TORONTO - Ontario plans to expand the list of items accepted in blue boxes as it moves to standardize recycling programs across the province.

Environment Minister Jeff Yurek said Monday that the proposed new list of items accepted will include plastic cups, foils, trays and bags.

Single use items such as stir sticks, straws, cutlery and plates will also be permitted in blue bins under the proposal. Recyclable coffee pods will also be allowed, he said.

“This expanded list of materials will be standardized across the province to make recycling easier and more consistent,” he said.

The province will also expand blue box services to more smaller and rural communities with populations under 5,000.

It is also pledging to expand the service to locations where it is not provided, including apartment buildings, long-term care homes, schools and municipal parks by 2026.

The government said the new regulations would also transition the costs of the recycling program away from municipal governments to waste producers.

Ontario estimates that the change would save municipal governments $135 million a year.

Yurek said the province will phase in the changes over a two-year period starting in 2023.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said the change is positive but the implementation will take too long.

“It's good to see progress after more than a decade of discussion, but I'm disappointed that Ford is asking the next government to do the heavy lifting,” he said in a statement.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the savings created by the change must be passed on to communities, which have historically paid for recycling programs.

“The devil is going to be in the details,” she said. “What I certainly would hope is that there's no claw back for municipalities.”

The president of the Canadian Beverage Association said that group supports the province's proposed changes and will roll out its own new standards to meet increased diversion targets.

“Our sector plans to introduce a new, comprehensive beverage container recycling program that will complement the Blue Box collection system with convenient public space recycling at parks, public buildings and special events,” Jim Goetz said in a statement.

The province is seeking public feedback on its proposed blue box program changes until Dec. 2.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 19, 2020.