Canadian Bill Targets Industry for Recycling

COMPANIES THAT SELL consumer products in Ontario may soon face new packaging fees that would help reimburse half of the local government's recycling costs.

Ontario's Waste Diversion Act, or Bill 90, would shift 50 percent of the cost of curbside recycling programs to industries. The bill would affect products that are shipped into Ontario and end up in consumers' homes.

“The main objective of the bill is to divert 50 percent of waste headed to landfills, and recycling is the best way to accomplish that goal,” says Donald Wiedman of Stewardship Ontario, the Toronto-based organization responsible for implementing Bill 90.

“[Bill 90] is a law that shifts the responsibility on to industry,” says Lance King, chairman of Arlington, Va.-based Community Solutions. “But it is not a true producer-responsibility law. It doesn't provide an incentive to industry to promote recycling or reduce waste.” Instead, the bill is a shared responsibility model designed to put social pressure on industry to do anything but send waste to the landfill, Wiedman explains.

If the bill passes, companies will be responsible for weighing the materials in which their products are shipped and charged for the weight of their packaging. In addition to packing and shipping materials, companies also will be responsible for paper inserts, instruction manuals and fliers.

“It's the first time that a law has required [industry] to track and weigh printed paper,” King says. If the bill is approved, Ontario will be the first province or state to enforce a producer-responsibility law on all types of packaging in North America. Weight-based fees are common in Europe and Asia.

The project, which has been in the works for 15 years, is pending until Ontario Minister of Environment Jim Wilson decides whether to table the bill or apply it. Stewardship Ontario is hoping the bill will be passed by October of this year. If it passes, industries can expect to pay their fees for the last three months of 2003 and the rest of 2004. “Obviously, industry is not extremely happy,” Wiedman says.