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Canadian Extended Producer Responsibility

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“Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is one of the most effective ways to keep waste out of landfills and move us from a throw-away economy to a circular economy. EPR drives innovation as producers design products with less environmental impact, and creates economic opportunities and jobs in the recycling and packaging sector. EPR will bring many benefits to our communities, our environment and our economy.”

Tim Halman, Environment and Climate Change Minister for Nova Scotia

Canada is in the process of advancing national recycling programs that will hold producers and governments accountable for recycling their materials. The frameworks currently being followed are called “Product Stewardship” and “Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR)”. Currently, many provinces follow the Product Stewardship framework which holds provincial/territorial and municipal governments responsible for waste management in their regions. The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) is working towards transforming these “Product Stewardship” programs into full, operational EPR programs through the use of the Canada-wide Action Plan for Extended Producer Responsibility. These EPR programs will transfer ownership of what happens at the end of a product or package’s lifecycle over to the producer (i.e. brand owners, importers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers, etc.). 

In 2021, provincial governments began the process of introducing waste management programs to help divert unnecessary waste away from landfills. This process includes the following changes:

i) new programs in jurisdictions that formerly did not have programs 

ii) expanded product lists for existing programs 

iii) shifts from product stewardship models to extended producer responsibility (“EPR”) models

iv) expanded regulatory enforcement mechanisms and activity.

 Each province is at varying levels of implementation with all having some form of a beverage EPR program. Levels of implementation in terms of consulting, and developing regulations can be visualized in the map below and will be further broken down in the following sections.

Shift to Full EPR in Canada
Source:  Multi-Materials Stewardship Board 

Alberta

Alberta is currently in the regulation stage of its EPR program which was anticipated to be fully launched this fall 2022 but now has no updates indicating successful implementation. Their process began back in the Spring of 2021 with Phase 1 (March 17 to May 17, 2021) which involved the gathering of stakeholder feedback and a report was produced with an outline of the planned implementation. Phase 2 (November 15 2021 to January 21, 2022) also included consulting and stakeholder feedback on the report before anticipated implementation. 

On December 2, 2021, the Alberta government passed the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Amendment Act which implemented an EPR framework for the province to manage single-use plastics, packaging and paper products, and hazardous and special products. The framework ensures that regulatory requirements are reasonable and enforced by allowing limited exemptions for various elements within the systems such as the designated materials, types of activities, or classification of industry.

British Columbia

British Columbia (BC) has made the full transition from Product Stewardship and has successfully implemented its EPR programs. The province released an official proposal for its Extended Producer Responsibility Five-Year Action Plan planning to start in 2021 and go to 2026. This program will add more products to the Recycling Regulation, conduct research into opportunities and policy options for how packaging and paper can be diverted from industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors as well as require producers to take responsibility for the life cycle of their products. The program sets out to keep packaging and containers out of landfill and waterways while creating a circular lifecycle for these materials which is outlined in the figure below. This program also advances BC’s prior recycling regulation by expanding their categories in the EPR initiative to include hybrid and electric vehicle batteries and other battery types; mattresses and foundations; compressed canisters; medical sharps used by people at home; and emerging electronics and more moderately hazardous products. 

Stages of EPR in B.C.
Source: Extended Producer Responsibility – Province of British Columbia

Manitoba

Manitoba is currently in transition to shift from a shared EPR  (producers pay 80%) to having producers fully responsible. Manitoba recognizes the need for a full EPR program as they generate more than 900,000 tonnes of waste annually which has adverse effects on the environment and human health. In 2009, the province introduced the Manitoba Waste Reduction and Recycling Support (WRARS) Landfill Levy to support the reduction of waste and resources going to landfills. This program follows the principle known as the polluter pays and shifts the burden of waste management from taxpayers to producers and consumers to promote a more sustainable and efficient way of consuming and managing resources.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick recognizes the benefits of recycling on its provincial website stating that “recycling conserves our resources, reduces waste, and creates about six jobs for every one that would be created by landfilling the same amount of waste”. With this recognition, the province approved the creation of an EPR program for packaging and paper products on October 14, 2021. The province also passed legislation, in December 2021, to modernize the province’s 30-year-old Beverage Containers Program with the entire EPR program to be in full effect by the end of 2022.

Newfoundland and Labrador

Newfoundland and Labrador first introduced a recycling “blue bag” program back in 2009 but as of 2019, 57% of materials were still going to landfill with only 43% being recycled and the program is only accessible to 83% of households. As of the end of 2021, the province began the consulting process for introducing an EPR framework to its recycling system. There are two approaches that are currently being considered which are a “Shared Model” and a “Full Model”. The Shared Model holds municipalities responsible for the collection and processing of materials, while producers contribute a portion of the costs, and municipal taxpayers cover the remainder. The Full Model holds producers fully responsible for the collection and management of their materials.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories experience a unique set of challenges as they lack access to a variety of sustainability resources that are more widely available in the southern provinces but have managed to run a recycling program since 2010. Since the program started, they have managed to save more than 64 million single-use retail bags and over 358 million beverage containers. In October 2021, the Expanded Electronic and Electrical Product Recycling Pilot project was introduced. Though still a Product Stewardship program that is being facilitated by the government, Northwest Territories are working towards advancing their recycling systems to one day be able to accommodate EPR programs.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia’s recycling framework conducted its first consultation for EPR in 2013 and it follows EPR frameworks already for many common household items such as electronics, computers, and paint. The province is currently in the consulting stage of expanding its EPR framework. The consultations began at the start of 2022 with a stakeholder meeting that was to establish changes that will be required of producers in order to develop new ways to extend and manage the lifecycle of their items. This meeting was also intended to help design a new waste management model, regulations, timelines, and exemptions for single-use plastics, packaging, and paper. 

