The Blue Box Regulation under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 designates blue box materials such as products and packaging, including packaging-like and paper products, under Ontario’s new regulatory framework for resource recovery.
The regulation makes producers fully accountable and financially responsible for their products and packaging once they reach their end of life and are disposed; sets mandatory and enforceable requirements for blue box collection systems; and gives producers choices for resource recovery services in a competitive market.
As of July 1, 2023, when municipalities and First Nation communities start transitioning their blue box programs to the new framework, blue box producers will become fully accountable and financially responsible for collecting and recycling their blue box materials when consumers discard them.
The current Blue Box Program administered by Stewardship Ontario on behalf of stewards under the Blue Box Program Plan and Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 will transition to the new regulatory framework for resource recovery starting on July 1, 2023 through to December 31, 2025. During the transition, Stewardship Ontario will continue to administer the program on behalf of stewards, and residents will not see any disruption in the blue box services provided by their municipalities and First Nation communities. Learn more about the transition.
Blue Box Materials
Products and packaging included in the Blue Box Regulation are those primarily composed of glass, flexible or rigid plastic, metal, paper or a combination of these materials. The regulation includes a separate category for beverage containers. Producers will also be required to report on certified compostable products and packaging, however, there are no collection or resource recovery requirements for certified compostable products and packaging.
Blue box materials are obligated when supplied to a consumer in Ontario. Under the Blue Box Regulation, consumers are individuals who use a product and its packaging for personal, family or household purposes, or persons who use a beverage and its container for personal, family, household or business purposes.
There are three types of blue box materials: product packaging, paper products or packaging-like products. Click on the material for further definition and examples.
Blue box product packaging includes:
- Primary packaging is for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of a product at the point of sale, including all packaging components, but does not include convenience packaging or transport packaging (e.g., film and cardboard used to package a 24-pack of water bottles and the label on the water bottle).
- Transportation packaging which is provided in addition to primary packaging to facilitate the handling or transportation of one or more products such as a pallet, bale wrap or box, but does not include a shipping container designed for transporting things by road, ship, rail or air.
- Convenience packaging includes service packaging and is used in addition to primary packaging to facilitate end users’ handling or transportation of one or more products. It also includes packaging that is supplied at the point of sale by food-service or other service providers to facilitate the delivery of goods and includes items such as bags and boxes that are supplied to end users at check out, whether or not there is a separate fee for these items.
- Service accessories are products supplied with a food or beverage product and facilitate the consumption of that food or beverage product and are ordinarily disposed of after a single use, whether or not they could be reused (e.g., a straw, cutlery or plate).
- Ancillary elements are integrated into packaging (directly hung or attached to packaging) and are intended to be consumed or disposed of with the primary packaging. Ancillary elements help the consumer use the product. Examples of ancillary packaging include a mascara brush forming part of a container closure, a toy on the top of candy acting as part of the closure, devices for measuring dosage that form part of a detergent container cap, or the pouring spout on a juice or milk carton.
Paper products include printed and unprinted paper, such as a newspaper, magazine, greeting cards, calendars (promotional or purchased), notebooks and daily planners, promotional material, directory, catalogue or paper used for copying, writing or any other general use.
Hard or soft cover books and hardcover periodicals are not considered paper products.
A packaging-like product is:
- ordinarily used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery, presentation or transportation of things
- ordinarily disposed of after a single use
- not used as packaging when it is supplied to the consumer
Packaging-like products include aluminum foil, a metal tray, plastic film, plastic wrap, wrapping paper, a paper bag, beverage cup, plastic bag, cardboard box or envelope, but does not include a product made from flexible plastic that is ordinarily used for the containment, protection, or handling of food, such as cling wrap, sandwich bags, or freezer bags.
Upcoming dates in the Blue Box Regulation
- Rule creators may begin registering with the Authority on August 1, 2021 and must be registered before November 1, 2021.
- Municipalities to submit an Initial Report with information about their current blue box collection system on or before September 30, 2021. Municipalities transitioning in 2023 will also be required to submit a Transition Report by this date.
- Producers to register with the Authority on or before October 1, 2021.
- First Nation communities to submit an Initial Report with information about their current blue box collection system on or before November 30, 2021. First Nation communities transitioning in 2023 will also be required to submit a Transition Report by this date.
- Processors to register with the Authority by April 1, 2022.
- Producers to establish and operate systems to collect and manage blue box materials discarded by consumers starting July 1, 2023.
- Starting in 2024, producers, or producer responsibility organizations (PROs) on their behalf, to report annually to the Authority on their performance meeting their management requirements.
How does the Blue Box Regulation affect you?
Click the headings below to learn more about your requirements.
A person is considered a producer under the Blue Box Regulation if they supply blue box material (packaging, paper producers or packaging-like products) comprised of paper, glass, metal or plastic, or a combination of these materials to consumers in Ontario.
In the Blue Box Regulation, an eligible community is a local municipality or local services board area that is not located in the Far North, or a reserve that is registered by a First Nation with the Authority and not located in the Far North.
In the Blue Box Regulation, an eligible community is a reserve that is registered by a First Nation with the Authority and not located in the Far North, or a local municipality or local services board area that is not located in the Far North.
A processor is a person who processes blue box material that was supplied to a consumer in Ontario for the purposes of resource recovery.
A producer responsibility organization, or PRO, is a business established to contract with producers to provide collection, management and administrative services to help producers meet their regulatory obligations under the Blue Box Regulation, including:
- Representing a producer for the purposes of the creation of the rules
- Arranging, establishing or operating a collection or management system
- Arranging, establishing or operating promotion and education system
- Preparing and submitting reports
Wind-up of Blue Box Program operated by Stewardship Ontario
On August 15, 2019, the Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks issued direction to RPRA and Stewardship Ontario to begin transitioning the management of Ontario’s Blue Box Program to producers of plastic and other packaging. This will enable the transition of materials collected under the program to individual producer responsibility under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016. The Blue Box Program will transition to the new regulatory framework for resource recovery starting on July 1, 2023 through to December 31, 2025.