Monday, September 6, 2010

Ontario Eco Fees FAIL to Divert Hazardous Materials from Landfills...




You know, I've always been skeptical of all of these taxes/fees that we are dishing out, all in the name of the Environmental and Recycling initiatives.

For some reason (hmm... I wonder why?...), I have no faith whatsoever in Dalton McGuinty when he talks about charging us fees to ensure that certain materials (Electronic and etc.) will be Recycled instead of ending up in the Dumps and Landfills with the rest of the garbage.

Well, now that skepticism is being justified, as it is being confirmed that the majority of items which are suppose to be Recycled via the still existing Eco Fee-driven WEEE (The Waste Electronics and Electrical Equipment) program, are still ending up in Landfills.

Which leads us to the question, where is all of the Eco Fee revenue that the Ontario Tax Payers are being milked for, going? Well, it's probably going to the same place that the eHealth Billion dollars went (and you can ask George Slitherman all about that!).

Here's the story from the Toronto Sun:

Ontario waste program under attack
The Ontario government is considering overhauling its television and electronic waste program after scathing complaints from industry stakeholders who contend that much of the material still ends up in the dump despite the eco fees charged to the public.

The Waste Electronics and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) program was the precursor to the ill-fated Stewardship Ontario eco fee plan that the government unveiled for thousands of additional consumer products in July.

Following a strong public outcry, the government suspended the new eco fees for a 90-day review.

However, consumers continue to pay WEEE fees on electronic items — $26.25 for a 29-inch or larger television, $12.25 for an 18 to 29-inch television, $5.40 for a printer/copier, $12.25 for a computer monitor, $0.40 for a computer mouse, $7.80 for a desktop computer, $1 for a phone or answering machine, $0.10 for a cellphone or pager and $9.95 for a home theatre in a box.

Rob Cook, president of the Ontario Waste Management Association, wrote a strongly-worded letter to Wilkinson (Environment Minister John Wilkinson) earlier this month calling for both initiatives to go back to the drawing board.

“Neither of these programs appear to be cost or environmentally effective,” Cook said in the Aug. 17 letter. “Neither has appreciably increased consumer convenience or incentives for returning designated wastes and there has been marginal or no improvements in diversion of a wide variety of designated materials.”

The “overwhelming majority” of these items end up in landfill and there is little demand for the recovered material, he said.

The programs charge fees to industries which manufacture toxic or recyclable products — supposedly to pay for initiatives to divert the material from landfill or to at least ensure it is less hazardous when trashed.

Here is a link to the actual letter that the President of the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA) sent to the Ontario Minister of the Environment (along with some choice excerpts):

Rob Cook's Letter to Ontario Minister of the Environment
As we have stated in past submissions, Industry Funding Organization (IFO) based waste diversion programs developed under the WDA simply externalize steward costs directly to consumers as “eco-fees”, externalize individual producer responsibility and liability to the IFO in question (an entity over which the Ontario Government has no direct control) and eliminates competition between stewards.

But eco-fees are only one side of the anti-competitive coin with regard to stewardship monopolies – the other is the abuse of dominant position of IFOs with regard to businesses diverting waste on behalf of the stewards. Experience is growing in terms of the negative impacts of IFO activities and intrusions in the existing competitive marketplace for recycling servicing and the resultant constriction of 'green' investment and employment growth.

That IFOs convened under the Waste Diversion Act remain sheltered from key provisions of the Competition Act that both protect consumers and prevent IFO anti-competitive abuses remains a key source of dysfunction with Stewardship Ontario’s MHSW program and Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s (OES) WEEE program.

Moreover neither of these programs appear to be cost or environmentally effective. Neither has appreciably increased consumer convenience or incentives for returning designated wastes and there has been marginal or no improvements in diversion of a wide variety of designated materials. The overwhelming majority of most designated wastes under these programs are still disposed of and for material that is recovered, the economic incentives are insufficient to collect and process materials and to develop crucial end-markets. The ad hoc development of environmental standards for recycling service providers as reflected in program plans are minimal at best and are inconsistently or not applied by IFOs. Simply stated, consumers are not getting the environmental performance they expect when they pay eco-fees at retail.

