EPR Canada released the first of its kind report card in July benchmarking the progress Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments are making to require producers (manufacturers and brand owners) to be 100 per cent responsible for their products and packaging after consumers are done with them.
The report card compares the policies and programs each government either had in place or had pending by the end of 2011 and assigns standard grades.
British Columbia (BC) earned the highest score, an A-, in recognition of its focus on extended producer responsibility (EPR) as a tool to increase waste diversion and prevent pollution. In the report card, EPR Canada said that BC had made “a clear commitment to the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment’s (CCME) Canada-wide Action Plan for EPR, having designated more than two-thirds of the product categories including beverage containers, various types of special and hazardous waste, electronic and electrical products, tires and packaging and printed paper.”
Geoff Love, co-founder of EPR Canada says BC’s positive action on making the producer responsible clearly put it ahead of other governments in Canada.
“The major reason the province lost some points was for not applying penalties when obligated producers failed to meet waste recovery targets within specified timelines,” Love says.
About 50 people, including representatives from industry and stewardship organizations, attended a news conference in Vancouver where EPR Canada released the report.
BC Environment Minister Terry Lake accepted a certificate of recognition and spoke about the central role EPR must play in reducing the amount of waste that ends up in BC landfills. He credited the cooperative relationship among his staff, industry and BC consumers for the success BC has had in putting effective EPR programs in place.
Manitoba, Quebec and Nova Scotia received grades of B- for the progress they had made in meeting their commitment to the CCME’s Action Plan. Ontario and Prince Edward Island each got a C+, marginally ahead of Alberta which earned a C. Saskatchewan, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador each received a C-.
The only jurisdiction to receive a failing grade at F was the federal government largely for not moving forward on stated intentions to legislate EPR for toxic waste over which it has jurisdiction. As a result, says EPR co-founder Duncan Bury, provincial governments are confused about who should take responsibility for managing the waste.
Due to the unique challenges faced by the northern territories, EPR Canada chose not to allocate a score this year to the Yukon or the Northwest Territories, though both responded to the questionnaire. However, EPR Canada noted that each showed progress toward putting EPR programs in place.
EPR Canada developed the report card by sending a questionnaire to the ministers of environment of each jurisdiction. All responded but Nunavut, which could not return the completed questionnaire on time.
EPR Canada assigned two members to analyze and score each submission independently. After comparing notes and arriving at a consensus score, the entire organization reviewed the results and reached consensus on final scores. The members of EPR Canada who completed the scoring are posted on the EPR Canada website.
“The purpose of the report card is to showcase what the governments across Canada are doing to move public policy on producer responsibility forward,” Bury says. “By shining a light on progress, EPR Canada hopes to encourage leadership, innovation and best practices in EPR policies and to influence the evolution of product stewardship and partial EPR to full EPR programs.”
The CCME defines EPR as a policy approach in which a producer’s responsibility, physical and/or financial, for a product is extended to the post-consumer stage of a product’s life cycle, shifting it away from municipalities and regional waste authorities. It also encourages producers to incorporate environmental considerations in the design of their products. The federal, provincial and territorial governments have all committed to regulating EPR programs for the materials designated under the CCME’s Action Plan.
The 2011 Report Card is the first of five annual ratings that EPR Canada plans to produce and publish on its website, www.eprcanada.ca The results will be posted during the second quarter of each year.
EPR Canada is a not-for-profit organization whose members have been involved in EPR policies and programs since their inception in Canada in the 1990s. Canada is an acknowledged world leader in this area of environmental achievement.
Barbara McConnell is president of McConnell Weaver
Strategic Communication in Toronto, Ontario.
Contact Barb at email@example.com