The Eco-Flub

In spite of the media uproar over the new eco-fees, I have to agree with Peter Gorrie, writing in the Toronto Star, who commented:

“What’s been silliest: the media hysteria over Ontario’s eco-fee; the bumbling attempts by government and industry to implement and explain it; or the frothing of opposition politicians misrepresenting it for cheap points?”

It sounds similar to the battery recycling experience in the UK. Under the industry-sponsored approach, companies designated some retailer sites as collection depots but there was no process to complete the lifecycle loop. Predictably, very few batteries from things like toys, watches, cell phones and electronics were collected and recycled. Recent legislative changes in Britain make manufacturers legally responsible for the complete end-of-life cycle of their battery products including collection and recycling.

The lesson here is that industry will only do as much as it is required to do. The Ontario government may have been naïve in thinking that companies actually had a genuine commitment to “environmental stewardship”.  The other lesson is that a ‘top-down’ approach is not going to be as effective as a grassroots movement from the ‘bottom up’. Our options are to buy less, buy more wisely or not buy some things at all.

… we will inevitably pay more for unsustainable, wasteful or hazardous products. That day has only been postponed.

The real loser in the whole affair is our environment. Let’s face it. We’ve been living too long in a disposable consumer society. When the real costs of handling, sorting and recycling of all our future rubbish is added at the till, we will inevitably pay more for unsustainable, wasteful or hazardous products. That day has only been postponed.

Locally Simcoe County manages recycling and garbage collection for member municipalities. According to the latest study, the County picks up an average of 392 kg. of waste per person per year. That’s more than a kilo per person per day. The eco fee was supposed to help divert some of the hazardous materials from landfill. We already pay an eco fee for recycling of auto tires and electronics.

By my estimate, Innisfil residents are creating more than 12,000 kilos of waste per day. About half of that gets recycled. Simcoe County’s budget for “Environmental Services” which includes solid waste management for 16 member municipalities is $39 million a year. How’s that for an eco fee?