TORONTO—Ontario's highly successful scrap tire stewardship program could be legislated out of existence by a proposed bill that would alter the structure of waste recycling efforts in the province.
"I think it's a paradigm shift," said Michael Blumenthal, vice president of the Rubber Manufacturers Association. "If this is enacted, it means Ontario will go from a completely subsidized scrap tire program to a free market program in two years."
Issued by the Ontario Ministry of the Environment June 6, the proposed Waste Reduction Act would establish Individual Producer Responsibility requirements for the collection and recycling of end-of-life products, including tires.
The IPR approach is vastly different from the Extended Producer Responsibility policy put forward under Ontario's current Waste Diversion Act.
The Waste Diversion Act created Waste Diversion Ontario, a provincial corporation charged with overseeing environmental stewardship programs for a number of materials and products.
Ontario Tire Stewardship was created in 2009, with tire manufacturers, dealers and importers acting together as stewards to create scrap tire collection, processing and end-use market networks within the province. The stewardship program is funded by a sliding scale of fees charged on all new tires sold in Ontario.
The Waste Recovery Act would transform Waste Diversion Ontario into a new Waste Reduction Authority, with responsibility to enforce compliance with the IPR program. It would operate a registry, conduct inspections and issue monetary penalties for noncompliance. The new authority would be funded by fees and penalties to be determined through future regulations.
The Waste Recovery Act would require producers to state waste diversion costs up front in the prices of their goods. It also would require them to reimburse municipalities for collection and handling of designated wastes. In turn, producers would have flexibility to determine for themselves how best to meet the standards set by the Waste Recovery Act.
The act would allow Ontario Tire Stewardship and three other product stewardship corporations to continue operating for a transitional period until the new regulations are fully in place.
If passed as now written, the transition period would begin in 2016 and last until the end of 2017 at the earliest, according to OTS Executive Director Andrew Horsman.
"The changes are not imminent," he said. "The current legislative year has closed, and the government will take up the bill again in the fall."
Reasons and reactions
In the preamble to the Waste Recovery Act, the ministry said the Waste Diversion Act isn't working. Only about 25 percent of the 12 million metric tons of waste Ontario generates every year avoids the landfill, it said.
"We want an Ontario where waste becomes worth in the form of a cleaner environment, new investment, new recycling factories, new jobs and new Ontario-made products," said Ontario Environment Minister Jim Bradley in a June 6 press release. "Our proposed legislation can help get us there."
Since its beginning in 2009, however, OTS has claimed a diversion rate of 96 percent for scrap tires generated in Ontario.
While OTS stakeholders knew for some time the ministry planned a major overhaul of recycling regulations, both the timing and the content of the proposed legislation came as something of a surprise, according to Glenn Maidment, president of the Rubber Association of Canada.
"We're a very long way from seeing all the implications," Maidment said. "What the government would like is for tire manufacturers and first importers to be more closely responsible for end-of-life tires. How that will play out is yet to be seen."
The RMA has always favored a free-market approach toward tire recycling over the Extended Producer Responsibility system, according to Blumenthal.
"The Waste Reduction Act is akin to just about any state scrap tire program in the U.S., with one exception," he said. "Tire manufacturers, first importers and retailers will be taking responsibility for a corresponding number of tires of what they sell in Ontario. For instance, if Manufacturer One sells 2 million tires in Ontario, they are responsible for the collection and end-use of a corresponding 2 million tires."
Because the proposed law would eliminate subsidies to scrap tire haulers and processors, it would greatly reduce the number of haulers and processors in the province, Blumenthal said. But it also would remove restrictions on the use of any scrap tire generated in Ontario outside the province.
"A scrap tire could go east, west or south—there isn't really a north from Ontario," he said.
Horsman said OTS will work in the coming weeks to develop a better understanding of the proposed law, including consultation with government officials.
However, the proposed law has aspects tire stakeholders favor, such as the enforcement aspects of the Waste Reduction Authority, he said.
"There would be no free riders, no gray market," he said. "That would be very welcome to stakeholders."
The Ministry of the Environment is accepting comments on the Waste Reduction Act until Sept. 4.