Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s refusal to adopt a sustainable funding formula that would prevent electronic product manufacturers from passing program costs on to consumers as eco-fees has led to a cut in paying recyclers for recovering and recycling materials, says the Ontario Waste Management Association.
In February of 2012, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment directed Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) —a private agency— to work with Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) to develop a financial cost recovery model to control program deficits. But no progress has since been made, says the OWMA, and as of October 1, 2012, OES introduced cuts to recycling payments, known as Processor Incentives.
The OWMA appears critical of both sides in the “impasse”, noting that WDO —overseer of the province’s recycling programs— should have fought harder against the new cuts.
"OES’ cuts undermine the progress made to ensure e-waste is recycled by legitimate processors and hazardous materials diverted from disposal,” said Rob Cook, CEO of the Ontario Waste Management Association, in a September 27, 2012 statement to media. “In acquiescing to significant reductions to processors, WDO has undermined the very principles on which it was established – to increase waste diversion, protect the environment and ensure stability in the recycling industry.”
But according to a WDO spokesperson on October 9, 2012, the issue over rates paid to processors has been under discussion for more than a year. WDO says it was one of the focuses of an independent review conducted by KPMG.
"That review recommended the rate be adjusted to better reflect market conditions," WDO said in an e-mailed statement to Solid Waste and Recycling Magazine. "Since then, OES has consulted extensively with processors via workshops, webinars and by encouraging written submissions. OES has subsequently issued feedback reports. Contrary to OWMA’s statements, this program is tracking well to its targets this year, and it remains a very popular program for consumers."
The OWMA says a new approach from OES would have ensured that it eliminated deficits, had sufficient revenue to pay for environmentally-sound recycling and ended consumer fees charged at the point-of-sale. Instead, the OWMA says the e-stewards preferred approach was simply to increase existing electronics eco-fees for consumers.
“Having just achieved recovery of 50% of the electronic waste generated in the province annually, OES will now be gutting the program,” the OWMA wrote in its recent news release.
In an October 5, 2012 letter to stakeholders, OES Executive Director Jonathan Spencer said incentives have been so successful that e-waste volumes are growing at “unprecedented levels” that are no longer sustainable.
“Today, we also face a very different financial reality,” Spencer wrote. “With more Ontarians answering the call to safely and responsibly manage their out-of-use electronics, we are tackling the challenges of demand head on while understanding we must protect public interests in delivering our mandate.”
In the coming months of 2012, OES says it will engage stewards and stakeholders in consultations about proposed interim fee increases. New rates would be effective January 1, 2013.
In response to the October 2012 cuts to Processor Incentives, OES says it “introduced reforms built on best practices from other jurisdictions to enhance the effectiveness of the program.” The changes, OES says, are the result of discussions with WDO and are supported by a 2012 report conducted by KPMG.