Frequently Asked Questions

Circular Materials is a national producer-led not for profit organization that supports producers in meeting their obligations under extended producer responsibility regulations across Canada.  We are committed to building efficient and effective recycling systems to minimize waste, and ensure materials are reused again and again. Through the support of our founders and member producers, Circular Materials is implementing a national harmonized approach focused on improving recovery rates, meeting the needs and expectations of consumers, and protecting the natural environment.

Circular Materials was established in 2021 by Canada’s leading food, beverage, and consumer products manufacturers, retailers, and restaurants to design a blue box recycling system in Ontario that advances innovation, increases performance and delivers improved environmental outcomes. 

With plans to expand into New Brunswick and beyond, Circular Materials represents the evolution from product stewardship to a more circular economy where materials are collected, recycled and returned to producers for use as recycled content in new products and packaging. More material looped into the circular economy means less waste, which not only benefits consumers, but also the planet.

There is no upfront cost to joining Circular Materials. The Circular Materials’ Board of Directors is collaborating with producers on the development of a fee-setting methodology that fairly allocates costs among participant producers.

Circular Materials and RLG are collaborating to provide participant producers with comprehensive and best practice reporting and compliance services. RLG operates the reporting portal where producers register with Circular Materials and report packaging, paper products and packaging-like products supplied each year.

RLG will also manage the system to track quantities of packaging and paper materials collected and managed, including an integrated IT system for subcontractor collection, transfer, processing, and recycling order management (track and trace), based on regulatory and producer requirements.

Ontario FAQs

The Blue Box Regulation requires approximately 250 local Blue Box programs currently operated by municipalities and First Nations communities to be transitioned to full producer responsibility between July 1, 2023 until January 1, 2026. Producers will be fully responsible for Ontario’s Blue Box system as of the beginning of transition (July 1, 2023).

A Producer Services Agreement (PSA) is an agreement that sets out Circular Materials’ full suite of service obligations to producers, including meeting compliance requirements. It also outlines subscribing producer obligations to Circular Materials, such as reporting the quantity of consumer supplied packaging and paper material and producer fees.

Although Ontario’s transition does not begin until July 1, 2023, the procurement of collection services will need to begin in 2022. Producers are responsible for establishing the collection system and managing packaging and paper material collected from it. The PSA outlines how Circular Materials will meet these obligations on behalf of producers.

Circular Materials is already working to establish an efficient recycling supply chain built on enhanced collection, optimized sortation and greater access to recycled content. Joining Circular Materials now allows producers to actively participate in the design of this system through our Producer Working Group. For more information about the Working Group, click here.

A list of registered producers can be found on RPRA’s website here.
The last invoice for the 2024 reporting year will be due in October 2025. Since transition will begin in 2023, the total producer obligation is forecast to decrease each year thereafter. Click here for more details on the windup of Stewardship Ontario.

You will report the same data to Circular Materials and the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA), but the format may be different.

RPRA requires supply data by the six performance categories set out in the Blue Box Regulation: Paper, Rigid Plastic, Flexible Plastic, Glass, Metal and Beverage Containers, as well as data for certified compostable products and packaging for each of the five standards listed in RPRA’s Audit and Verification Procedure.

To assess the fair allocation of material collection costs and commodity revenue among participant producers, Circular Materials requires that you report more than the six performance categories. To support Circular Materials reporting on your behalf, it will map its longer list of material categories to the six performance categories and certified compostable products and packaging so that your data is organized into the format required by RPRA.

In Ontario, producers with less than $2 million in annual revenue are only required to keep records. Producers with more than $2 million in annual revenue but which supply less than the prescribed minimum threshold levels of Blue Box materials to Ontario consumers are required to register with RPRA, report information as set out in the Blue Box Regulation and keep records, but are exempt from collection, management and promotion and education requirements.

The determination of a Producer is outlined in Part II of the Blue Box Regulation.
  1. If your company supplies packaging to consumers in Ontario and is the brand holder resident in Canada, your company is the Producer as the brand holder.
  2. If your company is resident in Ontario and imports packaging for which there is no brand holder resident in Canada, your company is the Producer as the importer.
  3. If these two situations do not apply, then the obligated Producer is the retailer.