I took a look around to find more information on the Ontario Electronic Stewardship and most specifically on the WEEE fees, and here is what I found in their FAQs:

Ontario Electronic Stewardship - Consumer FAQs
1) What is WEEE?

WEEE stands for “Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment,” as designated in Ontario Regulation 393/04. It is the informal name for the variety of electrical and electronic products that are no longer wanted by their owners. A variety of options exist for waste electronics, including reuse, refurbishment and recycling.

3) Why has WEEE been centered out for a special diversion program?

In Ontario, more than 91,000 tonnes of electrical and electronics equipment are available for reuse and recycling every year. About one-quarter of it is being managed properly. Under normal usage, unwanted electronics poses little or no hazards. However, many electronic products do contain materials such as lead, cadmium and mercury, that if not handled properly could have environmental impacts and cause health and safety concerns. Thus, the safe handling and proper management of WEEE at the end of its life is crucial. The Minister of the Environment designated WEEE for a special diversion program to ensure that unwanted electronics are reused or recycled, and to stem the flow of these materials to landfill or improper processing in developing nations.

14) Who is paying for this program?

Companies that are brand owners, first importers into Ontario, and/or manufacturers of designated electrical and electronic equipment are obligated to cover 100% of the costs of the WEEE Program Plan in Ontario including collection, transporting and processing costs and provincial promotion and education campaign. These companies, called stewards, will remit fees based on the number of units of designated electrical and electronic equipment that they supply into Ontario.

15) Who will run this new WEEE program?

Companies that are brand owners, first importers into Ontario and manufacturers of electrical and electronic equipment have formed an organization called Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES). OES is a non-profit body that will manage the collection of fees from the various companies obligated under this program and then use the fees to pay for the diversion program. This will include collection, transportation, consolidation, end-of-life management of WEEE that cannot be reused or recycled, public education and awareness, research and development, continuous improvements in technology and program execution.

16) Can retailers / manufacturers of EEE charge consumers a fee when they purchase these products?

The WEEE diversion program does not tell the companies that are obligated to pay fees on the designated products how to manage these costs. It is up to the individual companies and their retail customers to make their own decisions. Some companies will internalize the cost, while others may charge consumers an environmental handling fee at the point of purchase.

21) Can retailers/manufacturers of EEE charge consumers a fee when they purchase these products?

The WEEE diversion program does not tell the companies that are obligated to remit fees on the designated products how to manage these costs. It is up to the individual companies and their retail customers to make their own decisions. Some companies will internalize the cost, while others may charge consumers an environmental handling fee at the point of purchase.

22) What will happen to the unwanted electronics collected through this program?

WEEE collected under the program will be reused, refurbished for reuse, or recycled to recover valuable scrap materials (i.e. – metals and plastics). The exact destination for collected WEEE depends largely on where consumers choose to send their unwanted electronics. WEEE sent to a non-profit, reuse or refurbishment organization likely will result in a portion of electronic products being reused for a second life with a new consumer. WEEE that is too old, damaged, or that doesn’t have any reuse value will go to an end-of-life processor to ensure that any valuable material components are removed for recycling. A small portion of the remaining non-value scrap materials will be disposed properly.

25) What does this program do for the environment?

The WEEE program will encourage the diversion of more materials from disposal through the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle).

The program will add to existing opportunities for Ontarians to take unwanted electronic products to places where they will be reused, refurbished for reuse, recycled for materials, or safely and properly disposed. Diverting these materials through the available 3Rs activities works towards sustainable development and reduces the environmental footprint of WEEE consumers.

It will result in the recycling of components that are used to make WEEE products, reducing the amount of these materials that is disposed of in landfill sites.

The WEEE program adds to the provincial government’s goal of continuous improvement in waste management systems, and will contribute to the Minister of the Environment’s overarching objective.
If you ask me, the OES and the WEEE program have failed miserably...  Much like the majority of all of the new taxes/fees and programs introduced by Dalton McGuinty's Ontario Government. I'm just counting the days until he and his entire Government end up in the landfills with the other hazardous materials after the election next year... That's one thing I would gladly pay an Eco Fee for to see. ;)

--jackandcokewithalime

(Image:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/endlisnis/210493241/sizes/l/ by Endlisnis on flickr
)

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