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Packaging Producer Responsibility in Ontario

Ontario has taken a first step towards Extended Producer Responsibility in its new legislation that will require companies producing blue box wastes to pay part of the costs of the program. From the Recycling Policy NewsBriefs Email Bulletin published by Raymond Communications:

In a precedent-setting move, Ontario’s new Minister of the Environment has approved a controversial plan that will require packaged goods makers to ante up for 50% the local government bill for curbside recycling, which will trigger weight-based packaging fees by spring of 2004, according to State Recycling Laws Update, a newsletter covering North American recycling policy.

The plan, which was submitted in February 2003, was delayed because of complaints from industry over the cost and complexity of the plan, and because of elections for a new government in October.

Approval of the new regulation, required under Bill 90 passed in 2002, is a victory for local governments, which stand to take in $3 million per month (CDN) from industry payments.

Quebec has legislation in place, and is set to copy Ontario as soon as the regulation is settled.

“Approval of this plan does set a new precedent in the area of ‘producer responsibility’ legislation worldwide,” comments SRLU publisher Michele Raymond, head of Raymond Communications. “There is some concern from industry that the idea will spread to other governments. This is the first time in North America that manufacturers will have to weigh their packaging and calculate fees.”

The Armchair Garbageman wrote an informative posting on the subject today.

There are several reasons why this new regulation is good news. The simple story is that municipalities are going to get a sizeable sum of money to offset their waste-disposal costs. The bigger story is that producers will now have to factor these costs into the decisions that they make, thus encouraging them to reduce costs and waste over the long term.

Unfortunately, the system isn't complete. Soon, producers will be responsbile for paying part of the costs for recycling their blue-box material packaging. However, I don't know of plans to charge them for their non-recyclable packaging. Making garbage is free, but if you make something that is recyclable, you have to pay. It should be different: if you make something that you reuse you don't have to pay, if you make something that is recyclable you pay, and if you make something that is not recyclable you pay more.

In Europe, legislation is in place that requires producers to pay the cost of recycling their own packaging materials, electronics and automobiles. We're moving a lot slower here in North America, but it sounds like Ontario is beginning to step ahead. In the long run, designers and the actual decision-makers within corporations will be factoring in a little bit of the environmental costs of their decisions.

I have a bit of work experience in this area, and it is interesting to see it finally coming to Canada in a concrete way.



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