If a retailer is determined to be the Producer based on the hierarchy, but they are a marketplace seller, the marketplace facilitator is the obligated producer. A marketplace facilitator is a person who contracts with a marketplace seller to facilitate the supply of the marketplace seller’s products by:

  1. owning or operating an online consumer-facing marketplace or forum in which the marketplace seller’s products are listed or advertised for supply and where offer and acceptance are communicated between a marketplace seller and a buyer (e.g., a website); and
  2. providing for the physical distribution of a marketplace seller’s products to the consumer (e.g., storage, preparation, shipping of products).

A marketplace seller is a person who contracts with a marketplace facilitator to supply its products.

Where the producer, determined by the hierarchy above, is a business operated as a franchise, the obligated producer is the franchisor if that franchisor has franchisees resident in Ontario. With respect to Blue Box packaging (primary, convenience and transport packaging, ancillary product or a service accessory), there are stipulations in the Blue Box Regulation on the addition of packaging to a product and who is the responsible party. When brand holders resident in Canada and importers resident in Ontario are identified as the producer, they are only obligated for the portion of the Blue Box packaging they added to the product. For example, if a retailer adds Blue Box packaging to a product for which there is a brand holder in Canada, the brand holder is responsible for their portion of the Blue Box packaging and the retailer is responsible for the portion of the Blue Box packaging they added.

There are three types of Blue Box materials in the Blue Box Regulation:

  • Blue Box packaging
    • primary packaging
    • transport packaging
    • convenience packaging service accessories
    • ancillary elements
  • Paper products
  • Packaging-like products

Obligated products and packaging are those primarily composed of glass, flexible or rigid plastic, metal, paper or a combination of these materials. There are some differences between what producers have been reporting to Stewardship Ontario under the Blue Box Program Plan and the data producers will be submitting to the RPRA Registry and to CMO through the Portal. The differences can be summarized under the following categories:

  • Changes to the definition of Producer;
  • Changes to the definition of Consumer;
  • Changes that result in an expansion of the scope of designated materials;
  • Changes that result in a reduction of the scope of designated materials; and
  • Changes to allowable deductions.
  • More information on each of these changes is in the FAQs below.

    Changes to the producer hierarchy may affect the Blue Box materials for which you are obligated. If this change affects you, the 2020 supply data you previously reported to Stewardship Ontario may require adjustments before reporting to RPRA and Circular Materials.

    Brand holders resident in Canada that supply Blue Box materials to consumers are obligated, which differs from the Stewardship Ontario Blue Box Program where brand holders resident in Ontario are obligated. Where there was no brand holder previously resident in Ontario and where there is a brand holder resident in Canada, this will shift the obligation from the importer in Ontario to the brand holder resident in Canada.

    Non-resident retailers supplying Blue Box materials to consumers directly are now captured as a producer if a brand holder resident in Canada or an importer resident in Ontario cannot be identified. If a marketplace seller is the retailer of Blue Box materials supplied to consumers and the marketplace seller has a contract with a marketplace facilitator, the marketplace facilitator is the obligated producer. This captures Blue Box materials supplied to consumers in Ontario by producers who were previously exempt.

    As producers are required to report the quantities of Blue Box material supplied to consumers, the definition of consumer is an important consideration in establishing which supplies are included in the reported quantities to RPRA and CMO. Since the definition of consumer for beverage containers includes supplies to persons that use the beverage and its container for personal, family, household or business purposes, all supplies of beverage containers supplied to the Ontario market are required to be reported in the gross quantities included in your Annual Producer Report.

