Thought Leadership

The Impact of Ontario’s New Blue Box Regulation 391/21

Climate changed. How to adapt, mitigate and innovative in a new world. A series by RWDI.

How much are you paying in blue box fees?

Did you know that under Ontario’s new Blue Box Regulation 391/21, you will soon be paying double?

bottle going into blue bin

The regulation, which outlines the rules for blue box materials, recently underwent updates that clearly demonstrate Ontario’s commitment to integrating extended producer responsibility into its major waste diversion programs. It was released under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016.

Currently, Stewardship Ontario is administering the recycling program and paying fifty percent of the blue box fees. However, on July 1st, 2023, the transition to the new regulation will begin and blue box producers will start to move towards paying one hundred percent of associated fees.

So, what does the new regulation look like?

Producers will now be responsible for the end-of-life handling of their products and product packaging. The regulation also sets mandatory blue box collection system requirements and gives the affected producers choices for resource recovery services.

The cornerstone of the new regulation, of course, is what it defines as blue box materials.

What Are Blue Box Materials?

Under the regulation, blue box materials are products and packaging made of materials that will be disposed in the residential waste stream. It further breaks down blue box materials into three major types:

3 categories of blue box materials

Perhaps the most significant category is product packaging, of which there are several sub-categories:

  • Primary packaging is the main packaging used for products and includes all components, except those explicitly defined as transportation or convenience packaging.
  • Transportation packaging is used to help transport products to retail locations. Specific examples include wraps, pallets, and boxes.
  • Convenience packaging assists in the consumers’ transportation and handling of the products and includes packaging provided at the time of purchase, like bags supplied at checkout.
  • Service accessories are the products consumers receive alongside food and drinks to help facilitate their use, such as plastic cutlery, paper plates, and straws.
  • Ancillary elements are parts integrated into the primary packaging and will be disposed of along with the primary packaging, such as milk carton spouts.

This regulation is also looking to expand and include some IC&I sources of product packaging, specifically from the government and institutional sectors – such as the packaging of products, like paper, supplied to schools and hospitals.

Under the regulation, producers have increased responsibilities regarding the defined blue box materials. Naturally, the question that follows is this: as a producer, exactly how are you affected?

How Producers Are Affected

Ontario’s new Blue Box Regulation makes producers fully responsible, including financially, for collecting their blue box materials and recycling them. Producers must also maintain the existing services across Ontario, and expand to additional locations, including remote Northern communities. This will happen during a transition period spanning July 1st, 2023 to December 31st, 2025.

However, these aren’t the only ways in which the new regulation affects producers.

Producers need to register with the Resource Productivity & Recovery Authority (RPRA), pay the necessary fees, and report their supply data annually as well. Other requirements exist for blue box collection systems, managing collected materials, as well as education and promotion. Producers are required to have third-party audits of their actions regarding meeting these requirements and report on these actions through annual reports to the RPRA.

They must report on several categories of blue box materials as well, including:

  • Metal
  • Paper
  • Glass
  • Flexible and rigid plastic
  • Beverage containers
  • Certified compostable products and packing materials
recycling sorting

Producers need to meet the collection and resource recovery requirements attached to these materials as well. Reporting is also necessary for certified compostable products and their packaging, though they have no requirements for resource recovery or collection. The blue box fees are based on these reports and the weight of blue box materials minus deductions noted in the regulation.

The effects of the new regulation on producers makes it clear there is a significant amount of work to achieve and maintain compliance – which is why producers have the option of turning to a producer responsibility organization (PRO) for assistance.

The Role of Producer Responsibility Organizations

PROs provide blue box producers with a selection of services – administrative, collection, and management – to streamline the process of achieving regulatory compliance with Ontario’s New Blue Box Regulation 391/21. They can be for profit, or not for profit and act as representation for the producer and their services include:

  • The preparation and submission of reports
  • Creation and/or operation of a management or collection system, such as operating facilities that sort blue box materials for sale back into the marketplace
  • Establishment and/or operation of an education and promotion system


Ontario’s Blue Box Regulation is a significant change in the way producers must handle the recyclable materials they produce as part of the product sold to their consumers. Producers are facing enhanced extended producer responsibility throughout the life cycles of their products, which, under the regulation, means additional blue box fees, reporting categories, as well as reporting deadlines.

As the regulation has many requirements for producers to adhere to, expert support through the accurate management and reporting on blue box materials can consistently offer cost savings to producers.

Discover more information on the expert support that can streamline the management of blue box materials as part of Ontario’s Blue Box Regulation by visiting our Environmental Stewardship page.