Solid Waste & Recycling


Recycling: Blue Box More!

Imagine this. Mom is standing at the kitchen counter holding an empty plastic food tub, wondering whether it goes into the recycling bin or the garbage. She doesn't have a clue where the recycling inf...

Imagine this. Mom is standing at the kitchen counter holding an empty plastic food tub, wondering whether it goes into the recycling bin or the garbage. She doesn’t have a clue where the recycling information card is that the city sent her months ago. Setting the container on the counter she walks to her home computer and Googles “” In seconds, she knows what to do and she tosses the container into her blue box. That was easy. is a new website in Ontario designed for easy access to what can be recycled in each municipal recycling program. Residents living in any part of the province can, with two mouse clicks, look up their municipality and then view a list of what is and isn’t accepted in each program. Two more quick clicks take them to a page describing where they can get new blue boxes. (Not having a sufficient number of boxes is often cited as a reason for poor recycling performance.)

If they are interested in delving more deeply into the benefits of recycling, another click takes them to a few pages where they can learn that recycling really does work and see a range of products made from recycled blue box materials.

For residents who want a closer look at how their municipal recycling and waste management program works, provides a “Visit Website” link that takes them directly to the page on their municipal website that addresses residential solid waste and recycling.

Born out of a multi-media project called “Recycling Works,” was developed by Stewardship Ontario, the industry funding organization that collects stewardship fees from industry and distributes the money to Ontario municipalities to pay a 50 per cent share of the net cost of the blue box recycling program. The full “Recycling Works” campaign includes the website along with two television commercials and three complementary print ads that have been carefully crafted to appeal directly to a target audience: women.

“Both focus groups and broader telephone surveys show definitively that in the majority of homes women make the decisions about what products are purchased and how to manage recycling,” reports Helene St. Jacques, president of Informa Market Research, who has conducted extensive social marketing research on household waste diversion behavior for a number of years.

Some of St. Jacques’ recent research formed the basis of two separate studies both funded under Stewardship Ontario’s Effectiveness and Efficiency (E&E) Fund. One was undertaken by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and aimed at understanding opportunities and barriers in multi-residential buildings; the other, with sponsorship from Greater Toronto Area municipalities, identified key messages and images that could be used in developing a television/print media campaign to promote improved recycling behavior.

In addition to identifying the target audience, the studies found that many householders, particularly those living in the multi-residential sector, didn’t have ready access to recycling educational information, such as the materials accepted in their recycling programs.

“We found that in the multi-residential sector, only about 30 per cent of the residents recalled receiving information about recycling and of those, only half said they still had it on hand. Despite this, apartment and condominium residents say they are willing to do better and I think that with a little encouragement and improved, convenient access to recycling bins and educational sources, they will,” St. Jacques says.

“That research led us to the idea of creating a universal website as part of the ‘Recycling Works’ campaign that would capture the most relevant household recycling information…what can and cannot be recycled and where to get another blue box…in one place,” said Geoff Love, who manages the E&E Fund for Stewardship Ontario. “The plan is to promote through various methods including, if we can get the funding approved, a television and print campaign.”

Love hopes to increase exposure to the website by encouraging municipalities to place the “Recycling Works” ads in their “in-kind” daily and community newspaper advertising space, made available through the Canadian Newspaper Association and Ontario Community Newspapers Association under the Blue Box Program Plan.

To ensure the information contained on is correct and municipally-approved, Stewardship Ontario has been contacting municipal recycling program staff.

“The response from municipalities has been overwhelmingly positive,” Love said. “We know we are headed in the right direction when we get comments back like ‘just checked your site — it’s fantastic! …you’re doing a wonderful thing!’

“Right now we’re making some adjustments to the site that have been suggested by municipalities such as adding municipal website links to the ‘what can be recycled’ pages,” he added. “We expect to have that work completed in the next few weeks.”

“Recycling Works” is a project funded under the Effectiveness and Efficiency (E&E) Fund. Each year for five years, 10 per cent of the total annual financial obligation to municipalities is set aside to fund cost-sharing projects designed to encourage greater effectiveness and efficiency in the municipal residential blue box system. In 2006, the fund amounted to almost $5.5 million. By the end of 2006, 66 new projects for an overall total of $12,392,308 had been approved.

Barbara McConnell is president of McConnell Weaver Communication Management and the project manager/developer of the “Recycling Works” campaign for Stewardship Ontario. Contact Barbara at and visit to view the website.

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