Kingston rents its Blue Box sorting facility when the service to waste producer Kingston moves
Starting later this year, the Blue Box pick-up service in Ontario will undergo some major changes that will affect municipalities across the province.
The Government of Ontario is shifting the cost and responsibility for the collection and sorting of residential household recycling to industrial producers who produce waste paper and packaging.
The transition period will run for the next three years, from 1 July 2023 to 2025, to ensure a smooth transition for municipalities and producers.
Kingston’s transition is expected to begin July 1, 2025.
The City of Kingston has already begun laying the groundwork for curbside abandonment of recycling operations, though officials are stressing that residents will not receive notice of service changes during the transition.
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The city has developed a significant blue material collection and sorting infrastructure in recent decades and is trying to divert much of it from the recycling pile.
Kingston has operated a large recycling collection and sorting facility and scale on Lappan Lane known as the Kingston Area Recycling Center (KARC) since 1989. It is the largest facility of its kind in Southeastern Ontario.
The city government is now looking for a tenant for the massive facility after Industry Producers took over the local recycling service.
Council members pre-approved the potential lease of KARC and associated equipment for up to 10 years to companies willing to submit proposals to provide recycling collection, transfer and treatment services in the Kingston area. Companies are selected based on a provincially regulated bidding process.
“The ultimate benefit of this is that we maximize our assets. If we don’t take advantage of this, we risk becoming a stranded asset on which we will lose money,” said Brad Joyce, the US Commissioner of Transportation and Public Works, who is responsible for the Blue Box service.
At this point, staff recommended against selling the property outright, adding that it still held long-term value due to its proximity to other municipal services, such as a regional firefighter training center, industrial zoning designation, and nearby waste disposal facilities.
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Joyce says renting the building would bring additional revenue to the city to offset any losses from municipal sales of recyclables.
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Kingston currently loses about $2 million a year in provincial recycling subsidies to provide the residential service.
According to a staff report, the deadline for submitting proposals for companies interested in offering local recycling services is March 31.
It is unclear how many jobs at recycling centers and collection routes for blue and gray boxes are involved.
The city has six full-time employees and eight garbage trucks on routes in downtown Kingston, while outsourcing suburban routes in the east and west. Contracted service is negotiated through 2028 but has an early termination clause.
According to a 2018 study for the city, Kingston provides Blue Box service to approximately 45,000 single-family households and 8,500 multi-family households, and the recycling depot processes more than 10,400 tons of recycled waste per year.
At their Feb. 7 meeting, council members wanted to know if the city could make its own bid to retain control of the service.
But workers say that option is highly unlikely.
“We don’t believe there will be a real chance for the city to make a bid. The intention of the province is clear: towards a circular economy. The city is not in the best position to live in that competitive market,” explains Joyce. .
The focus of a circular economy is to make individual producers responsible and accountable for the way they collect and manage their packaging and products after use.
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As far as families can expect with the changing Blue Box service – whether it will be the same, better or worse than what residents expect – the county law is clear that new service providers must supplement existing Blue Box service levels in the city until at least case 2026, Joyce points out.
In addition, he says the intention is to collect a consistent set of blue and gray box material across the province. For example, all household items collected in Kapuskasing are the same as in Kingston.
There will be no difference in the items – such as cans, cardboard and plastic – that are collected in each municipality.
According to Joyce, this could lead to a greater variety of collected items in some municipalities and a shortage in others.
“Ontario is transitioning to a standard recycling program with a similar collection system. It can be different, it can be better. The aim is to have the same level of service for every municipality.
In addition to recycling hazardous household waste such as paint and batteries, responsibility will also shift to collection by the manufacturer.
The city is expected to maintain control over the collection of yard waste and organic green bins.