Ontario’s Transition to EPR Nears One-year Milestone

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Technological Advancements and Strategic Innovations Set to Revolutionize the Recycling Experience Across Ontario by 2026

Building on achievements in 2023, July 1, 2024, will mark the one-year milestone since Circular Materials, a national not-for-profit producer-led organization, kick-started Ontario’s transition to extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging and paper material – the first step towards enhanced recycling across the province. This underscores Circular Materials’ commitment to technological advancements and strategic innovation that will help to enhance and harmonize recycling across the province. 

EPR represents a fundamental change in which producers – the businesses supplying paper and packaging to residents – take responsibility of funding and managing the end-of-life management of materials. 

As the administrator of Ontario’s common collection system, Circular Materials is responsible for operating this new EPR system for blue box materials. Through strategic investments and innovative solutions, Circular Materials is dedicated to advancing the blue box system and fostering environmental stewardship across Ontario. Our commitment to responsible resource management and collaboration with stakeholders underscores our efforts to build a system centered around optimizing the recycling system for Ontarians.

Optimizing the recycling system includes leveraging technological advancements that will modernize the system and play a pivotal role in enhancing efficiency and accuracy. Innovations such as AI enabled cameras and optical sorters equipped with advanced sensors will revolutionize recycling collection and sortation. These technological innovations offer unparalleled precision and improved efficiency while simultaneously reducing contamination levels. Transparency will be improved through data from material audits, centralized administration, and enhancements to supply chain system design – all critical for enhancing the recycling system.

Historically, Ontario’s Blue Box program was operated by municipalities and First Nations communities who were responsible for paying about half of the costs of the program, with producers responsible for the other half. Under the new Blue Box Regulation, producers will be responsible for fully operating and funding the program. This transition to EPR is taking place between 2023 and 2025, with full EPR implementation across Ontario starting January 1, 2026.

“Circular Materials is pleased to lead Ontario’s journey towards establishing a streamlined recycling framework that will deliver tangible results and benefit residents, communities, and the environment,” stated Allen Langdon, CEO of Circular Materials. “Starting in 2026, Ontarians can expect the implementation of a convenient, consistent, and effective recycling system that will improve recycling rates and drive positive change for generations to come.”

Starting in 2026, Ontarians can expect to see a standardized list of accepted recyclable materials throughout Ontario, ensuring uniformity across all communities. Whether at home or travelling for work or leisure, residents can count on an easy and consistent recycling experience.

Circular Materials is committed to ensuring a stronger and more effective blue box framework that will promote greater innovations in recycling technologies and a circular economy where materials are collected, recycled, and returned to producers for use as recycled content in new products and packaging. The process of returning materials directly to producers through EPR, is a unique approach not yet implemented anywhere else in the world. This new process will be piloted this year and has been made possible through extensive collaborative partnerships across the supply chain, which Circular Materials has spearheaded in the last 12 months in Ontario and nationwide. Learn more

Quick Facts: 

  • On July 1, 2023, Circular Materials kick-started Ontario’s transition to EPR for packaging. This shift was a result of Ontario’s Blue Box Regulation which came into effect June 2021.
  • EPR represents a fundamental change in recycling management, with producers assuming responsibility for funding and managing end-of-life materials.
  • Over 400 blue box programs in Ontario are expected to transition to EPR in 2026. The specific transition date for each municipality is outlined in the Transition Schedule.
  • Ontarians can expect a revolutionized recycling experience, aimed at making recycling more convenient and consistent across the province, including a unified list of materials that are accepted in the blue box across all communities.
  • Circular Materials is facilitating the ability for producers to enable material to be returned directly to them for use as recycled content in new products and packaging. This innovative process, piloted this year, sets a global standard as we push toward excellence in achieving materials circularity.