July 1, 2012 had appeared to be “E-Day” for many small British Columbia businesses caught up in logistical combat over environmental regulations. Residential rules expanded overnight to include business sectors, and suddenly light bulbs and outdoor power equipment needed stewardship plans. They had built-in environmental handling fees too.
Businesses knew it was coming. They just hadn’t anticipated all the consequences.
“This has nothing to do with the spirit of the requirements or opposition to environmental handling fees,” Shachi Kurl, Canadian Federation of Independent Business director of provincial affairs for B.C. and Yukon told Solid Waste & Recycling magazine.
Kurl says it has everything to do with the “onion-like layers” of logistics that came with the expanded regulation. The expansion relates to the Recycling Regulation under the Environmental Management Act. It sets out the requirements for product stewardship in BC, which is primarily managed by the Product Care Association.
“Nobody looked at the trickle-down effect of this on the shop floor from the perspective of the business owner,” Kurl says. “We’re being asked to add hours of time in regulatory compliance.”
Kurl says she’s surprised about the lack of consultation surrounding the regulatory expansion, especially considering how actively engaged the province has been in communicating and consulting with the CFIB over logistics for the ongoing HST-PST transition.
Brochures with a simple checklist and a helpline would have been an ideal way to help communicate the new eco-changes, Kurl says.
Being an environmentally-friendly business is not just a tough task, but a costly one, says the CFIB as it pleads to the province for a more streamlined eco-approach to “facilitate, not discourage, compliance” for its 10,000 business members in BC alone.
CFIB says consultation and communication over the regulatory expansion weren’t good enough. While some would suggest it’s the responsibility of business owners to be up-to-date on regulations, the CFIB is blaming communication issues for some businesses not learning about the lightbulb recycling program until June of 2012, just a month before the regulatory expansion kicked in.
“These changes are hitting some light contractors especially hard, as they had signed fixed price contracts with customers before finding out about the changes,” states a June 29, 2012 CFIB letter to BC Minister of Environment Terry Lake.
So far, the government is listening, at least in part. In terms of the LightRecycle program, it has been announced that the regulatory expansion will now be phased in between July 1 and October 1, 2012.
But the contention over Environmental Handling Fees (EHF) remains, as Kurl has yet to hear back from the province. That said, she’s optimistic about the eventual response.
“We believe a comprehensive review of EHF programs with an eye to simplifying compliance fits within the framework of your government’s commitment,” says the CFIB’s letter, authored by Kurl. “As it stands, however, the current standards of compliance where EHFs are concerned more closely resemble the poster child of unnecessary regulatory burden.”
CFIB says its problem with the handling fees is the resources necessary to track product information. It notes that while the EHF is often built in at the manufacturing source, it’s not always the case.
“Manufacturers do not always disclose this fact, and those that do are not always consistent in their disclosure for every product they make,” Kurl wrote.
The small business must contact the manufacturer to confirm the EHF, CFIB says. This responsibility should rest with the manufacturer, argues Kurl. Businesses must also keep track of how much they make each month from the fees, which could range from a quarter to $2.50 or more, depending on the product.
According to electronics dealer Best Buy, any display device larger than 29 inches would cost a BC resident $31.75 (second only to Nova Scotia and P.E.I). These fees can fluctuate, which means business resources are needed to track them. The business must then remit the fees back to a number of different designated authorities, sometimes writing cheques for nominal amounts, sometimes as little as five or ten dollars.
Of course, the EHF drives up the overall cost of BC products, which creates an altogether different concern for CFIB; namely, when customers upset with the additional cost decide to order the product through the U.S.
David Nesseth is web editor for Ecolog.com Contact David at email@example.com (Note: For more news and articles like this, visit www.ecolog.com