by Bonnie Alter, London
That was fast! On July 1, 2010 the Ontario government introduced an eco fee on manufacturers and importers of goods that produce hazardous waste. The list of 8,700 items affected included cleaning products, asthma inhalers, laundry detergent, paints, antifreeze, fluorescent bulbs, sun screen, potting soil, windshield washers and fire extinguishers.
It was expensive for some items: $26. on the new t.v., only ¢6 on sun screen. But it served an important purpose: the goal was to shift the cost of disposing hazardous waste from the taxpayer to the manufacturers and importers and the consumers. You pay your money and you make your choice. But consumers complained, and raged and stores over charged and the fee was cancelled a mere 2 weeks later.
There were problems. There wasn't enough warning or public education. Two years ago when the first eco fee was introduced only 9 items were affected. This time 'round with little or no notice, 8,700 household items were included.
The organization in charge, Stewardship Ontario did not ensure that the notation of the fee was clear and transparent. Some stores included it in the price tag, others separated it out. Since the list was so extensive, it got complicated to figure out the proper tax. Consumer advocates complained about inconsistent charges between stores.
To be fair, it was confusing. For example "different bottles of bleach can have different eco fees depending on their ingredients and Ph level. And the rules required the eco fee on a boater safety kit, including a bailer, whistle and waterproof flashlight be based on the total weight of the kit, not just the flashlight and its batteries to which it actually applied."
Canadian Tire, one of the country's largest retailers, announced that they would no longer charge it to customers. That was clever of them because they had been widely accused of over charging and inconsistent charging of the fee.
The official announcement is going to made next week about the future of the fee.
The unfortunate part of the whole mess is that landfills really are filling up and some one has to take responsibility for the hazardous waste produced. If properly handled, this fee would allow consumers to make informed decisions about what they buy, based on environmental considerations. And it would oblige manufacturers to get with the case and clean up their act... more story at TreeHugger.com