Countercultural Recycling in Toronto: The “Is Five Foundation” and the Origins of the Blue Box

This photograph from the early 1970s features two unidentified members of the Is Five Foundation engaged in one of Canada's earliest roadside multi-material recycling programs. Note the barrels utilized for separating materials.

This photograph from the early 1970s features two unidentified members of the Is Five Foundation engaged in one of Canada's earliest roadside multi-material recycling programs. Note the barrels utilized for separating materials.

There were a lot of interesting groups and characters involved in the Toronto environmental community throughout the 1970s. (I know I may be biased in my thinking, since I wrote an entire book on the topic.) One group that captured my imagination was the Is Five Foundation. Founded by seven members in 1974 as a nonprofit cooperative, the Is Five Foundation engaged in a variety of activities designed to provide meaningful employment. From rather humble countercultural origins they went on to establish -- with some twists and turns that included financial support from the Ontario business community -- the Blue Box system that has become synonymous with recycling throughout the province and much of the world beyond. 

I wrote a bit about this in my book, but the topic is expanded upon in a recently published chapter in Canadian Countercultures and the Environment, edited by Colin Coates. My chapter is called "Countercultural Recycling in Toronto: The 'Is Five Foundation' and the Origins of the Blue Box," and is available for free download in pdf format here. Since it's open access that means you can download it, read it, and share it all you like. So if you know somebody interested in this sort of thing, do feel free to pass it along to them.

Also included in this collection is a chapter about the back-to-the-land children on Prince Edward Island. I didn't write it, per se -- Alan MacEachern did -- but I did the interviews that form the basis of the chapter. You can check out that chapter here.