Nunavut 

Waste management in Nunavut poses a challenge due to small remote populations and the cost of handling, storing, and transporting waste. The territory continues to strive for improving its basic waste management systems through improved standards and practices. In 2007, Nunavut ran a pilot test program to determine the feasibility of a container deposit scheme which led to the conclusion that it will be too costly to implement permanently. The territory also terminated its glass and plastic bottle deposit as of July 2021 due to a lack of rebottling and recycling facilities in the territory. There are no further updates on new or expanding EPR or recycling plans.

Ontario

Ontario is currently working towards implementing Full EPR Model programs across the province. The provincial government is working towards implementing this framework through five programs. 

  1. Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste Program to appropriately dispose of paint, antifreeze, batteries, fertilizers, and other hazardous or special materials. This program transferred responsibility for battery materials over to the producer back in July 2020 and planned to have the remaining categories converted to EPR in September 2021.
  2. Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program to manage electronic equipment like computers, televisions, and stereos at the end of their lifecycle. This program became a full EPR program on January 1, 2021.
  3. Blue Box Program for the recycling of printed paper and packaging (plastics, paper, glass, aluminum, steel). The province is set to transfer the responsibility of its Blue Box programs to producers on July 1, 2023, according to Ontario Regulation 391/21: Blue Box published on June 3, 2021. Producers will be fully responsible for providing Blue Box services province-wide by the end of 2025.
  4. The Ontario Deposit Return Program for beverage and alcohol containers.
  5. The Tire Collection Network which was proposed in 2018 makes tire producers responsible for creating an accessible, convenient and free tire collection network.

Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island (PEI) has adapted its recycling regulations under the Environmental Protection Act. It has also introduced a new program to collect and recycle agricultural plastics, making it the first province in the Atlantic region with an EPR program for agricultural plastics. This EPR program is anticipated to begin at the end of 2022. The province currently has 11 established EPR programs in place including those for electronics, used oil, pharmaceuticals, lead acid batteries, and mercury-containing lamps and switches, and is looking to implement programs to manage waste produced by mattresses.

Quebec

Quebec has advanced its EPR programs and anticipates a transition to full EPR in 2025 by giving full responsibility for municipal packaging and printed paper programs to producers. Quebec currently has one of the largest lists of products and materials covered by EPR regulations in the country. The province currently has a blue box program in a Shared Model that holds producers and the municipal government both partially responsible for the lifecycle of products. Quebec has mainly focused on upgrading its beverage disposal regulations with Stakeholder consultations being conducted in March 2021 that aimed to draft regulations to modernize the deposit-refund system and the selective collection system which is to come into effect in November 2023. 

Saskatchewan

The province of Saskatchewan is currently in the consultation process of considering implementing a Full Model EPR program as they are currently utilizing a Shared Model framework with producers only responsible for 75% of products. Consultations for advancing these programs began in 2020 with the Household Paper and Packaging Program Plan public consultation completed recently. Through their consultation process, Saskatchewan established a list of takeaways to consider before proceeding. This list included updating provincial contextual data, as Manitoban data was used to assess potential EPR programs. The discrepancies and inaccuracies in Saskatchewan posed challenges and highlighted the importance of this data. Other takeaways included standardizing a list of recyclables and educating on “non-recyclables” to avoid contamination. The inclusion of industrial, commercial, and institutional sectors was proposed to be added to the province’s EPR framework as well as introducing mandatory recycling to ensure optimal results.

Yukon

Yukon is currently in the consulting process of its EPR programming. The province currently has EPR programs in place to manage printed and packaging products (blue box program); household hazardous waste, such as paint, aerosols, fuels, and solvents; and

automotive wastes, such as waste oil, waste antifreeze, and their containers. To enhance progress, the province’s government partnered with Yukon First Nations, transboundary Indigenous groups, and Yukon municipalities to develop Our Clean Future which prioritizes areas of focus in response to the current climate emergency. Our Clean Future commits to implementing an EPR program in Yukon by 2025. Until then, the province will conduct stakeholder and public engagement, draft the regulation, and allow time for producers to organize and establish their own Extended Producer Responsibility programs.

EnvironFocus Recycling Program

EnvironFocus offers an on-demand recycling program that helps contractors abide by each province’s EPR goals and recycle their metal scraps more efficiently and be more proactive in managing their personal environmental impact. The program involves coordinating interactions between contractors in Canada with local scrap yards to ensure the smooth collection and recycling of their metal containers.

EnvironFocus’ mission is to help organizations develop and implement innovative solutions to improve their brand reputation and reduce their business risk in the communities they serve, translating to increased market share while protecting the environment and the well-being of the people. We are happy to help companies continue to uphold their high standards of sustainability for their team and their clients.

About Post Author

Sarah Lawless

Sarah graduated from Ryerson University (now Toronto Metropolitan University) in 2022. She holds an Honours Bachelors degree in Environment and Urban Sustainability with a minor in Geographic Analysis. With a professional background in urban sustainability, Sarah is passionate about education, food security, and green development and aspires to use and share her knowledge to help cities become more accessible and sustainable.
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