Written by: Derek Stephenson on July 26, 2013

Can you fairly hold an EPR beauty contest between the Recycling Regulation in British Columbia and the Waste Diversion Act (WDA) in Ontario? The BC Recycling Regulation was enacted in 2004 replacing previous regulations dating back to 1971 and explicitly states the intent to provide producers “with the flexibility to design product stewardship programs that work best for their businesses”. The stated purpose of the WDA, formulated in 2000 and enacted in 2002, “ is to promote the reduction, reuse and recycling of waste and to provide for the development, implementation and operation of waste diversion programs”. You will not find “EPR” defined or referenced in either of them.

And yet trade associations, their consultants and program service providers are publicly expressing their fond desire for (if not exactly lusting after) the “EPR models (?)” established under these fading beauties. Which better protects freedom of the market place? Which is better for educating consumers about the costs of recycling?

The proposed new legislation in Ontario, the Waste Reduction Act, resembles neither and repudiates key elements of both :

• Government should not be facilitating the creation of monopoly compliance schemes and providing them with de facto taxing powers.

• Obligated companies should be able (in practice and not just in theory) to meet their obligations operating individually, in cooperation with other like-minded companies or by forming a broader industry compliance scheme.

• The individual company should be held liable for meeting the performance goals set out in legislation, not their service provider.

• Municipalities should continue to play a key role in providing recycling collection services for their residents.

• The costs of recycling should be incorporated into the advertised price of the product but the producer should be free to inform the consumer of the recycling costs included in that price (think airline ticket and gasoline pricing).

Without question Bill 91 would clearly and formally extend a producer’s responsibility for the management of a product supplied into the Ontario market to include collection and recycling after use. It would not be continuing the current Canadian practice of dressing up waste management cost sharing regulations in locally knitted EPR clothing.

Without question, if passed, Bill 91 would significantly disrupt established product stewardship practices in Canada. For everyone.

If the provinces of Canada decide to make a leap from creating innovative waste management financing mechanisms to legislating EPR, it would seem prudent to focus more attention on how best to do that rather than arguing about who has the best policy framework in place today.