Ontario gov’t scraps recycling fees

Canadian consumers in Ontario will no longer have to pay a retail surcharge to help defray the disposal costs of toxic household items, according to an Oct. 12 statement from Ontario Minister of the Environment John Wilkinson.

The decision is an about-face for the provincial government, which instituted a range of Oeco-feesO on thousands of items on July 1 to reduce hazardous materials in landfills. The fees ranged from several cents to $6.66 for items such as pesticides, rechargeable batteries, compact fluorescent light bulbs, mercury-containing devices and pharmaceuticals.

Programs that existed prior to July 1, 2010 -- which currently charge fees to divert, recycle and dispose of electronics, tires and household hazardous wastes such as paint and single-use batteries -- will continue, the government said.

According to Canwest News Service, Wilkinson acknowledged the new program was complicated and had been applied inconsistently. Many consumers were caught by surprise, as neither the government nor Stewardship Ontario, the agency charged with collecting the fees, had not advertised the changes prior to their rollout. The government suspended the program three weeks after its launch to retrench after a public outcry.

Meanwhile, it is unclear what the retailers who collected eco-fees during the first three weeks of July have done with those funds, according to Canwest. Neither the government nor Stewardship Ontario says it has any of that money.