The blue box has become a symbol of recycling collection. I recently read about its history in the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Jack McGinnis is known as the father of the blue box. He was one of seven founding members of the ‘Is Five Foundation’ (IFF) in Toronto which tried a variety of different things. Its biggest contribution was in recycling.
Interest in recycling began in the early 1970’s in Canada. The Toronto based environmental organization Pollution Probe, coined the Three R’s hierarchy – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.
Toronto began experimenting with newspaper pickups from homes in 1971 but residents wanted to recycle other items as well. There were some depots run by non-profit organizations that were dependent on sale prices of materials and volunteers. These were often short lived.
In 1975, IFF began a program picking up recyclables in Jack McGinnis’s pickup truck in one Toronto neighbourhood. Four thousand homes were participating by 1977. In 1978 another neighbourhood was added with a 45% participation rate. The need for specialized equipment became obvious.
In 1977 IFF’s consulting arm, RIS with Environment Canada, created a recycling program for Canadian Forces Base Borden. It was very successful. Nyle Ludolph from Superior Sanitation (later Laidlaw) learned about the success of the program. He was skeptical but tried recycling in his home. When he had 95% less garbage, he saw a business opportunity and partnered with RIS.
They began a six-month project in 1,000 homes in Kitchener Ontario in 1981. The highest recycling rates were in homes that were given a blue box with the words ‘We Recycle’ on it.
The blue box program went city wide in 1983.
The blue box article is on our Facebook page.