Canada’s retailer trade group says New Brunswick’s proposed e-scrap takeback and recycling program would hide fees from consumers and increase red tape for businesses.
A provincial regulator defended the proposed program, however, saying it follows the approach of its provincial neighbor, Quebec, and is consistent with the direction other jurisdictions in Canada are moving.
New Brunswick is the last of Canada’s Atlantic provinces to implement an extended producer responsibility program for electronics. The province’s Environment and Local Government Department issued draft regulations this summer and sought comments from the public.
Representatives of the Retail Council of Canada (RCC) say the draft regulations would hide the “eco fee,” which consumers pay when they purchase new electronics, by preventing it from appearing as a separate charge on sales receipts. The fee funds e-scrap collections and recycling.
“Despite RCC’s continual efforts, it is unfathomable that a government elected on a promise to increase transparency, would force businesses to hide fees from New Brunswick consumers,” Jim Cormier, Atlantic Director for the RCC, stated in a press release. “Furthermore, for a government that publicizes its commitment to reducing the regulatory burden on businesses, it is disappointing that the New Brunswick government refuses to harmonize its electronics recycling program with proven practices that have been working for years in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and all across Canada.”
The proposal would force retailers to develop separate fliers, websites and point-of-sale systems only for New Brunswick, he said.
“It will also mean that the advertised price for a television in New Brunswick will be higher than the advertised price for the same television from the same retailer in Nova Scotia,” Cormier said.
Eco fees, or environmental handling fees, are paid to an industry-funded stewardship group, which uses the money to establish and operate a collection and recycling system. The fees vary depending on the type of product. Retailers pay the fee whether or not they’re listed as a separate item on the receipt.
Pat McCarthy, CEO of the producer responsibility regulatory body Recycle New Brunswick, told E-Scrap News the trend in Canada is toward embedding fees in the total price on sales receipts, something Quebec already does. That’s also what Recycle New Brunswick does with its seven-year-old paint recycling program, he said.
Retailers would still be able to inform consumers about the fee outside of the sales receipt, he said.
“If you look at other jurisdictions in Canada, they’re leaning more on including it in the price of the product,” he said. “When consumers look at the price, they want to see what the price is going to be.”
Gerard MacLellan, an executive director at the Electronic Products Recycling Association (EPRA), said his group is pleased the New Brunswick government has released the draft regulations. EPRA, which manages e-scrap programs in several provinces, plans to present a plan for the province’s consideration.
“At EPRA, our mandate is to responsibly recycle end-of-life electronics through our programs while recognizing the uniqueness of each province’s regulations and appropriate stakeholders,” MacLellan said.
McCarthy said he expects an announcement of the final regulations in the coming weeks. The program could begin accepting used electronics as early as 2017.
“I think ourselves and the industry and consumers are anxious to get this program started,” McCarthy said. “I know every day we get calls from the public in here asking where they can recycle their products.”