A Survey of Extended Producer Responsibility Programs for E-Waste in Canada

Davis LLP Environmental Law Bulletin


Introduction

Provincial electronic product stewardship programs (“PSPs”), which require producers to take responsibility for disposal or recycling of their electronic products, are becoming increasingly important in Canada. The goal of these programs is to shift the responsibility for the costs of disposal to producers and to ensure that these products are disposed of in an environmentally sound manner. They are thus a concern both for businesses who generate electronic materials and for those involved in waste management industries. The programs contain potential liabilities, as well as opportunities for affected individuals and businesses.

Provincial electronic waste programs are operationally administered by the Electronic Products Recycling Association (“EPRA”), a national non-profit entity tasked with improving the efficiency and effectiveness of Canada’s electronic stewardship programs. In addition to provincial programs, producers should be aware that there are several national PSP programs such as the Canadian Wireless and Telecommunication Association’s Recycle My Cell initiative and the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation of Canada’s Call2Recycle program. Although commonalities do exist between the provinces, it is important to be aware of the differences in each province to ensure compliance in all jurisdictions in which one operates. Failure to comply can result in significant fines or even imprisonment.

Generally, PSPs require producers or companies who sell designated products to register with the organization that has developed an approved recycling program. In addition to the registration requirement, producers must pay a per-item fee, which may be passed on to consumers at the point of sale, and submit regular reports on products sold and returned. Finally, PSPs generally also involve the establishment of drop-off centres for the safe recycling of designated products.


Summary of Provincial Requirements


(a) British Columbia


The BC Recycling Regulation under the Environmental Management Act requires that producers have or belong to an approved PSP. The approved provincial PSP in BC is managed by Encorp Pacific (Canada) (“Encorp”) through the brand Return-It Electronics.

Producers are required to register with Encorp as either remitters or pay on purchase (“POP”) registrants. Approved POP registrants have suppliers submit an Environmental Handling Fee (“EHF”) and file monthly reports on their behalf. A remitter is responsible for submitting monthly reports and remitting the appropriate EHFs. One hundred percent of the revenue from EHFs goes to the administration, collection, transportation and responsible recycling of end-of-life electronics. All designated products are accepted free of charge at Return-It Electronics collection sites.

On July 1, 2012, BC expanded its PSP program to include additional designated products, such as telecommunications equipment, electronic musical instruments and video gaming systems. Many of these products have not yet been included in any other provincial PSPs.

A full list of designated products can be found here


(b) Alberta


The disposal of e-waste in Alberta is regulated by the Designated Material Recycling and Management Regulation and the Electronics Designation Regulation under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, as well as the Alberta Recycling Bylaw and the Electronics Recycling Bylaw.

The Alberta program is somewhat unique in that all suppliers of new electronics are required to register with Alberta Recycling Management Authority (“ARMA”), regardless of whether they will be required to remit fees. The ARMA electronics recycling program is funded entirely on fees, called an Advance Disposal Surcharge, applied only to designated electronics which are sold or supplied in Alberta. Similar to the BC program, registrants are divided into POP registrants and Remitters. Remitters must complete monthly reports to ARMA.

ARMA also operates a safe recycling program with more than 300 municipal collection or drop off sites for designated products.

A full list of designated products can be found here


(c) Saskatchewan


The Waste Electronic Equipment Regulations under the Environmental Management and Protection Act, 2002 requires “first sellers” (including manufacturers, distributors and owners) to operate or register with an approved PSP. The Saskatchewan Waste Electrical Equipment Program (“SWEEP”) is the only approved PSP in Saskatchewan.

First sellers must register with SWEEP and are required to remit an Environmental Handling Fee (EHF) which is used to fund the program. It is expected that retailers will pass the EHF onto consumers at the point of sale. First sellers can arrange to have suppliers take on the responsibility of remitting EHFs and submitting monthly reports. All designated electronic products may be dropped off at recycling depots free of charge.

A full list of designated products can be found here


(d) Manitoba


The Electrical and Electronic Stewardship Regulation under the Waste Reduction and Prevention Act requires businesses selling obligated electronic products in or into Manitoba to be a part of an approved product management program. On August 1, 2012, EPRA Manitoba became the approved product management program in Manitoba.

First sellers must register with EPRA Manitoba and remit Environmental Handling Fees collected on the purchase of new electronic equipment on a per unit basis. Even where a first seller’s supplier is a member of EPRA and is responsible for paying the applicable EHFs, the first seller must still register with EPRA. It is expected that members will pass on the EHF to consumers at the point of sale. Remitters must submit monthly reports to EPRA Manitoba indicating the number and type of designated products sold in that period. Unwanted electronics can be recycled free of charge through an EPRA Manitoba approved drop-off location.