    For all other Blue Box materials, only the materials supplied to persons that use the materials for personal, family or household purposes are to be reported. If the final end user of a product and its associated Blue Box material uses that product for their personal, family or household purposes, these materials are required to be included in your report, regardless of which sector these materials were distributed to or managed in.

    a. Paper Products

    • Unprinted paper has been added to designated materials expanding the scope from printed paper to include paper used for copying, writing or any other general use.

    b. Packaging-like Products

    • A packaging-like product is a product such as aluminum foil, a metal tray, plastic film, plastic wrap, wrapping paper, a paper bag, beverage cup, plastic bag, cardboard box or envelope, that has all the following characteristics:
      • The product is ordinarily used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery, presentation or transportation of a thing or things,
      • The product is ordinarily disposed of after a single use, whether or not it could be reused, and,
      • The product is not used as packaging when it is supplied to the end user. Packaging-like products do not include products made from flexible plastic that are ordinarily used for the containment, protection, or handling of food, such as cling wrap, sandwich bags, or freezer bags.

    c. Service Accessories (cutlery, straws, stir sticks, etc.)

    • Service accessories are products supplied with a food or beverage product and facilitate the consumption of that food or beverage product. They are ordinarily disposed of after a single use, whether or not they could be reused.
    • Reported quantities would not include supplies of service accessories that are sold as products to consumers for their subsequent use.
    • Service accessories are not limited to those made of rigid plastic and would include items made of paper, metal or certified compostable products and packaging.

    d. Durable Packaging

    • There is no longer an explicit exclusion of durable packaging.
    • Therefore, packaging such as CD cases, boxes for board games/puzzles and plastic power tool cases should be included in your Annual Producer Report.

    a. Containers in Household and Special Products (HSP) Regulation

    • Containers for products designated under the HSP Regulation (i.e. solvents, paints and coatings, fertilizers, pesticides, antifreeze) are excluded from the Blue Box Regulation.
    • Packaging and paper products associated with HSP that are not required to be reported under the HSP Regulation are captured by the Blue Box Regulation. This includes:
      • Corrugated and boxboard boxes
      • Shrink wrap
      • Plastic film
      • Printed paper

    b. Certified Compostable Products and Packaging
    While there is a reporting requirement to include the weight of certified compostable products and packaging in your Annual Producer Report to RPRA and CMO, there is no management target for these materials.

    c. Natural Textiles
    Natural textiles (i.e. textile packaging made of cotton, etc.) are excluded from the Blue Box Regulation and no longer required to be included in your Annual Producer Report.

    Under the Blue Box Regulation, two allowable deductions to the gross quantities of Blue Box materials can be reported to RPRA and CMO. These deductions will need to be reported separately from the gross quantities supplied for each Blue Box material reporting category. Allowable deductions are those Blue Box materials that are:

    • Deposited into a receptacle at a location that is not an eligible source and where the product related to the Blue Box material was supplied and used or consumed. For example, a cup supplied to be used by a customer and deposited into a receptacle at a fast-food restaurant.
    • Collected from an eligible source at the time a related product was installed or delivered. For example, packaging that is supplied with a new appliance and is removed from the household by a technician installing the new appliance.

    No other deductions are available to producers under the Blue Box Regulation, including Blue Box material taken out from a restaurant and subsequently disposed of at an office or another away from home location.

    Your management requirement is the portion of your supply in the previous year that you are obligated to manage in the next calendar year. Management requirements differ by material category. For the years 2026 to 2029 and then in 2030 and beyond, the Blue Box Regulation sets out the recovery percentage that must be met for each performance category. These recovery performance targets apply only to producers that supply more than the minimum amount listed in the following table per year. For the transition years 2023 to 2025, the Regulation requires that producers make best efforts to achieve the 2026 – 2029 Recovery Percentage prorated to reflect the phased transition schedule:

    • 2023: management requirement for each material category is reduced by two thirds;
    • 2024: management requirement for each material category is reduced by one third; and
    • 2025: management requirement for each material category is not reduced.

    • Recovering resources from the Blue Box materials supplied to consumers in Ontario.
    • Only materials that were re-marketed for use in new products or packaging (i.e., recycled) or for re-use in their original function can be counted towards recovery, unless used for aggregate (up to a maximum of 15% of the producer’s management requirement for any material category) or to support soil health or crop growth (e.g. from composting paper in combination with organic materials).
    • Materials used as fuel or directed to energy-from-waste, incineration or landfilling, cannot be counted towards management targets.
    • Materials must be counted towards a recovery target only once.
    • Recovery of materials from one category cannot be attributed to another category.
    • Recovered materials must be processed by a processor that is registered with RPRA.
    • Recovered resources must be processed within three months of collection.

