Napanee Council continues to grapple with garbage issues

Napanee currently enforces a bag tag levy to fund curbside garbage and recycling collection. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Like the rest of Ontario, Greater Napanee must decide how it will take part in the Circular Economy Act, which places 100 per cent of the burden of recycling on the producers of recyclable materials.

On Tuesday, Mar. 14, 2024, The Town of Greater Napanee Council heard a presentation of the “Environmental Services – Town of Greater Napanee Blue Box Transition Report #1: 2025 Transitional Year Considerations” by Andrew Girouard, Deputy Director of Environmental Services and Infrastructure Services for the Town.

Following the presentation, Council authorized Town staff to enter into an agreement with Circular Materials Ontario to opt-in for curbside collection of blue box materials in 2025. Staff were also directed to explore agreements on depot collection of blue box materials, collection of blue box materials from non-eligible sources, and to continue working with Circular Materials Ontario and Waste Management towards the full transition of the blue box program in 2026.

As background, Girouard’s report noted that, in 1994, the Province of Ontario introduced Regulation 101/94, requiring municipalities to have a blue box program. In 2002, the Waste Diversion Act and the Blue Box Program Plan were introduced. This act and program allowed the province to put 50 per cent of the cost of blue box programs back on the producers of those products. Girouard clarified that the Town of Napanee takes care of recycling, with a contract to collect and process it.

“We get 50 percent of the money back through the producers,” he said.

In 2016, the Waste Free Ontario Act came into effect. This act laid the foundation for the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act and for Regulation 391/21, known as the Ontario Blue Box Regulation. The Blue Box Regulation puts 100 per cent of the cost of the blue box recycling programs back onto the producers. 

Girouard clarified exactly who “a producer” is within these regulations and acts.

“A producer is any company that produces packaging… [and/or] any retail product you purchase that you produce recyclables from. So, the producers under the blue box legislation are allowed to get together and create an entity which will service them in this process altogether: Producer Responsibility Organizations (PRO). We are calling them PROs now. So, each producer decides what PRO they will join, with a little bit of help from the Ministry of the Environment, Climate Change and Parks,” Girouard explained.

According to the report, the PRO that will be running the blue box program in Ontario is Circular Materials Ontario (Circular). Circular will be responsible for collecting and processing all blue box materials in Ontario.

“This change is a positive for the Town, as the financial burden for the blue box program will be back on the producers,” Girouard indicated in his report. “The Town will no longer be responsible for the collection or disposal of blue box materials in our community, nor will we be required to complete a yearly data call.” 

In 2025, the Town will begin transitioning to full producer responsibility for blue box materials. Several options within the transitional year of 2025 to opt in or out with Circular require Council decisions. Girouard noted that transferring responsibility requires a multi-year approach.

“In 2024, staff will be working with Circular to produce statements of work that outline our current collection locations, educating themselves on the process, and preparing with the council for 2025 and 2026,” he said.

With Circular taking over the curbside collection, there will be some changes. Girouard explained that Circular has introduced some “non-eligible sources” of blue box material that will no longer be collected curbside. These include commercial premises, daycare operations, for-profit long-term care homes, not-for-profit organizations, commercial farms, places of worship, municipal buildings and facilities, and seasonal campgrounds. Circular will not service the Town’s Waste Disposal Sites or “depots” for blue box materials. 

Councillor Mike Schenk interjected, taking issue with some of the non-eligible sources listed.

“So you’re not going to pick up any recycling from commercial farms?” he asked.

“I’ll work with [Circular] and get you an actual answer on that question as a non-eligible source,” provided Girouard.

Schenk continued, “I know the answer to this, but all I’m saying is, daycares and commercial properties: we’re not picking any recycling?”

Girouard reiterated, “In 2025, which is our transitional year, Council has the ability to decide to opt in [for service to sources deemed non-eligible]. There will be a cost associated with that, which we’re currently working with [Circular] to figure out what that would be, based on the number we have… In 2026, they will not service those locations and those individuals will be forced to find their own means of collection and processing of the recyclables or, as a municipality, we can choose to continue to service them with a contract with a private collection company.”