A full list of designated products can be found here.


(e) Ontario


The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulation under the Waste Diversion Act designates Ontario Electronic Stewardship (“OES”) as the organization responsible for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program (“WEEE”). It should be noted that the disposal of non-rechargeable batteries is handled by Stewardship Ontario under the Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program.

Stewards are required to register with OES, file monthly reports and pay applicable fees on designated products supplied in Ontario. Some retailers may choose to charge an Environmental Handling Fee at the point of sale on new products to cover the costs of the program, but this is not required by OES.

After registration, an organization can enter into a Remitter’s Agreement with a steward who supplies them with electronic products and the organization can then file monthly reports and pay fees to OES on the steward’s behalf. An organization may also enter into a secondary Sub-Remitter’s Agreement with a Remitter in order to report and pay fees to OES on behalf of the Remitter. It is important to note that stewards are still legally responsible for designated products sold into Ontario, and still have monthly reporting obligations even if all products sold are covered by agreements. All such agreements must be approved by OES to be valid.
Consumers can drop off used designated products at one of the many permanent collection sites free of charge. Stewards may also operate a “self-managed” program for collection and recycling of designated products by entering into an agreement with OES setting out the revised fee and reporting requirements.

Recently, concern was expressed by the Ontario Waste Management Association that OES would be gutting the PSP by cutting recycling incentives drastically. OES has confirmed that they are moving forward with fee changes including a reduction of the incentive paid to recyclers. A proposed revised fee schedule is planned to take effect on January 1st, 2013.

A full list of designated products can be found here.
 

(f) Quebec
 

The Regulation Respecting the Recovery and Reclamation of Products by Enterprises under the Environment Quality Act governs the disposal of e-waste in Quebec.

Modelled on the Alberta and BC programs, the Quebec program requires obligated parties to collect and remit the environmental handling fee ("EHF") and report monthly on related matters with respect to electronic products. As in other provinces, registrants are divided into POP registrants and Remitters. Where a remitter is selling products to another remitter, the seller may opt to download the obligations associated with collecting and remitting the EHF, and fulfilling reporting obligations, to the purchasing remitter.

Currently, the Association pour le recyclage des produits électroniques is the only certified PSP in the province and in addition to managing other aspects of the PSP, operates numerous drop off sites around the province.

A full list of designated products can be found here.
 

(g) Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island


In Nova Scotia, the Solid Waste Resource Management Regulations under the Environment Act requires brand owners to participate in an approved product management program. In PEI, the Materials Recycling Regulation under the Environmental Protection Act requires brand owners to be a part of an approved product management program. Atlantic Canada Electronics Stewardship (“ACES”) is an approved stewardship program operating in both Nova Scotia and PEI through the EPRA.

Brand owners are required to register and become a steward of the ACES Program. The Program is funded by an Environmental Handling Fee that is remitted to EPRA on the sale of new designated products in Nova Scotia or PEI on a per item basis. Stewards must also submit monthly reports to EPRA indicating the number and type of designated products sold in that period. Like other programs, qualifying brand owners can register as POP registrants and will not be required to pay the EHF or submit monthly reports. Used electronics can be dropped off free of charge at any ACES drop-off centre.

A full list of designated products for Nova Scotia can be found here, and for PEI, here.
 

(h) New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon.

These provinces and territories currently do not have general electronic PSPs in place. The EPRA website notes that New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are currently evaluating electronic PSP regulation. In addition, some of these provinces and territories do participate in the national programs noted above.

Conclusion
 

The use of, and dependence on, up to date electronic devices will continue to result in a significant volume of electronic waste in Canada. Most provinces have taken steps to transfer the responsibility for the costs of disposing of this waste onto producers, who in turn share this burden with consumers.

It is important that producers remain alert to their obligations in the provinces in which they sell designated electronic products, as some of these programs have gone through recent changes and may continue to change as the EPRA continues to evaluate the PSP initiative on a national basis. It is likely that the remaining provinces and territories will introduce producer responsibility programs in the near future.

Furthermore, as more provinces allow producers to contract with registered suppliers and distributers to carry out their PSP obligations, familiarity with the terms of each provincial program and an ability to provide such compliance services across jurisdictions is increasingly a sincere business advantage to wholesale distributers operating across Canada.
 


 

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Authors

Brittany Taylor
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