Ontario’s environment minister has released the program request letter for Phase 2 and 3 of the province’s stewardship program for municipal hazardous and special waste (MHSW), commonly known as household hazardous waste (HHW). Covered materials include mercury-containing items such as fluorescent lamps, switches and measuring devices, aerosol containers, fire extinguishers, pharmaceuticals and sharps (e.g., syringes).
Most significantly, the minister has directed stewards to pick up the full cost of the program including collection of materials. The minister has also asked for a range of collection options over-and-above municipal depots including residential collection (i.e., “toxic taxi”) and retail take-back. Also, the scope of the MHSW program is to be expanded to include certain wastes (specifically non lead-acid batteries) from IC&I generators.
Under an agreement — referred to as a “functional split” — between Stewardship Ontario and Ontario municipalities, the costs of collecting MHSW at municipal depots is currently borne by municipalities, while the industry “stewards” are responsible for covering post-collection transportation and processing costs.
The minister has effectively abrogated that agreement, calling for an amendment to the original Phase 1 MHSW plan that would see stewards responsible for all MHSW program costs. The minister’s letter of July 22 states, “Funding for the amended program shall become the full responsibility of the stewards and shall address all costs inclusive of collection through final diversion or disposal of MHSW.”
According to waste reduction expert Usman Valiante, this is a precedent-setting direction.
“Firstly, it sets a new tone whereby the ministry is willing to over-ride agreements between parties where those agreements are inconsistent with the government’s public policy objectives (in this case promotion of full extended producer responsibility),” says Valiante. “Secondly, it’s a significant shift away from the municipal-steward cost sharing model entrenched in the Waste Diversion Act with regard to funding for Ontario’s blue box.”
This new policy direction from the Ontario Government comes in anticipation of the statutory review of the Waste Diversion Act.