As noted in our news section today, an industry lobby is asking New Brunswick’s environment minister to alter Bill 15’s new product stewardship legislation that, as drafted, would prohibit separate stewardship fees from being shown to consumers and, in effect, make it difficult for brand owners to pass on recycling and waste diversion costs to a third-party stewardship board. The letter is reproduced in full below.
In Canada, the western provinces have moved forward with product stewardship schemes that use advance disposal fees (ADFs). This is sometimes casually called the “Western model” and is notable in Alberta where it’s used for such things as scrap tires, used oil and electronics waste. In ADF schemes, companies set up a stewardship organization that funds recycling and diversion from landfill of waste materials. While this may be effective in keeping certain materials out of landfill, this “arms length” relationship between manufacturers and their waste streams comes in for heavy criticism from environmentalists, who want programs to be designed in such a way that more responsibility is placed on manufacturers to change the way they manufacture, package and distribute their goods in the first place. For materials like used oil, the Western model has been shown to actually undermine environmentally superior re-refining and to encourage burning.
New Brunswick’s Bill 15 may be the first step in what could become the “Eastern model” — i.e., programs that function without ADFs. A good example of what these could look like is the new e-waste program in the State of Maine. (We recently posted a news item on that program under Headline News.)
The industry letter uses careful wording to suggest that prohibition of visible fees prohibits “a transparent cost recovery process, which in turn will impair consumer awareness of the recovery/recycling costs for designated products and packaging, thereby reducing consumer compliance.”
This statement is meant to appeal to people who don’t understand how ADF schemes function, and to characterize visible fees as superior (in the sense that no fees, or hidden fees, are somehow nefarious and dishonest). I doubt that the policymakers in New Brunswick will be confused by these statements. The signatories to the letter probably feel they just “have to” defend and promote the stance they’ve taken elsewhere over fees, while fully understanding the full ramifications of every aspect of this “game.”
My guess is that within a year or so there will be two (maybe even three!) regimes for funding of product stewardship in Canada: a Western ADF-based model, and Eastern/Atlantic Region fee-less model, with Ontario and Quebec in the middle (sucking their thumbs, probably). We should all follow this with interest.
Here’s the letter (also posted as a pdf file under Posted Documents on this website home page)
February 1, 2006
The Honourable Trevor Holder
Minister of Environment and Local Government
Government of New Brunswick
P.O. Box 6000
Fredericton, NB E3B 5H1
RE: An Act to Amend the Clean Environment Act (Bill 15)
On behalf of Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR), Retail Council of Canada (RCC), and Food and Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC), representing Canadian-based manufacturers, retailers and distributors of a wide range of food, beverage and consumer products, we are writing in response to Bill 15, An Act to Amend the Clean Environment Act.
Collectively our members are committed to environmentally sustainable business practices and our goal is to ensure sustainable product/packaging stewardship programs are developed in provincial jurisdictions across the country. While we fully support New Brunswick’s intention to develop a multi-material recycling program, we are concerned that paragraph r.26 of Bill 15 prohibits a transparent cost recovery process, which in turn will impair consumer awareness of the recovery/recycling costs for designated products and packaging, thereby reducing consumer compliance.
In jurisdictions such as Alberta and British Columbia where recycling and recovery fees are transparent and directly traceable to actual packaging and product recycling costs, the benefits both to consumer awareness and the program’s ultimate success can be significant. Transparent and traceable fees:
• Educate consumers on what it costs to recover and recycle a particular product or package
• Communicate to consumers which products and packaging are costly to recycle and which are less costly, allowing them to make educated and environmentally- friendly choices
• Provide consumers with a convenient and accessible way of “doing their part” for the environment
• Contribute to the sustainability of a stewardship program by helping to recover the costs
In light of these considerations, we request that Bill 15 be amended to exclude paragraph r.26. Approving the legislation as drafted could deny industry operating in New Brunswick the opportunity to establish sustainable stewardship programs to meet recovery targets established by government.
We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss our concerns and will follow up with your staff to establish a meeting date. We look forward to your reply.
Damian Bassett, President & CEO, CSR, (416) 594-3456
Diane J. Brisebois, President & CEO, Retail Council of Canada, (416) 922-6678
Gemma Zecchini, Senior Vice President, Public Policy, FCPC, (416) 510-8024, ext. 2239
c. William Eaton, Chair, New Brunswick Multi-Material Stewardship Board