​“Birthplace of the blue box program” is officially out of the recycling business

When Waterloo Region renews its waste collection contract in March 2026, it will have automated collection. Each residence will be provided with a garbage container, similar to the one above, that can be picked up by an arm on the truck. Photo from Peel Region
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Kitchener West - 519-394-0335
by Helen Hall
Kitchener Citizen
March 14, 2024
​Waterloo Region residents haven’t noticed any difference in their blue box collection since the beginning of March, but there are a lot of changes going on behind the scenes.

​As of March 2, an organization called Circular Materials is now responsible for the residential blue box program in Waterloo Region. Circular Materials is a producer responsibility organization (PRO) that is made up of businesses who create recyclable materials, like cans and plastic bottles. It has been mandated by the province that those who produce the recyclable products must be responsible for them.

​Those companies hope to find more efficient ways to produce and reuse recyclable containers. Some companies that are a part of Circular Materials include McDonald’s Restaurants, Nestlé Canada, PepsiCo Canada, Procter & Gamble Inc.,
Restaurant Brands International (Tim Hortons, Burger King, Popeyes, Firehouse
Subs), and Clorox.

​The changeover is taking place in stages across the province.

​“At the curb, it’s business as usual,” said Jon Arsenault, Waterloo Region’s Director
​of Waste Management.

​​The region and Circular Materials have been working together to make the transition, which happens between now and January 1, 2026, as seamless as possible. There have been no changes in the schedule of residential blue box pick up, and the contractor that picks up regional garbage is still collecting the blue boxes.

​​The change happens when the boxes reach the landfill facilities in Waterloo and Cambridge.

​​In the past, the region was responsible for sorting recyclables and selling them on the market, with the income going toward the cost of its collection.

​​“It never was a money-making operation,” Arsenault said. “Its purpose was to divert recyclable material from landfills.”

​​Since March 2, when the blue box items arrive at the Cambridge or Waterloo landfills, they are collected in trucks organized by Circular Materials and taken away for sale.

​​“We are officially out of the blue box program,” Arsenault said.

​​The loss of sorting and shipping at the Cambridge and Waterloo landfills has not resulted in any job losses at the region, as the work was contracted to GFL Environmental and the contract has expired.

​​“This community has a proud history as the birthplace of the blue box program,” said Chair Karen Redman in a news release. “As we transition to producer-responsible recycling, our focus remains on increasing landfill diversion and the continued promotion and adoption of the 4Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle, and recover.”

​​Recycling centre coming to Waterloo Region

​​The Waste Management (WM) company has the contract to sort the recyclables for Circular Materials, and has purchased a 7.23-hectare property on Dumfries Road in North Dumfries Township to build a 13,171 square metre sorting facility and head office for the company. The site was chosen because of its proximity to Hwy 401.

​​Construction of the building will cost an estimated $130-million and would receive non-hazardous recyclables (primarily from the blue boxes) and is expected to create 30 jobs. WM is planning to have the facility operational by November 2025.

​​The application is currently being reviewed by North Dumfries Council.

​​Automated waste pickup

​​Going forward, Arsenault said that the region has modified its tender documents that come up for renewal in March 2026 to include garbage, organic and yard waste collection - but not blue box items.

​​He said the region is moving toward the “best practice” of having automated garbage pickup. Most companies that collect garbage are purchasing trucks that have an automated arm that can pick up large garbage containers at the curb. The trucks also run on natural gas, which is better for the environment.

​​Collection can be done by one truck operator, who uses a joystick to hoist the cans and dump the garbage into the truck. Arsenault said they are looking at 240-litre garbage containers that can hold about the same amount as the current three bag per household limit.

​​Residential homes would have one automated garbage container and one automated green bin container.

​​Circular Materials will be fully responsible for the blue box collection at that time and could organize its own residential blue box collection schedule or work with the region.

​​The region is also moving to a four day a week collection schedule from Tuesday to Friday. Mondays would be available for collections that were cancelled due to weather or statutory holidays.