Canadian Manufacturing

Lessons from Ontario’s infamous producer-pays program

Manufacturers, consumers need better incentives: C.D. Howe

TORONTO, ONT.: Making manufacturers pay for their products’ end-of-life waste would drive competition and innovation, but only with the right system in place, says a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute, a Toronto-based think-tank.

The report examined the Ontario government’s failed attempt in July 2010 to introduce “eco-fees” for household products such as batteries and fluorescent light bulbs.

The extended producer responsibility (EPR) program was meant to encourage consumers to buy more environmentally friendly products, but caused confusion and public outrage.

The province scrapped the program several months ago, admitting it had done a poor job of setting it up and informing the public about it.

But the report says the system could’ve worked, had it been designed properly.

It makes several recommendations, such as setting realistic waste diversion targets and providing incentives for consumers to participate in end-of-product life collection and recycling.

“One big consideration is forming the governing boards so that they include balanced representation from industry and consumers,” says Ben Dachis, a policy analyst with C.D. Howe Institute.

He says it’s also important to allow both individual and collective EPR systems in order to promote competition.

“In Ontario, the fee structure was average across all producers and there was no individual incentive to reduce waste,” he adds.

The report says EPR has the potential to encourage innovative manufacturing processes that reduce end-of-life waste. Other regions in Canada will soon see for themselves, with a host of new programs set to roll out as soon as next year.

In Alberta, new legislation is expected on EPR for packaging and a similar program to deal with batteries and anti-freeze is scheduled in B.C. Quebec is also looking at new EPR programs for electronics and batteries.

The Eco-Fee Imbroglio: Lessons from Ontario’s Troubled Experiment in Charging for Waste Management” is available at the C.D. Howe Institute’s website.

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