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Bill aims to repeal Ontario's eco-fees

By: Kerri Jansen
WASTE & RECYCLING NEWS

June 26, 2013

Proposed legislation introduced to the Ontario Legislature would remove controversial point-of-sale stewardship fees for recyclable products like electronics and tires.

Jim Bradley, Ontario's Minister of the Environment, introduced the Waste Reduction Act 2013, designed to replace the province's 2002 version of the law. The bill is intended to protect consumers from surprise eco-fees and improve accountability in waste diversion.

Under the current system, government-instituted stewardship groups operate recycling programs and collect monthly recycling fees from the producers and importers in the province, a cost that is generally passed on to the consumer in the form of a recycling surcharge added at the cash register. The system is overseen by Waste Diversion Ontario. The province's diversion rate currently sits at around 25 percent.

The system gained recent scrutiny after point-of-sale fees for both tires and electronics were hiked this spring.

Under the new system, the fees processors pay for the handling of their waste would be included in a product's shelf price, instead of becoming an additional fee.

"I guess we were just seeing it as price fixing, essentially; they were given the ability to set a flat rate for recycling, which wasn't necessarily accurate for the materials that were being collected," said Peter Hargreave, director of policy and strategy at Ontario Waste Management Association.

The amount of recycling costs producers ultimately pass on to consumers would theoretically be determined by market competition. The hope is that producers aiming to have the lowest price on the shelf will use better product design to keep recycling costs down.

"[The bill] allows companies to compete and innovate; there's a natural tension that's built into the system that ensures everyone's kept honest," Hargreave said. "[Recycling] becomes a cost of doing business and that cost is kept in check through competition."

If passed, the new bill would eliminate Stewardship Ontario (which handles the municipal hazardous and special waste program), Ontario Electronic Stewardship and Ontario Tire Stewardship, and transform Waste Diversion Ontario into a new organization called Waste Reduction Authority with increased enforcement power, the Ministry of the Environment has said.

Currently operating diversion programs for hazardous materials like paint and batteries, waste electronics and used tires will be allowed to continue until they can be transitioned into the new system, a process that could take a few years, according to the legislation. The province's Blue Box program, for "traditional" recyclables like paper, plastic, metal and glass, would be continued with increased funding from stewards, whose contribution is currently capped at 50 percent.

A complete version of this story is available at wasterecyclingnews.com.