Opinions are “polarized” over Call2Recycle’s proposed stewardship plan in Ontario for used batteries.
At the March 12, 2014 Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) board meeting, the Call2Recycle Industry Stewardship Plan for used batteries was not approved. There was some miscommunication around the announcement of this, with at least one outlet reporting that the plan had been “rejected” by the WDO, but this was later corrected. The WDO has simply delayed any decision and is evaluating various aspects of the proposal and the standards and regulations that govern battery recycling in the province. (You can read the details in a news item on our website here.) In evaluating the merits of the proposed Call2Recycle plan, the devil is (as always) in the detail, so let’s look at those details now. (Readers may also wish to review my page 4 editorial from the February/March edition of Solid Waste & Recycling magazine, viewable in digital form here.)
There were four key issues associated with the decision to postpone any approval of the ISP:
1) Competiton law issues related to the inclusion of rechargeable and lead-acid batteries in the Call2Recycle ISP for single-use batteries.
Since the Government of Ontario cancelled Phase 2 of Ontario’s municipal hazardous and special waste (MHSW) program in 2010, rechargeable batteries of any chemistry are not subject of an approved waste diversion program under Ontario’s Waste Diversion Act (WDA). As a result, WDO has no authority under the WDA to approve an ISP for rechargeable and lead-acid batteries. A Competiton law issue was raised regarding Call2Recycle’s use of an ISP approval to “flow control” non-designated batteries through provisions in agreements it establishes with service providers for the collection, transport and recycling of single-use batteries. To be compliant with the Competiton Act it appears that Call2Recycle cannot mandate how its service providers manage these batteries. Of note, lead-acid and rechargeable batteries are collected, transported and recycled at high rates across Ontario in the free market (where they have positive value as recyclable commodities).
2) Recycling standards and the definition of recycling.
Experts say that the existing approved Consolidated MHSW program as approved by the environment ministry has a requirement that recycling of single-use batteries must result in an 80 per cent battery recycling efficiency rate (RER), i.e., 80 per cent of single-use batteries by weight must be recycled back into commodities reusable in manufacturing of new products. Under the current MHSW program, this is occurring, with well over 80 per cent of single-use batteries recycled into manufacturing feedstock. Call2Recycle’s preferred vendor is INMETCO — a US based nickel smelter that receives mixed recycling rechargeable and single-use batteries from Call2Recycle. Many stakeholders have argued that putting single-use batteries into a nickel smelter amounts to disposal with little of the single-use battery material recovered for recycling and much of it converted to smelter slag. Call2Recycle has suggested that the smelter slag is used as aggregate in road-beds and should therefore count as recycling against the 80 per cent RER. WDO has yet to clarify whether slag production counts as recycling and has said it will study battery recycling efficiency in collaboration with the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO).
3) Transition issues with Ontario municipalities.
Under the Battery Incentive Program (BIP) under Ontario’s existing Consolidated Municipal Household Special Waste (CMHSW) program, battery transporters and processors are provided financial incentives for the collection and recycling of batteries. There are about 30 battery transporters in the province that have commercial relationships with thousands of battery generator sites, including municipalities. Municipalities are concerned about how the Call2Recycle ISP will affect their relationships with existing service providers if the structure of the BIP is not retained by Call2Recycle.
4) Transition issues between Call2Recycle and the existing CMHSW program.
There are dozens of single-use battery stewards in Ontario. Each is currently registered with Stewardship Ontario (SO) and is obligated by law to pay stewardship fees into the CMHSW program. Unless all battery stewards currently registered with SO migrate to the Call2Recycle ISP, SO will be obligated to provide a battery collection program for the battery stewards that remain with it. The result will be an imbalance between CMHSW program revenue and operating costs. It’s unclear as to how many battery stewards currently paying fees into the CHMSW program have agreed to migrate to the Call2Recycle ISP should it be approved (and what proportion of batteries sold into Ontario they represent).
WDO has said it wishes to address these issues in a timely manner and is instituting a process to do so. With regard to recycling standards of concern is that WDO has stated that a decision on the Call2Recycle ISP could be made prior to a recycling efficiency study being conducted which could call any decision to approve or reject the Call2Recycle ISP into question.
I don’t wish to editorialize on this at this time, but simply set out the above information so readers understand the issues at hand. If you wish to learn more you can access an audio summary of WDO’s views regarding the Call2Recycle ISP from WDO’s March 13 CEO Update Conference Call at http://www.wdo.ca/news/march-13-ceo-update-conference-call-replay/