Report to Council recommends preferred date for transition of local recycling system to producers

At the June 17, 2020 meeting of Northumberland County Council, staff will deliver a report recommending a preferred date for transitioning responsibility for the Northumberland recycling system to producers of packaging and paper products.

In August 2019, the Province announced plans to transition responsibility for the provincial recycling system from municipalities and First Nations over to producers. The Province’s intent with this shift is to make recycling easier for people and to ensure that the Blue Box program remains viable over the long-term by:

  • Ensuring a common collection system, province-wide;
  • Standardizing what goes into the Blue Box;
  • Setting province-wide effective diversion targets; and
  • Transitioning costs away from municipal taxpayers.

The transition to Producer Responsibility will happen over a three-year period beginning in 2023, with producers becoming fully responsible for providing recycling services province-wide by the end of 2025. The Province will decide when each municipality transitions during this period. In order to support the Province’s decision-making process, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario has asked municipalities to share their preferred date for this transition.

After a careful review of all aspects of recycling operations, County staff is recommending a preferred transition date of January 1, 2023. This transition will include winding down the County’s operation of the Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Grafton. Staff is recommending transition early in the process in order to best position the MRF for possible purchase by the private sector as an operating MRF, where recyclable materials can continue to be processed by the private sector following transition to Producer Responsibility.

“This recommendation is an opportunity to shape the outcomes of this transition for our community, including positioning the Material Recovery Facility for possible continued operation by the private sector, which would preserve some local employment opportunities,” states CAO Jennifer Moore. “The Province’s intent with this transition is, in part, to shift the costs of administering a recycling program away from municipal taxpayers, and the County will see an estimated savings of $2.97 million annually as a result. These dollars will be reinvested into the ongoing provision and innovation of waste services for our residents. This includes strengthening curbside collection programs and off-setting the significant costs of administering and maintaining the Brighton landfill and the eight closed county landfills; alleviating some of the pressure on the tax levy.”

The recommendation going before Council on June 17 also addresses the potential for continuing to administer collection of recycling on behalf of producers, post-transition. The County currently administers a contract for curbside collection of all residential waste and recycling in Northumberland, and will continue to provide collection of waste, green bin and leaf & yard waste following the launch of Producer Responsibility. Staff is recommending that the County seek to partner with producers to administer one large contract for all local waste and recycling collection, which is likely to generate favourable pricing for both the County and the producers due to economies of scale.

It is important to note that while staff is recommending this approach to timelines and future partnerships, the final decision on timing for transition and on recycling service contracts will ultimately rest with the Province and producers.

“Since 1991, Northumberland County has proudly offered recycling services to our residents, and we have been processing recyclable materials at our Material Recovery Facility (MRF) since 1996,” states Director of Transportation, Waste and Facilities Mo Pannu. “In that time, over 300,000 tonnes of recyclable materials have been diverted from our landfill though the MRF; a volume large enough to fill the Rogers Centre.

Our MRF colleagues have made this accomplishment possible through their hard work, resilience and dedication. We sincerely appreciate their contributions to our organization and our community. In the years leading up to the transition of the Northumberland recycling program, we will be focused on ensuring the team is supported throughout the process, and that our collaboration with producers results in a seamless transition of high quality recycling services for Northumberland residents.”

The full report on staff’s recommendation for a preferred date to transition to Producer Responsibility is included as part of the agenda for the upcoming meeting of County Council. 

Further details about plans for transition of the recycling system to Producer Responsibility are available on the Province's website