Footing the Bill

COMPANIES, OR “STEWARDS,” that introduce packaging materials and printed paper into Ontario's consumer marketplace soon will be paying 50 percent of the city's blue box recycling costs. But manufacturers aren't upset over footing the recycling bill — they are concerned how the bill will be tallied.

In late 2003, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment amended its Waste Diversion Act requiring the packaging industry to pay part of the city's municipal recycling bill. To determine how much each manufacturer would pay, Stewardship Ontario and its stakeholders developed a schedule of fees based on:

  • the costs of managing the material in the waste stream;

  • recovery rates; and

  • identifying materials that were not being recycled and pricing them as if they were being recovered at a 75 percent rate.

It is estimated that manufacturers will pay approximately $35 million in recycling costs in 2004. Businesses with annual sales of less than $2 million or those with sales greater than $2 million but that produce less than 15 tons of packaging or printed paper will be exempt from paying the fees.

The manufacturing industry is pro-blue box and happy to pay its share, according to Larry Dworkin, director of government relations for the Toronto-based Packaging Association of Canada (PAC). However, many are concerned about the new law because there is no limit on how much municipalities can spend on their recycling programs.

“If the city of Toronto decides to initiate a $200 million program, industry is stuck to 50 percent of the net costs,” Dworkin says. “Our biggest concern is … there is nothing limiting or scrutinizing the [recycling] programs themselves.”

Dworkin says he would like to see a more pragmatic, equitable approach to the blue box program, in which the authority would work with producers to determine payment requirements. “If the program is to work, we have to find a process that will increase the degree of recycling rather than reduce it. In our opinion, this will reduce the degree of recyclability, rather than improve it.”

But ready or not, Stewardship Ontario expects to have stewards registered and monies collected by April 20, 2004. “This [legislation] was seen to be good public policy by the government, and we attempted to make it as fair and as equitable as possible,” says Damien Bassett, CEO of Stewardship Ontario.