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Blue Box Recycling: Who’s performing and who’s not

The Paper & Paperboard Packaging Environmental Council analyzes blue box performance in Ontario


We’ve also looked back to see how much printed paper and packaging was sent for recycling in 2003 to discern any improvements or otherwise. It was in 2003 that industry stewards (brand owners and retailers) first became legally obligated to fund 50 percent of Ontario Blue Box net costs and began collecting this data.

Here are the rankings with some historical perspective thrown in:

A 81-100%

Corrugated Boxes                                          98%

Magazines, Catalogues                               89%

Recovery for these materials was estimated at 72 percent back in 2003 so they have done very well. This is the fourth year in a row that corrugated box recovery has reached 98 percent.

B 61-80%

Old Newspapers                                             80%

Old Telephone Books                                    75%

Clear Glass                                                      72%

Steel Food & Beverage Cans                        70%

Old Boxboard Cartons                                   62%

The largest improvement in recovery percentage since 2003 has been for old boxboard cartons (up from 42 percent) followed by steel food and beverage cans (up from 53 percent) and clear glass (up from 57 percent).

C 41 – 60%

Coloured Glass                                               57%

Gable Top Cartons                                        56%

PET Plastic Bottles                                       55%

HDPE Plastic Bottles                                    54%

Aluminium Food & Beverage Cans            47%

Gable-top cartons have jumped from 10 percent back in 2003 to 56 percent but the others in this group have only made marginal improvements (between four and six points). The percentage of coloured glass sent for recycling has fallen four points over the period.

D 21-40%

Other Printed Paper                                      38%

Other Plastics                                                 34%

Steel Aerosols                                                31%

Aseptic Cartons                                             30%

The biggest improvements in this group were Other Plastics (up from six percent) and Aseptic Cartons (up from 10 percent) in 2003. There is clearly an opportunity to promote greater recovery of printing and writing paper. It should not be scoring a D here!

E 1-20%

Plastic Film                                                     10%

Paper Laminants                                            9%

Steel Paint Cans                                             7%

Polystyrene                                                     4%

Plastic Laminants                                          3%

There has not been much progress in this group over the last 16 years of data. Paper laminants have gone from an estimated one percent to nine percent; plastic film from six percent to 10%; plastic laminants from on percent to three percent and polystyrene from three percent to four percent. The recovery of steel paint cans has fallen significantly, down from 23 percent.

By broader material grouping, paper (72 percent), glass (68 percent) and steel (62 percent) scored a B; aluminum (41 percent) a C; and plastics (30 percent) a D.

These material rankings and the progress (or lack of progress) shown since 2003 should form the basis of current discussions over the future of Ontario’s Blue Box system. It is doing well in some respects but poorly in others. Why this is so, and how to address the “under-performers” (let alone set targets!), are key issues as we move ahead.


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