Extended Producer Responsibility: Who Cares? - By Michael Scott

TORONTO, May 27, 2013 /CNW/ - Michael Scott is CEO of Waste Diversion Ontario (wdo.ca; @WDOntario), the not-for-profit organization funded by industry that oversees Ontario's recycling programs for out-of-use electronics ("e-waste"), used tires, Blue Box material, and household hazardous waste. As part of its oversight role, WDO monitors these programs to ensure they meet diversion targets and are funded by the producers of the materials being diverted from our landfills. WDO is also responsible for enhancing public awareness of and participation in waste diversion programs.

Most people who work in waste diversion are well aware of the expression "Extended Producer Responsibility" (EPR). However, for people not familiar with the 'inside baseball' terms of our industry, EPR likely has little or no significance.

But the term is important and we should all care. It affects how we manage our wastes and who pays to keep as much material out of our landfills as possible.

The best place to start is with a definition. EPR is an approach that extends a company's responsibility to managing the end of life of its products and packaging, including paying for the cost of recycling or reuse.

Originally, EPR had two objectives: first, to shift the cost of responsible end-of-life management of products from taxpayers to producers, and second, to provide a financial incentive to producers to develop more environmentally-friendly products and packaging. The second objective was based on the belief that if producers were obligated to pay for recycling costs themselves, they would create products that reduce the amount of resources required and/or be easier to recycle.

Two forms of EPR are currently in practice in Ontario for materials the Minister of the Environment has determined must be diverted from our landfills through a recycling program.

The first form involves shared financial responsibility for recycling costs among producers. For this example of EPR in Ontario, the responsible management of designated waste materials rests with Industry Funding Organizations (IFOs). Waste Diversion Ontario oversees the management of the programs operated by the IFOs. Ontario Tire Stewardship operates the used tires program, Ontario Electronic Stewardship operates the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Program and Stewardship Ontario manages the Blue Box and household hazardous waste programs.

The second form is called Individual Producer Responsibility (IPR), where financial responsibility and liability for responsible end-of-life management of products lies with the individual companies/producers who create these products, or import them into Ontario.

Last year, Ontario's Ministry of the Environment designated an IPR program under the Environmental Protection Act. This program covers "pharmaceuticals" and "sharps" used by consumers in the residential sector, such as prescription drugs and their containers, needles, syringes and lancets. Under IPR, producers must report directly to government on their program's performance, and they have the option of delivering the program on their own, or in conjunction with other producers.

In Ontario, there are other EPR or IPR programs in operation that apply to specific waste for which no provincial recycling program has yet been designated. For example, companies use programs for pallet and tote recovery and reuse in many industries, including automotive, and in various food sectors. Pallets and totes are made of materials such as wood, plastic and metal that can be recycled or reused.

We should all care about EPR because it will likely become a prominent feature of new waste diversion legislation expected soon. Ontario's Minister of the Environment has indicated he will introduce a bill to replace current legislation "with an approach that engages the innovative creativity of individual private sector producers and makes them financially-responsible and environmentally-accountable for the goods they sell". The government would set "clear environmental requirements" and include "effective monitoring, oversight, compliance and enforcement".

Since Ontario's Waste Diversion Act was passed over 10 years ago, the expression "waste diversion" has become a misnomer. We aren't diverting waste anymore; we are diverting resources like base and precious metals, plastics, rubber, paper and glass. Above-ground mining is a good way to describe what we now do, as we reclaim valuable materials that would otherwise be lost forever.

Most people now expect the makers of products and packaging to pay for the cost of recycling them and keeping them out of our landfills. This is what EPR is all about. And this is why it is so important.

SOURCE: Waste Diversion Ontario

For further information:

Media Contact:

Julie Kwiecinski
(416) 226-3252 (office)
(416) 550-1995 (cell)

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Waste Diversion Ontario

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