Two Stream Collection as a Solution to Troublesome Fiber Markets

Photo source: City of Barrie

Historically, the ratio of collection to processing costs has wavered between 60:40 to 70:30 of the overall total. Logically, the focus of many decision makers has centered on cost savings that could be realized on the collection side of operations. Single stream proved advantageous for many as it offered the efficiencies of automation, through cart collection, or co-collection of recyclables with the solid waste or organic streams.

For Blue Box programs across the province, the international market for fiber poses challenges that are here for the foreseeable future. CIF staff have heard many instances of municipalities receiving notice from MRF contractors that pricing to receive materials for processing and marketing services would need to change, and not for the better.

As a result, the balance between the costs to collect versus those to process materials and produce a product that meets increasing market specifications is in flux. For some, switching from single to two stream collection is providing cost savings opportunities.

Two municipalities applied for funding support from the CIF to assist in their transition to two stream collection programs. Each represents a slightly different perspective on the opportunities that were afforded by switching.

The Township of Drummond-North Elmsley (the Township)

In response to pressures from the MRF contracted to process and market their materials, the Township is planning to transition from weekly collection of single stream blue box materials to two stream collection with fibres and containers collected on alternating weeks. The transition will provide the Township with a 25% reduction in processing costs compared with the price increase proposed by the processing contractor to maintain single stream collection.

The Township forecasts a return on investment in less than 3 years from this program change

To make the transition, the Township decided to collect materials on an alternating schedule of one week fibers and the other containers, to achieve a zero financial impact on collection costs. As such, the recyclables will continue to be co-collected with solid waste. A plan is in the works to purchase an additional blue box for each household to help with storing materials over the two week alternating schedule. The program will launch with a promotion and education campaign to bring residents on board with the change.

The Township is completing waste composition studies in collaboration with the CIF and Stewardship Ontario that will provide insight into the impacts of this program change on both program participation and diversion.

Switching back to dual stream recycling will save the Township money in the short term and should open up processing options in future tenders. By reducing processing costs immediately and increasing revenues on marketed material over time, we believe we’re positioning our blue box program strategically for the changes we expect to see over the next few years.

The County of Northumberland (the County) – CIF #1062

Similar to the Township of Drummond-North Elmsley, the County is making the transition to two stream collection. In this case however, the County owns and operates its own MRF and the collection change from single stream bag based program will allow for significant reductions in variable processing and residue disposal costs.

The County forecasts a return on investment in less than 4 years from its program change

The County is confident the savings can be achieved as the MRF has processed and marketed recyclables successfully from the neighbouring City of Kawartha Lakes and is able to sort materials to market specification with significantly fewer costs.

Bags have recently been a topic of discussion in relation to the collection of single stream materials. The deliverables of this project would give further insight into contamination and processing costs of box and bag based programs.

We operate a regional MRF that processes dual stream materials from another municipality. Dual stream materials are more efficient to sort, contain less contamination and will allow us to prepare a high quality, China grade fiber that can be easily marketed.


Transitioning to two stream collection presents clear opportunities for cost savings for both municipalities and the impact of these changes will provide Blue Box stakeholders with new information about options available for material collection and the impacts on processing and marketing recyclables. The Township will launch its new program later this fall, while the County will be rolling out blue boxes in the fall of 2019.

Contact CIF Staff

CIF staff is always ready to help with your Blue Box questions. We encourage you to contact any member of the team to discuss your issues and questions.