Ontario embracing a Circular Economy

Is your municipality already part of the new Blue Box Regulation? Many Ontario communities are using this new recycling program which changes the types of materials being recycled and collected. This regulation is under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, as part of the Government of Ontario’s Strategy for a Waste Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy.

What is changing?

With the new system, companies that produce blue box materials, rather than municipalities, will be required to fully fund and operate the recycling system. The goal is to create less waste through a circular economy and make the producers accountable and financially responsible for the products.

In July 2023, certain communities in Ontario began transitioning to this the new system and by 2026, the transition will be complete. Communities throughout Ontario will be able to recycle more types of materials which will be the same across the province. In the Blue Box Regulation, an eligible community is any local municipality, local services board or registered First Nation that is not in the Far North.

Check this document to see the eligible communities and transition dates.

What is a Circular Economy?

“A Circular Economy is an economy in which participants strive to:

    1. minimize the use of raw materials;

    2. maximize the useful life of materials and other resources through resource recovery; and

    3. minimize waste generated at the end-of-life of products and packaging.”

(Source: Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016)

How does this Impact Public Libraries?

While more materials have been added to the list of recyclable items, there are some changes that impact public libraries across Ontario. The list of paper products does not include hard and soft cover books and hardcover periodicals which are not able to be recycled under the new system.

Weeded paper material in poor condition that are currently thrown in the blue box will now be going to the landfill – as garbage waste. This article about Peterborough Public Library shares their experience.

What can be recycled?

There are eligible paper materials that can be recycled under the new system such as:

    • paper products like newspapers,
    • magazines
    • notebooks
    • catalogues
    • promotional materials
    • general use paper.

If the books are still in good condition, libraries can consider giving them a second life through sale at a Friends of the Library Booksale or another library fundraiser.

They can also be donated to other nonprofit organizations such as Goodwill Industries or Habitat for Humanity once they are properly weeded and stripped of library barcodes and labelling.

Environmental sustainability is an important goal for public libraries as they participate in this new system. Libraries should consider the impact the Blue Box Regulation and plan for waste management as they weed their collections.

As this new system is well underway, what are some other ways that your library contributes to sustainability efforts?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.