Harris proposes major reform of hazardous, electronic recycling policies

November 21, 2012

QUEEN’S PARK — Today, PC Environment Critic and Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris called on the Liberal government to adopt a PC proposal that would end government-mandated monopolies over recycling hazardous and electronic waste in Ontario by opening up both of these sectors to the free-market.

“For far too long, the government’s command-and-control approach to waste diversion has stifled innovation and efficiency in the recycling market,” Harris said. “Manufacturers and importers understand they have a responsibility to divert hazardous and electronic waste from our landfills, but they want the ability to determine how to recycle that waste in a competitive marketplace.”

Currently, producers and importers (referred to as stewards) are obligated to pay eco-fees to industry-funded organizations (IFOs) that the Ministry of the Environment has created to administer recycling programs developed by Waste Diversion Ontario (WDO).

Harris’s proposal would instead require the government to set measurable and achievable waste diversion targets, establish environmental standards and monitor outcomes. Stewards would then be free to determine how to achieve those targets either on their own or through a collaborative effort, which would be subject to the Canadian Competition Act, unlike Ontario’s current IFOs, including: Stewardship Ontario and Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES).

“These reforms would inject competition into the recycling marketplace, stimulate economic growth and drive down recycling costs for stewards,” Harris said. “As demand grows for recyclable hazardous and electronic waste, recycling will begin to increase, leading to greater waste diversion in Ontario, which has unfortunately been stalled at 23% for years.”

Under the Liberals’ failed system, the Ministry of the Environment and WDO idly stood by as Stewardship Ontario and OES racked up multi-million-dollar deficits. To cover Stewardship Ontario’s debt, the Environment Minister decided to force businesses to foot the bill through a deficit-recovery fee. OES, however, was left to develop its own cost-recovery model. Nearly a year later, OES has refused to submit a credible plan to the Ministry and will, instead, raise eco-fees on electronics next year to pay for its financial mismanagement, all with the approval of WDO.

“I urge the Environment Minister to implement a new regulatory approach that transforms the MHSW and WEEE programs from what they are today to producer responsibility initiatives that deliver solid environmental performance and economic efficiency,” Harris said. “To provide proper oversight, I also ask that the Minister call on the Premier to reconvene the House so that the Ministry of the Environment can assume oversight responsibility, after WDO is abolished.”