support from PROs during the transition period but not after Jan. 1, 2026.
“Circular Materials is asking municipalities to indicate whether they will offer recycling services during the transition period by March 15, 2024,” the report says, adding this is a non-binding decision. “As staff have not received any information from Circular Materials related to the terms of these potential agreements, it is not possible to cost out these potential service options at this time.”
Once cost estimates are developed, staff will return to the solid waste services committee and county council with options.
Staff anticipate this will happen in the spring.