Then & Now: How Kitchener’s Blue Box Program Launched Modern Day Recycling

Is it time to recycle how we think about recycling?

Why It Matters

Recycling has been seen as the perfect solution to our wasteful woes. But as news of plastic waste issues take over headlines, journalist Bill Bean dives into this through a historical look at the origin of Canada’s innovative household Blue Box Program — and how it continues to evolve today.

Welcome to our new series, Then & Now, featuring modern takes on historical Canadian innovations that have shaped our lives today—and play a role in reshaping our lives tomorrow. We kick-off the series looking at today’s global plastic waste problem through the origins of Canada’s innovative household Blue Box Program.

Recycling has rarely been so prominent in the news. Signs of trouble first started brewing six years ago, when some 70 Canadian shipping containers sent to the Philippines full of recyclable material turned out to be contaminated with non-recyclables. The issue made its way into nightly news reports as Ottawa and Manila tussled over what to do with the rotting recycling rejects. The material was returned to Canada, at a cost to Canadians of $1.14 million.

It wasn’t just about the Philippines. In 2018, China announced it

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