Pollution Probe works across sectors to engage stakeholders and develop practical pathways towards a circular economy in order to cut down on waste and maximize both environmental and economic benefits


The iconic phrase was developed by Pollution Probe in the early 1970s. Initially, the founding members used ‘Reject, Re-use, Recycle,’ but on reflection, decided that ‘Reject’ sounded overly harsh. They replaced it with ‘Reduce,’ creating a slogan and rallying call that endures worldwide over 50 years later.  

What is a Circular Economy?

In a non-circular (or linear) economy, there is little no to reuse or recycling. For plastic products in particular, large amounts of fossil fuels are needed as raw materials, and the manufacturing process also uses a great deal of energy. After use, these plastic products are incinerated or sent to landfill. Large amounts of waste wind up in the environment, polluting natural systems and affecting both people and wildlife.

With reuse and recycling, the transition to a circular economy begins. As opportunities for reuse and recycling increase, less raw material is needed for manufacture, and smaller amounts of waste are incinerated or directed to landfill, meaning that less waste ends up as pollution in the environment.


Millions of tonnes of waste are generated each year across Canada, much of which is sent to landfill or incinerated. The Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan and Canada’s zero-waste strategies emphasize material value recovery and competitive and sustainable end-markets as priorities for waste management. The Ontario Materials Marketplace aims to create demand for hard-to-recycle material, including plastic products, to help address the problem and move Ontario one step closer to a circular economy.

The Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup is a first-of-its-kind initiative, using innovative Seabin and LittaTrap™  technology to quickly capture and remove plastics and other litter at marinas from Lake Ontario to Lake Superior and everywhere in between. Through research, outreach and education, and collaboration with organizations like Georgian Bay Forever, the Great Lakes Plastic Cleanup will work to identify sources of litter entering our waterways and how government, industry, and consumers can work together to reduce, reuse and recycle material waste.

Great Lakes Plastics Forum

The Great Lakes Plastics Forum sought to address issues related to plastic waste and improper disposal of plastics in the Great Lakes Region, with a focus on Ontario and Canada. Hosted by Pollution Probe, the Council of the Great Lakes Region and the Clean Water Foundation, the forum convened over 50 leading Canadian subject-matter experts from government, industry, not-for-profit organizations and academia. The forum provided a platform for the exchange of ideas around how best to work together to develop innovative and practical solutions to issues related to plastic waste and to set the stage for more focused, cross-border dialogue related to a circular economy and materials marketplace in the binational Great Lakes Region.

Find the report here.

CCME Action Plan to Achieve Zero Plastic Waste

In 2018, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment developed a Canada-wide Strategy for Zero Plastic Waste to tackle the significant environmental and ecological challenge of plastic waste in Canada. The Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste aims to reduce the harmful impacts of plastic waste through greater prevention, collection and value recovery to achieve a more circular plastics economy.

Implemented in 2020, phase 2 of the Action Plan for the Canada-wide Strategy focuses on preventing plastic pollution in oceans, inland lakes and waterways, advancing science to monitor the impacts of plastics pollution within the environment, consumer awareness, clean-up and taking global action.

Pollution Probe is proud to be a regional partner of the CCME, and co-hosted the Toronto workshop on the Action Plan for Zero Plastic Waste in January 2020.

Ontario Blue Box Program

Ontario’s pioneering 1986 Blue Box Recycling initiative was the result of many years of research, advocacy and activism, in which Pollution Probe played a major role, helping develop the very concept of broad-scale recycling. Pollution Probe has strongly advocated for approaches that reduce environmental impact through the entire lifecycle of a product, from selection of materials to end-of-life. This year, The Hon. Jeff Yurek, Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks, and the Hon. Steve Clark, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, promised to transition the Blue Box Program to full Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) to help taxpayers save money, increase recycling rates and promote innovation. We look forward to working with Minister Yurek, the Government of Ontario and industry stakeholders on developing the necessary measures to ensure successful implementation of the new Blue Box Program.

Food and Organic Waste

Aside from plastics, an important component of reducing waste and waste-sector emissions is reducing the impact of waste food matter and organic material. The Province of Ontario is committed to working towards a circular economy and is focusing on the issue of waste food and organics with the Food and Organic Waste Framework, laying out a systematic approach for moving the province towards its zero-food-and-organic-waste and zero-waste-sector-emissions targets.

Pollution Probe is proud to be a part of the Ontario Food and Organic Waste Steering Committee and is committed to supporting the Province in its mission.


Melissa De Young, Director, Policy and Programs

Christopher Hilkene, Chief Executive Officer