One of the greatest things about having a blog is having the freedom to jump around from topic to topic because when it comes to foodservice packaging, there are so many ideas and issues in the industry and news that could keep me talking for days! Luckily, with this blog I can just pick one topic and go! Well, this week I am picking back up on a series of my posts that highlighted successful programs with foodservice packaging in the U.S. and Canada, where I previously wrote about Seattle and Boston. This time around I am looking north, and putting a spotlight on Toronto.
Toronto has had a steady stream of recovery efforts for decades, going back all the way to 1988 when the Blue Box program (now called Blue Bin) rolled out for single family homes and expanded to include multi-residential fifteen years later. In early 2000, they tackled the organics recovery side by creating the Green Bin Program, which is only curbside collection for now but accepts your basic food waste.
The City of Toronto’s Blue Bin program has accepted a variety of materials from the start, including paper foodservice packaging such as egg cartons and pizza boxes. But here’s where they caught my eye. In 2008, the City of Toronto began accepting expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam cups and other foodservice packaging in their Blue Bins! All of those foam coffee cups, fast food containers, meat trays, among others—no longer have to end up in landfills. They are completely recyclable in Toronto, and many other municipalities in Canada for that matter! And after this new addition, the City continued to expand their program in efforts to increase their amount of recovery even further. Beginning in 2012, the City began working with the Dufferin Material Recovery Facility, one of the City’s two MRFs, that processes about half of Toronto’s recyclables. Once the city was able to confirm, through a pilot program, that the MRF had the capacity to sort new materials, the City expanded their Blue bin program to start accepting rigid plastic materials such as clamshell containers, clear fruit and vegetable containers, cold beverage cups and plastic plates and glasses.
Now, with a population of approximately 2.6 million, the city hopes to push their current diversion rate of 52% even further to reach 70% by 2016. The Blue Bin program has continued to be a driving force for the City’s diversion, with approximately 96 percent of single family households participating in the recycling program. Toronto’s Solid Waste Management Services hopes to continue working alongside the City MRFs to find new ways to accept more materials and divert more waste from the landfill. According to the 2012 Postconsumer Plastics Recycling in Canada Report recently published by the Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA), Canada increased recycling of postconsumer plastic material by 10% from 2011 to 2012. CPIA says that this increase is due in large part to increased purchasing by domestic reclaimers but with such strong support of sustainability goals in Canada, there are now domestic markets for all plastic types and a lower need for an exporting market. CPIA’s report is showing that majority of materials being recycled in Canada are actually staying in Canada.
As our Paper Recovery Alliance (PRA) and Plastics Recovery Group (PRG) continue to work towards increased recovery of foodservice packaging, it is great to see that Toronto’s Blue Bin program is such a successful program that includes foodservice packaging. We hope that the efforts being made in cities such as Toronto will encourage others to start recovering foodservice packaging as well.