Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley told NewsTalk 610 CKTB radio in his hometown of St. Catharines last week that he will be introducing new legislation this Spring to force industry to include stewardship fees for recycling in the price of a product rather than having them added on at the cash register as some sectors, most notably consumer electronics and tires, have been doing.
This announcement comes in the face of a political fiasco caused by adjustments to stewardship fees implemented by the industry funding organization Waste Diversion Ontario. Some stewardship fees have increased very dramatically and the affected users are screaming at the government. This is not the first time this problem has arisen. Back in 2010 industry tried to impose ecofees on many household products, including such things as cleaning products, and the government slapped them down at considerable cost to the taxpayer. Industry seems not to understand that, by putting government in a political fix, government will fight back and eventually almost certainly win with measures that industry finds unpalatable. One could hear the anger in the usually mild-mannered Bradley’s voice as he discussed the stewardship fee issue with NewsTalk host Tim Denis last Friday.
The issue of whether stewardship fees should be added on at the cash register or embedded in the price of the product has been contentious ever since Ontario introduced the stewardship system to pay for recycling programs. Some observers have argued that simply passing stewardship fees on to the consumer removes the incentive for companies to reduce the cost of recycling their products. Although Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act provides industry with an opportunity to become more competitive with reduced or eliminated stewardship fees based on diversion of end-of-life goods to more cost effective reuse and recycling, few companies have taken advantage of the opportunity. Some companies have actively fought against competitive efforts to reduce costs through better product design and recycling.
Stewardship is a good idea but the Ontario system is seriously broken. Hopefully the new legislation will change things in such a way that provides industry with an incentive to divert end of life goods from landfill, to redesign products to make them easier to recycle, and to encourage development of a much larger Canadian materials recycling industry. Whatever the legislation contains one can be sure that costs to industry will rise.
To hear Minister Bradley’s comments, go to http://www.610cktb.com/multimedia/episodes.aspx?pid=1771 and click on the link: CKTB Roundtable Part One – April 5th, 2013