A lot has been happening in Ontario recently with respect to reforming the province’s somewhat beleaguered process for approving product stewardship programs and establishing eco fees for them. We’ll therefore focus on these this time to bring everyone up to speed.
Ontario has released a new action plan for diverting waste from landfills and for implementing changes to programs and policies established under the Waste Diversion Act, 2002 (WDA). The action plan is intended to address several objectives including ensuring that: waste diversion targets for Ontario are achieved; that retailers understand their role and take responsibility for fair and accurate pricing; and, that businesses have clear, consistent guidelines for diverting the maximum amount of waste possible. (Additional objectives are to ensure that municipalities are not burdened with additional costs and that the interests of consumers are protected.)
Under the WDA, stewards pay fees to industry funding organizations to develop, implement and operate waste diversion programs for designated wastes. The amount that stewards pay into the system will be changing so that it’s based on reported market share. Costs related to the operation of the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste (MHSW) program will be recovered to ensure producers pay the actual cost of waste disposal instead of a projected cost. As part of the action plan, Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO) has been directed to undertake a detailed audit and review of Stewardship Ontario’s (SO) budgets and expenditures.
The Ontario Minister of the Environment and the Vice-Chair of WDO have approved amendments to the operating agreement between the ministry and WDO with respect to the structure of the board of directors of WDO. The new board is intended to reflect modern governance practices and to assist in improving WDO’s oversight of programs established under the WDA.
MHSW program fee review
The environment minister also directed Waste Diversion Ontario to undertake separate reviews on the development and implementation of financial incentives that are paid to service providers by Stewardship Ontario under the MHSW Program, to Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) under the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) program and to Ontario Tire Stewardship (OTS) under the used tires program. The minister also asked WDO to determine: whether the development and implementation of these financial incentives are effective in achieving waste diversion targets and program objectives; and, the impact of incentive programs on municipalities and waste diversion services.
In response to the minister’s direction, WDO has released a report entitled Review of MHSW Program. The report focuses on the MHSW program operated by Stewardship Ontario, and the ministry is now in the process of reviewing the report and requesting feedback on the report and its recommendations.
Fixed rate rejected by processors
In recent times Stewardship Ontario has taken contracts for waste haulage and processing away from municipalities and has been directly paying waste haulers and processors of hazardous waste a fixed rate for their work, and issuing incentive payments based on the type and volume of waste hauled and processed. (For industry comment, see page 38.)
Previously, municipalities were responsible for negotiating contracts with service providers, who would pick up and process hazardous waste, and then submit bills to SO. SO would pay the service providers from the fees collected from manufacturers and retailers of the products.
The fixed rate approach has been criticized by many service providers for being artificially low. In fact, one of the largest paint recyclers in Ontario has pulled out of the program and Ontario’s largest propane tank processor announced it would stop picking up propane tanks due to the new fee structure. As a result, the environment minister has directed WDO, which oversees SO, to conduct a full financial audit of the corporation and review the impact of its new pricing model.
National standards for auto recycling
The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) has launched a study to examine the end-of-life vehicle recycling management sector in Canada. The study is intended to determine the size, scope and diversity of the vehicle-recycling sector, and assess potential industry costs and socio-economic benefits associated with a national approach to environmental management of end-of-life vehicles in Canada.
The study was prompted by a report from the Automotive Recyclers of Canada, which was submitted to the CCME in July, 2011. The Automotive Recyclers of Canada believe that it is essential to have a national approach to managing end-of-life vehicles. They have cautioned that governments considering this issue, in the context of waste management policy initiatives, need to ensure that they address the unique features of the existing recycling market for end-of-life vehicles which is different than other recycling markets.
The Automotive Recyclers of Canada are advocating for the implementation of a common decommissioning standard for processors of end-of-life vehicles. The objective of a national approach is to ensure a consistent, effective and efficient end-of-life vehicle management program in Canada.
Rosalind Cooper, LL.B., is a partner with Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP in Toronto, Ontario. Contact Rosalind at firstname.lastname@example.org