Ontario's New Eco Fee on Hazardous Waste Hits a Few Bumps

fire extinguishers photo

Image from jp fire

Ontario, Canada's largest province by population, has introduced a new eco fee. The Ontario government has imposed this environmental fee on manufacturers and importers of goods that produce hazardous waste. The list of items affected includes cleaning products, asthma inhalers, laundry detergent, paints, antifreeze, fluorescent bulbs, sun screen, potting soil, windshield washers and fire extinguishers.

The cost to taxpayers and the environment of landfills filling up with garbage that can't be recycled is huge and growing. The goal is to shift the cost of disposing hazardous waste from the taxpayer to the manufacturers and importers. They should take the responsibility for the disposal of the end product. It's good but the implementation is turning out to be a lesson in what not to do.

shelf life photo

Image from Toronto Star

The scheme is being run by Stewardship Ontario, an industry-funded organization set up by the government to oversee recycling programmes and make sure that hazardous household wastes are disposed of in an environmentally friendly way. There is a standard fee for each item which is agreed upon by the manufacturers and paid to Stewardship Ontario. For example, the big one is for fire extinguishers. They have a whopping $4.44 tacked on as eco fee.

The fee is being paid by the manufacturers and it can and is being passed on to customers. The first manufacturer charges on nine categories of materials were introduced two years ago to little fanfare. However the second phase includes many more products that people use every day and this caused an outcry as consumers realize that they are now paying more for certain items.

Sometimes the fee is included in the price on the sticker and sometimes it is noted separately. This is causing quite an uproar as citizens feel that they were not made aware of the extra fee and stores are charging it inconsistently.

stewardship ont photo

Image from stewardship ontario
One consumer advocate noted that a bottle of dishwasher detergent had a ¢43 fee added when it should have been less than one cent for that size. In another instance, ¢28 was charged instead of 6. Part of the problem is that the list of household products is complex, with differences between them that are hard to differentiate in a store's computer. However it was never meant that the eco fees would generate a profit for stores, which seems to be happening at the moment.

These are all growing pains, to be expected with the introduction of a new fee which some regard as an extra tax. Certainly retailers should differentiate on the price tags, showing both the price and the eco fee. The government should have done a better job of informing the public about them. The list of taxable products was expanded and the information campaign to inform people was not effective.

However, once the wrinkles are ironed out, this is a way of encouraging manufacturers to take responsibility for their hazardous products. Consumers can make informed decisions about what they buy, based on environmental considerations.

Related Content on Treehugger.com