Schenk expressed concern about whether non-eligible sources would take the initiative to deliver their own recycling to a drop-off facility. “You know where it’s all gonna go. Somebody’s gonna bring a bin and there you go,” he said, seemingly implying that recyclables would end up as waste. 

Councillor Angela Hicks presented what she termed a “question observation” to Girouard: “The person producing the pen and packaging it for shipment distribution and sale eventually needs to come up with a better solution for packaging, so that they’re not on the hook to pay for the disposal of said packaging. Why are there ineligible and eligible sources?”

She asked that staff, in their negotiations with Circular, “ask repeatedly… ‘Why?’ until you’re satisfied with the answer that comes back from that. Because that’s splitting hairs, as far as I’m concerned. The producer is responsible, full stop, and it doesn’t matter [whether] it comes from [a non-eligible source]. There’s packaging on it. The person producing and packaging should be responsible. And I know we’ll all pay for it because my $2 pen just now jumped to $3.50.”

Girouard indicated that there were still “a lot of unknowns and… a lot more work we need to do with [Circular] to get answers on this… and bring them back. I’ll speak to you later in multiple reports to Council, with some definitive answers on costs associated with collection and how we can see our municipality, our commercial premises, and farms and whatnot through this process.”

Mayor Terry Richardson interjected at that point, “There’s obviously going to be a whole lot more work that has to be put into this, and it’s a little bit, I’ll say ‘concerning.’ You would think this would be an all-or-nothing thing, but it’s a hybrid thing. So we are going to have to address a lot of these things, probably at a future date, but not necessarily tonight, I’m guessing, Andrew?”

Girouard replied that he hoped that “Council could make some decisions as noted in the report to get us through and in discussions with Circular for 2025. We can kind of see part of that year through, and throughout that year, bring reports back to Council about the end result, which is 2026 and the future of recyclables in the town of Napanee.”

Councillor Bill Martin is the Council representative on the Town’s Waste Diversion Committee and has passionately opposed the tax levy for garbage bag tags. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Councillor Bill Martin, who is the representative on the Town’s Waste Diversion Committee, pointed out that the Town doesn’t currently collect blue box recycling at most businesses as it is.

Girouard agreed, saying, “The percentage of non-eligibles in our overall collection system is very low. Even speaking with multi-residential, some of the larger buildings in town, and they’re dealing with all of this material themselves.” He also noted that trying to separate waste streams downtown will be “tricky” because of the number of residents living above commercial properties.

Martin added, “I attended a conference back in 2023 on this very thing, and I knew this was coming. The Town is going to be able to save quite a bit of money on the blue box arrangement, as far as what I’ve been able to figure out. And we’re going to be able to save even more if we can get more of the garbage in into recycled boxes… that was one of the reasons [that] I was against the bag tag program back in 2023.”

Girouard said, “I understand your concerns, and my hope is when we institute this, we can lay on the education very heavily on the public.”

He noted that with producers picking up the bill for recycling, the taxpayer will likely get charged for it as a consumer, so it would benefit them not to have to pay for disposal as well (by purchasing bag tags).

“I believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg of what we can do with waste and recycling collection in our town… But you’re 100 per cent correct; the more garbage we divert towards recycling in 2025 and beyond, and keep out the tonnage of garbage, the further ahead we will be financially as a municipality,” Girouard expressed.

When Martin asked if he could make another point on the issue of waste and bag tags, Mayor Richardson attempted to redirect the discussion.

“I know you’re very passionate about garbage. I know you’re very passionate about bag tags. I understand that. We have a process… And I think we need to give staff some direction as to where we’re going tonight concerning the recycling. And I do think that we need to focus on that.”

“Mayor,” Councillor Martin replied, “That’s what I’m focusing on. 2025 is a transitional year. And we need to decide in 2024 on what we will do with the bag tags because it will affect 2025… we also need to include some talk about the bag tags.” 

After further quarrelling, the councillor was able to continue the discussion as he had hoped, as the final slide of Girouard’s presentation returned to the question of the Bag Tag Levy, which Martin reiterated the Council must decide on going forward.

“We’ve got to do it this year because there are tax implications for 2025, and the staff needs to know,” Martin concluded.

As always, you can read full Council meeting agendas on Napanee’s civic web online, and watch meetings live or recorded on the town’s YouTube channel.

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