Recently I've been working on a book chapter about the origins of the blue box. I conducted a lot of research on this topic while working on my PhD dissertation. As part of my research I interviewed a number of people that worked for the Is Five Foundation, Resource Integration Services, and the Recycling Council of Ontario. I also interviewed Nyle Ludolph. Ludolph was the director of special projects at Superior Sanitation. In 1977 he was invited to give a speech at Garbage Fest 77, a day-long event organized by the Kitchener-Waterloo affiliate of Pollution Probe. Prior to this event he cared little for recycling.
However, the day spent in the company of recycling advocates had a transformative effect upon him. As he told me,
My conscience got a hold of me and I said ‘I’m going to try this.’ I went home that day and dug up a hole in the backyard for compost, and I put boxes at the side door in the garage and I said to the family ‘We’re going to test this recycling thing.’ Consequently, we … only generated 102 lbs of garbage for the entire year.
This amazed Ludolph, as the average family of three would normally generate a ton of garbage annually. Ludolph brought this up with his boss, Ron Murray, president of Laidlaw Waste Systems, and subsequently played an important role in convincing Murray that the company should get into the business of recycling. A partnership was established between Laidlaw and Resource Integration Services, resulting in the creation of the blue box that is used throughout Ontario and around the world.
While doing some research for my book chapter I came across the fact that Ludolph passed away on October 14, 2011. He was a very interesting man, and everybody I spoke to regarding the blue box spoke about him in glowing terms.
For more information on Ludolph and his role in the creation of the blue box, you can check out the following stories.
Davis,"Nyle Ludolph was 'father of the blue box," Waterloo Region Record , 16 October 2011
MacKay, "Nyle Ludolph thought inside the blue box," Globe and Mail , 14 November 2011