Eganville – Big changes in the blue box recycling program are coming, but most individuals won’t even notice them.

Between July 2023 to the end of December 2025, all municipalities in Ontario will transition their blue box program to a new collection model whereby the companies that produce blue box materials will be required to fully fund and operate the recycling system. It will no longer be part of the municipal taxes.

Sue McRae, General Manager of the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre (OVWRC) in Laurentian Valley Township, explained the new program to members of North Algona Wilberforce Township council last Tuesday night and said Emterra Renfrew has been selected to handle the recycling services for the City of Pembroke, Town of Petawawa and townships of Laurentian Valley and North Algona Wilberforce, the founding members of the OVWRC.

She explained new legislation was passed in 2016 making producers fully accountable and financially responsible for end-of-life management of their product and packaging materials.

“Producers are the brand holders, importers or retailers of products that contain blue box materials — any company that supplies container packing, paper products into the Ontario market, including through online sales, food products, fast food packaging.

“This is like your Loblaws, Pepsi, Coke, McDonalds, Proctor and Gamble, Maple Leaf, Canadian Tire, all of those big names.”

Going forward, she said the large producers will be paying the cost of collecting and processing recyclables. The producers have created a new company called Circular Materials Ontario (CMO), a non-profit company to solely help them meet their legislative obligations.

“There are 376 municipalities in the province that must transition to the new system,” she said. “The transition started in July 2023 and must be completed by December 31, 2025.

“In our case, the partners of the Ottawa Valley Waste Recovery Centre (OVWRC) … transition on March 28, 2025, which will see significant changes.”

CMO released a Request For Proposals (RFP) for the processing and transferring of recyclables in June 2022. It was just one component where the material is sent for processing and then collection will fall into place after that.

In July 2022, the Waste Recovery Centre Board passed a motion authorizing the general manager to collaborate in good faith with interested parties on the preparation of proposal submissions to the RFP issued by CMO for the establishment and operation of receiving facilities within Renfrew County, it being the board’s intent to negotiate a lease of the centre’s recycling facilities with the successful proponent.

“We didn’t know who (which company) CMO was going to hire to look after the processing in this area, so we knew there were two companies interested in putting in a proposal – one being Miller Waste and the other being Emterra which has a processing facility in Renfrew County now,” Ms. McCrae said.

“We partnered with both of them and helped with their submissions to CMO. It was totally up to CMO who in fact they awarded the RFP to.”

At the end of September, staff were able to present to the board a completed agreement with Emterra and they have now been issued the contract. OVWRC has also agreed to lease out the building where they now handle recycling as well as sell Emterra all of the centre’s processing equipment.

“This facility has been in operation for 23 years and although equipment has been kept in very good shape, it’s still not new for sure,” Ms. McCrae said. “There was also  some rolling stock specific to that operation and all of that is going to be purchased by Emterra.”

She said when the waste board first heard about the new legislation, members were concerned about being left with stranded assets.

“Who is going to buy second-hand equipment and how are we going to get it out of the centre?” she asked. “The fact of moving it out of the centre was of big concern to us.”

However, Emterra has agreed to purchase OVWRC’s recycling equipment for $360,000 and also lease the building for seven years with a possibility of three additional one-year terms.

Emterra will also pay for the utilities for the processing operation and property taxes, and also a fee for the use of the weigh scales.

The lease is set to begin on December 1, 2024.

Financial Impacts

Ms. McCrae explained Emterra will be setting new tipping fees for industrial and commercial users of the system and warned they will be much higher than at present.

“I am estimating they will probably double and maybe triple because the private sector cannot do this processing for the same cost the centre has been able to do it all these years,” she said. “We own the equipment, we have the expertise. It’s going to cost a lot more. There’s no profit margin for the centre, but during that time the centre will still receive blue box funding from the province.”

That funding is currently $690,000 a year. From January until the end of April, when tipping fees are expected to be higher, the centre will receive about $230,000 in funding. On top of that, there will also be lease revenue of another $41,000 for a total of $271,000 in revenue during that period.

“What we have proposed to the board is that they use that money to subsidize the cost for the municipal partners so that it doesn’t impact your budget until the transition actually takes place,” she said. “The issue with that is the centre currently manages the residential recycling but also manages other sources of generators and these non-eligible sources with the new provincial legislation include industrial or commercial properties, not-for-profit, daycares, places of worship, campgrounds and commercial farms.

“These people will still have an opportunity to come into the center to have a business relationship with Emterra and pay the tipping fees Emterra is going to charge. So you need to be aware there is going to be an impact on the non-eligible sources. That’s the legislation. There is nothing we can do about that.”

She said the goal of the legislation is to standardize recycling across the province and increase the amount of material that is diverted.

She said there will be significant changes to how the province of Ontario recycles in the future.

“They are talking about increasing the types of materials that are expected and I think at that time they will be looking at other sources, not just residential,” she said. “They have to get recycling tonnage from the industrial/commercial sector in order to meet the provincial targets for diversion.”

Staff Implications

There are 11 part-time staff and one full-time sorter affected by the change to Emterra. They were notified at the end of October they will be laid off.

“We have been totally open with staff during negotiations with Emterra so the letter was not a surprise,” Ms. McCrae said. “In the letter, the board allowed us to include an attendance bonus system so the staff that stay until the end of the transition period have the opportunity to get some additional financial compensation. It is Emterra’s intention to hire as many people as possible, so they could come out of it still with a good position.”

Other operations at the centre will not be impacted by this change.

“All of our other operations will continue as currently provided,” she said. “With any luck, the goal is that there will be no change for the customer. It should be service as usual.”

She said CMO will have to provide some type of collection service through a depot system for NAW. “Whether it’s one depot or three depots or whatever, it will be based on population, but at some point, they are going to have to come to you and say we need to provide depots to service this community. It won’t be on your dime anymore, but the frequency or the location of the depots, the hours and that, might be different from what you are having now.”