Thursday, July 8, 2010

Canada: New eco fees catching consumers by surprise

Levies ranges from a few cents to several dollars

A receipt shows the 13-cent eco fee paid on a bottle of dish detergent on July 7, 2010 at the Canadian Tire at Bay and Dundas.

Checking her receipt as she left a downtown Canadian Tire, Chris Colorado noticed a new charge.

Her $1.99 bottle of dish soap was accompanied by a 13-cent “eco fee.”

The levy for thousands of new products, from pharmaceuticals to fire extinguishers, quietly came into effect July 1, the same day as the harmonized sales tax.

But unlike that tax, provincial agencies have done little to publicize the new fees, catching consumers like Colorado by surprise.

“I’ve never heard anything about this fee. No one’s talking about it,” she said. “The fact they just put it without us knowing, I don’t think it’s honest. I don’t like it.”

Manufacturers must pay the province a levy for recycling their products. Some companies are passing these costs, ranging from a few cents to several dollars per product, onto consumers.

Stewardship Ontario, the agency overseeing the eco fees, began its $2.5 million public education campaign at the beginning of the month, which consists of posters and radio spots, as well as a group which tours public events and provides information about the program.

“We would rather spend the money to educate people than to spend the money months ahead to say, ‘Hey, there’s a new eco fee coming,’ ” said spokeswoman Amanda Harper Sevonty.

“Our message to consumers isn’t about the eco fees. Our message to consumers is about here are the materials and what to do with them.”


What gets the fee:
All aerosol containers, from paint to hairspray.
Rechargeable batteries, as well as non-lead acid motive batteries.
Corrosives and irritants, such as household bleaches, drain cleaners and detergents.
Assorted toxic, flammable and reactive products.
Syringes and needles.
Pharmaceuticals for humans and pets, including prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs and natural health products.
Fluorescent tubes and bulbs.
Fire extinguishers.
For a full list and details on where to dispose these items, visit


By clicking the website and inserting their postal codes, residents can find which products they can recycle and where the closest collection site is located. There are 92 special disposal sites across the province.

Some retailers and consumers, however, say the silence has hurt the cause. If the consumers don’t know of the fees before they buy the item, they won’t know what to do with the waste.

When the first round of products was levied in 2008, Len McAuley was given a sign explaining the fees to customers at Pollock’s Home Hardware on Roncesvalles Ave.

“With this second phase, they haven’t sent us anything,” he said. “Basically, the list is getting longer. The government’s not communicating to the public.”

The fees now cover all aerosol containers from hairspray to whipped cream, pharmaceuticals, syringes, mercury-containing devices and other toxic, corrosive or flammable products.

The start date of the new levies was set when the program came into effect two years ago and by coincidence fell on the same day as the HST launch, Harper Sevonty said.

Progressive Conservative Environment Critic Toby Barrett criticized some of the fees as being a tax grab “under the guise of environmentalism,” noting particular concern with levies on fire extinguishers, which range from $2.22 to $6.66 depending on the weight.

“I feel the Ontario government has a bit of explaining to do. I think that would eliminate a lot of the frustration,” he said.

However, Harper Sevonty stressed that the fees aren’t a tax.

“They are the program cost to collect and manage this material out of the waste stream,” she said.

The companies that produce the goods are being charged a levy, which pays for the hazardous waste to be properly recycled instead of being dumped into landfills. It’s up to the manufacturers and retailers whether to download the charge onto customers, she said.

At Queen’s Park, Environment Minister John Gerretsen defended the recycling fees as “the right thing to do.”

He noted the stewardship councils were set up under enabling legislation that was passed by the previous Progressive Conservative government in 2002, so it’s odd that the Tories would be so critical.

“It’s not a tax. The government does not see one penny of it. It all goes to the stewardship councils to make sure that all of these materials do not end up in our landfill sites,” the minister said.



  1. Bullshit Just another way we get screwed by our government in this country. Not a tax my ass

  2. What a load of bollocks we are sick and tired and sick to death of paying more and more and more, If politicians had to pay what the rest of us have to pay every day and i mean everything. Maybe they might have some idea why we are so fed up with them and their decision making. To my appathetic country men. We need people to start getting involved.