Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies

Program Name/Specialization

Environmental Resource Management


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role



This dissertation undertook a critical review of four recycling policies used in Ontario which are designed to promote household waste diversion and reduce material management costs. These policies include:

1) Municipal funding should be directly tied to program performance relative to their peer group. 2) All municipalities should make investments in recycling promotion and education, and will be reimbursed $1 per household for all recycling promotion and education expenditures

3) Where possible, municipalities should implement pay as you throw schemes for household waste as a means to minimize the amount of material being disposed of in the waste stream.

4) Where possible, municipalities should opt for single stream collection and processing of household recyclables

Using a combination of recycling data spanning the past 12 years for each of Ontario’s 223 obligated municipalities and semi structured interviews with recycling stakeholders, the aforementioned recycling best practices were evaluated using three criteria: 1) the ability to increase waste diversion 2) the ability to contain costs and 3) perception and attitudes among recycling stakeholders (do they think the policy is working).

None of the four recycling best practices tested were able to satisfy all three criteria. Stakeholder perceptions and attitudes towards the best practice policies were mixed. Given that the recycling best practices tested in this study failed to achieve their intended objectives, I then proposed alternative systems that could be characterized as a radical departure from the existing system. This was done to call into question the appropriateness of having “increased diversion” as the focal point of policy objectives in the province.

In these alternative systems, I propose a “contraction” of the existing Blue Box program – Using a systems based cost model, focus was placed on analyzing whether recycling programs should be offered in rural and northern communities. The results of this analysis demonstrated that eliminating recycling programs in high cost regions significantly decreased system costs without negatively impacting overall recycling rates.

The second alternative system considered in this study examines how changing the mix of materials accepted in Ontario's residential recycling program affects provincial material management costs and recycling rates. The results of the cost model analysis show that removing non-core materials from the Blue Box program significantly decreased system costs without negatively impacting overall recycling rates. Ultimately, it was found that it was possible to increase the provincial recycling rate while simultaneously reducing program costs by targeting specific materials for recovery

Convocation Year


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