Predicting a Change

Time to watch packaging legislation to our north.

Here in Cleveland we keep an eye on the weather to our north — in Canada. Changes that impact our lives most often come from that quarter. Sometimes the wind coming across the lake is chilly and laden with snow. At other times it’s a welcome breath of fresh air. The business climate has recently changed in Canada. I suggest everyone in the U.S. start paying attention to what is happening to our north regarding packaging legislation. For some it is going to be a financially rough ride. For those who prepare — smooth sailing.

In cold, unemotional terms, it’s called Bill 90. It’s the first North American version of producer responsibility legislation, versions of which have been quietly going into effect in Europe, Asia and South America. Some 30 countries have laws regulating producer responsibility for packaging material; Canada and the U.S. are lagging on this issue. Of those 30 countries, 24 require manufacturers to pay fees to waste collection organizations for a variety of material.

In the province of Ontario, Bill 90, known as the Waste Diversion Act, was promoted to reduce, reuse and recycle waste products. The act passed with Royal Ascent last summer and, when the ice from this winter thaws, probably in March, it will become operational.

While not as Byzantine as others of this ilk, Bill 90 has its twists and turns. It establishes a corporation, Waste Diversion Ontario, and provides for the appointment of its board of directors. This corporation will develop the waste diversion program for material prescribed by regulation as designated waste. The bill states that the waste diversion program must be developed in cooperation with a corporation referred to as an industry funding organization. Each industry funding organization is incorporated by Waste Diversion Ontario.

As I read the bill, it appears there will be ample opportunity for input from the public (meaning packaging producers) in the development of this program. Programs affecting the targeted, or designated, waste will include activities to reduce, reuse and recycle the culprits. Also, there will be established research and development programs relating to the management of the designated waste. The bill also calls for activities to develop and promote products that result from the waste diversion program, a thing lacking in many previous programs. And, probably best of all, it calls for educational and public awareness activities to support the program.

Canada has had the benefit of building its program from the recyclate of other, some say Draconian, programs, particularly those found in Europe. It appears that virtually all companies doing business in Canada will feel the impact of this bill. All packaging material introduced in Ontario by an estimated 3,000 companies will be obligated to pay. A spokesman for the Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR) says obligated companies, referred to as stewards, will be required to submit packaging composition and generation information. It’s obvious that this bill is going to generate some paper that will, hopefully, be recycled.

Obligated companies, or stewards, will be required to submit their packaging composition and generation information to a new Industry Funding Organization. Based on this confidential information, each company will be assessed a share of the industry’s 50 percent portion of the net cost of recycling. Companies will have to rely on internal data for this information or work with packaging suppliers and consultants to gather the required data.

Bill 90 does not promote the burning of or land filling of designated waste. In addition, the Province of Quebec recently revealed plans to introduce similar legislation in that region.

And why should we, here in the wide open spaces of the U.S., care about what our Canadian brethren are doing? As Bob Dylan wrote, “Ya don’t need a weatherman to tell which way the wind blows.”

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