    Starting in 2025, supply data for the quantity of Blue Box materials supplied in the 2024 calendar year reported to RPRA will be subject to an audit to verify accuracy. Documentation confirming audit verification must be submitted when supply data are reported to RPRA. The verification must include an opinion on the accuracy of the supply data and the qualifications of the verifier to provide the opinion. The verifier must:

    • assess and document the reasonableness of the producer’s methodology for determining the Blue Box material supply; and
    • obtain and review supporting evidence as required, including verification of certification of certified compostable products and packaging.

    Please refer to RPRA’s Blue Box Verification and Audit Procedure.

    Starting in 2027, for the years 2024 to 2026, and every three years after, the practices and procedures producers undertake to meet their management requirements must be audited against PART VI of the Blue Box Regulation and Section 51 (1) sub paragraphs 7 to 11. Supply data which forms the denominator for the calculation of management performance, the calculation methodology, methods to recover resources and weights recovered are included in the scope of the audit. Part VI of the Regulation sets out certain rules for recovery that must be followed and confirmed through an audit. In reaching an opinion, the auditor is expected to:

    • assess and document the reasonableness of the Blue Box producer’s methodology, or the PRO’s methodology where a producer has retained a PRO, to develop the data that is required to be prepared and submitted to the Authority; and
    • obtain and review supporting evidence, as required.
    • Circular Materials will arrange for a single audit report to be submitted on behalf of all our producer customers. Please refer to RPRA’s Blue Box Verification and Audit Procedure.

    New Brunswick FAQs

    The Designated Materials Regulation – Clean Environment Act provides a definition of “brand owner” that the Circular Materials Atlantic Stewardship Plan further defines to incorporate a hierarchy that is harmonized with the Ontario producer hierarchy.

    While similar, there are separate producer hierarchies used to determine the obligated producer for:

    1. Paper and packaging-like products that are supplied to consumers for their personal, family or household purposes.
    2. Packaging that is supplied to consumers for their personal, family or household purposes.

    Producer hierarchies work to ensure that the business actor with the closest connection to the designated packaging and paper is the responsible party.

    Both hierarchies prioritize responsibility on:

    1. The brand holder who is resident in Canada whose packaging and/or paper is supplied to New Brunswick consumers as the first person who would be responsible.
    2. Where no brand holder is resident in Canada, then the importer who supplied the packaging and/or paper who is resident in New Brunswick.
    3. Where no importer is resident in New Brunswick, then the retailer who supplied Blue Box materials to consumers in New Brunswick.

    Please see section 5.2 of the draft Stewardship Plan for a full explanation of the producer hierarchy.

    Producers are obligated to submit a Stewardship Plan by October 14, 2022 and begin the transition of municipal recycling programs to EPR six months following approval of the Stewardship Plan by Recycle New Brunswick. As the time between plan approval and plan implementation is only six months, Circular Materials will be planning for implementation in parallel with plan development. Joining Circular Materials now allows producers to actively participate in the design of the Stewardship Plan and planning for implementation through our Producer Working Group. For more information about the Working Group, click here.

    Producers subscribing with Circular Materials as their agent in New Brunswick will be required to report the quantity of consumer packaging and paper supplied in New Brunswick for 2021 between September 1 and October 31, 2022.

    Circular Materials will invoice producers for its services in New Brunswick once the Circular Materials Stewardship Plan is approved by Recycle New Brunswick.

    A producer needs to retain Circular Materials as its agent by entering into an agreement with Circular Materials. Circular Materials will be publishing two agreements: an Agency Agreement that covers only the period of Stewardship Plan development; and a Producer Services Agreement (PSA) that covers the period of Stewardship Plan development as well as the period of stewardship plan implementation.

    In New Brunswick, companies are exempt from the Regulation if they meet one of the following conditions:

    1. the brand owner generates less than two million dollars in gross annual revenue in New Brunswick;
    2. the brand owner manufactures, distributes, sells or offers for sale less than one tonne of packaging and paper annually in New Brunswick; or
    3. the brand owner is a charitable organization registered under the Income Tax Act (Canada).