TORONTO, Oct. 13 /CNW/ - When most of the developed world has successfully implemented policies to ensure that the manufacturers of products and packaging that end up as waste are responsible for having those materials recovered, reused or recycled, Ontario has taken a step backward.
Yesterday, the provincial government revoked a program that was a key first step in ensuring convenient options for Ontarians to properly manage hazardous wastes that may otherwise end up in Ontario's landfills and waterways, and replaced it by a scaled-back substitute that will require taxpayers to shoulder the cost twice. Residents will pay once through their municipal taxes and a second time through the province. Meanwhile, producers who should finance the programs are off the hook.
"Our organization is concerned at the decision government has taken," says Jo-Anne St.Godard, Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Ontario. "Moving away from the polluter-pays principle means the loss of much-needed financial commitments from producers to improve our recycling infrastructure and programs."
This decision follows recent media coverage that focused on the 'surprise and outrage' felt by consumers following the introduction of the 'eco' fees that some Ontario retailers chose to charge. These fees, applied at the point of sale, were wrongly characterized as government taxes. In reality, these fees were passed through as a business decision taken by some retailers in Ontario to help offset their new financial obligations related to producer responsibility. The unfortunate timing of the introduction of Ontario's HST, combined with the poor communication by these retailers about the fees, resulted in consumer confusion and anger and led to this recent decision by the provincial government.
"Compelling producers to pay is the right policy," says St. Godard. "At least as consumers we have a choice as to whether we buy these products. If producers pass their costs off to consumers we can choose to buy or not buy. As taxpayers, we pay regardless."
The government's decision also means a reduction in the scope of the original proposed program leaving some potentially hazardous products not covered by any program.
The Recycling Council of Ontario, along with many other stakeholders, businesses and municipalities, has been working with the provincial government to improve waste diversion programs in Ontario through changes to the Waste Diversion Act (WDA). The government committed to a review of this legislation almost five years ago, and has been conducting extensive consultations on the subject ever since.
"Many stakeholders have devoted a lot of time in working to improve the WDA with a goal to have the most effective and efficient programs in the country," said St. Godard. "The RCO is hoping that this recent decision doesn't signal that the government is turning its back on its commitment to further producer-responsibility programs or expanding recycling activities in Ontario." She continued "Our organization wants to see the environmental outcome of that important work."
It is estimated that Ontario has an overall waste diversion rate of less than of 27% with more than 10 million tones of materials going into landfill every year. Ontario's diversion rate remains in the bottom third in comparison to other provinces.
About Recycling Council of Ontario
The Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) is a not-for-profit, membership-based organization committed to minimizing society's impact on the environment by eliminating waste. RCO's mission is to inform and educate all members of society about the avoidance of waste, efficient use of resources, and the benefits and/or consequences of these activities. Since its inception in 1978, RCO has actively assisted municipalities, corporations, other organizations and individuals in reducing waste.