In August 2017, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change requested the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) and Stewardship Ontario submit a proposal for an amended Blue Box Program.
The direction was characterized as the first phase transition for the Blue Box Program … and will set the stage for a second phase of transition that will result in individual producer responsibility under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act (RRCEA).
In short, the amended Blue Box Program Plan (a-BBPP) is intended to transition Ontario’s Blue Box Program from its current shared cost model between municipalities and producers to a full producer responsibility model.
Throughout October and November 2017, Stewardship Ontario and RPRA held consultations with various stakeholders groups and presented information and considerations that will make up the a-BBPP. RCO has composed a preliminary response on several aspects of the a-BBPP that were offered during Stewardship Ontario consultations, which was submitted on Nov. 29, 2017.
On Dec. 22, 2017 Stewardship Ontario released a full and detailed draft plan with comment due Jan. 15, 2018.
In response to Stewardship Ontario, RCO joined a coalition of 11 organizations to provide a unified submission to the amended Blue Box Program Plan (PDF), and a joint letter with six of those organizations on the Program Agreement (PDF).
Highlights of coalition a-BBPP submission
- The proposed a-BBPP does not reflect or incorporate many recommendations that the coalition put forth during the consultation period.
- Details regarding scope, material and performance definitions, measurement methodologies, and verification protocols are essential to judge the merits of an a-BBPP, and there is a delay in the development of critical contractual templates, including Statements of Work, Master Service Agreements, collection service requirements, and contamination protocols only after it is approved.
- There are little clarity regarding defined preferred management options, nor indications on how environmental outcomes will be measured, reported, and verified. Commitments to reach targets are delayed to nine years from Plan approval.
- One of the objectives of the Waste-Free Ontario Act is to wind down the current Industry Funding Organization model to all individual stewards to choose how best to meet their obligations, however, the proposed a-BBPP and associated timelines potentially entrench and further invest in the existing structure and potentially hinders the ultimate goal to transition to the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act.
- As drafted the a-BBPP grants unilateral control to Stewardship Ontario well before full producer responsibility is achieved. Until the current municipally operated Blue Box Program can be successfully transitioned to individual producer responsibility, more balanced controls are necessary for the protection of stakeholders. This resulting decision-making structure is unacceptable, and should be revised to ensure decision structure includes strong role for the RPRA in the transition framework.
- There is a lack of detail on defining problematic and non-targeted material, and the necessary incentives to promote innovation and redesign. Difficult to recycle materials, those that cause contamination for other materials, the a-BBPP only outlines possible actions without clear timelines or clarity on how it will be addressed.
- An independent body should be established as a clearinghouse to ensure fair access to obligated PPP under existing collection and processing contracts through the transition to individual producer responsibility.
- Despite having a broader list of obligated materials, the a-BBPP proposed to scope down the standardized list of targeted materials for collection. No details of the obligated or standardized list of materials collected or rationale for the delta between the two.
- The a-BBPP should include an expanded definition of obligated PPP that encompasses paper and plastic products successfully managed in organics (“green bin”) programs.
- Where obligated PPP cannot be included in Blue Box collection programs alternative management options for these materials should be implemented and paid for by stewards.
- Include in the a-BBPP an intent to recognize and reward stewards that self-managed obligated materials, as long as it is in keeping with required performance standards and provide a mechanism for credit toward their producer pay-in fees.
Comments on SO/RPRA Draft Program Agreement
- It is critical that the Program Agreement identify those decisions that may have a material effect on the objectives of the Minister’s letter and in those cases provide mechanisms for comprehensive stakeholder consultations.
- Until the current municipally operated Blue Box system can be successfully transitioned to Individual Producer Responsibility, more balanced and transparent controls are needed for the protection of all stakeholders.
- It is important for all stakeholders that decisions are not made in the guise of “program management” that ultimately entrench SO as the only option for stewards.
Stewardship Ontario to submit final plan to RPRA.
RPRA to vote on proposal plan: February 8.
Final submission due to the Minister February 15.