blue recycling box

Although Jack McGinnis may not have called himself a social entrepreneur, in my opinion, he was one of the great ones.

Jack died last week at the age of 64. His legacy means that every week on garbage day, homeowners haul a big blue (or grey) box full of recyclables to the curb. Jack was the “father of the blue box” and his persistence enabled ordinary Canadians to embrace environmentalism. While the blue box is not the answer to all our environmental challenges, which are many, it did engage us in thinking differently about our garbage.

It was a classic example of a Canadian social innovation when the first blue box recycling program launched in 1981 in Kitchener. It didn’t require legislation to force us to participate, but it did involve a combination of pride (we were doing our part, no matter how small) and the creation of an enabling environment requiring governments to make it easy for us to “do the right thing”.

According to a recent article in the Toronto Star, Jack believed that people would participate if you gave them the opportunity and he was right. His efforts now mean that today 96% of Ontario residents have access to a blue box program with 870,000 tonnes of materials now diverted through blue box programs.

Jack, your vision, hard work and dedication mean that our small efforts combine to make a big change. For that we thank you – rest in peace.

Allyson Hewitt

Allyson is the JW McConnell Family Foundation Senior Fellow, Social Innovation at MaRS, where she has been leading the SiG@MaRS program; advising social entrepreneurs; building the social innovation ecosystem; and incubating successful programs such as the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing, the MaRS Solutions Lab and Studio Y. See more…