Kingston to Issue RFP for a MRF

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The City of Kingston, Ontario will be issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the retrofit, design, and construction of a materials recovery facility (MRF). The drafting of the RFP began in earnest when City Council recently voted in favour of a new MRF and for the weekly collection of blue and grey boxes.

City council recently voted to have staff move forward with plans to change the way the city collects recycling. Requests for proposal are to be issued shortly for the retrofit, design and build of a new material recovery facility and for the weekly collection of blue and grey boxes.

Heather Roberts, director of solid waste services, explains the proposed changes that could come to the city’s recycling program in Kingston, Ont. on Tuesday, March 19, 2019. (Photo Credit: Elliot Ferguson/The Whig-Standard/Postmedia Network)

“Glass will be in the blue box with plastic containers and paper and other fibre products and plastic bags will still be in the grey box. So you would set out a grey box and a blue box,” explained Heather Roberts, director of solid waste services as reported by the Kingston Whig Standard.

The blue box would simply be tipped into one compartment on the side of the truck and the grey box would be dumped into another compartment on the side of the truck,” Roberts added. “Glass and paper are still going to be kept separate in those two different boxes and not stuck together.”

The city is studying a variety of ways to achieve its stated goal of diverting 65 per cent of household waste from landfills by 2025. The current waste diversion rate stands at about 60 per cent, a rate that has held steady for the past few years and is not expected to increase.

“The preferred approaches and enhancements to achieve and sustain 60 per cent waste diversion have been implemented, and the waste diversion rate is not expected to increase with the status quo,” according to a staff report.

City officials say they’re now exploring a raft of new measures in order to reach the 65 per cent target. Among the new trash disposal ideas being considered are:

  • an increase in the cost of garbage bag tags to encourage greater participation in the city’s diversion programs
  • the elimination of the existing one free bag per week and exploration of full user pay options, including a policy for low-income individuals
  • the prohibition of recyclables and organics in the garbage stream and the use of clear bags for garbage
  • a reduction in the frequency of garbage collection from weekly to every two weeks for most eligible properties
  • a limit on the number of additional tagged garbage bags permitted for collection

Other options on the table include reducing the number of special two-bag garbage weeks from three to two a year, increasing the size of the city’s blue and grey boxes, implementing the mandatory use of green bins at properties with multiple residences, eliminating fees and charges for schools that participate in the green bin organics program and providing two size options for green bins at either 45 or 80 litres.

City officials say the long list of options can be more easily adopted under the existing waste management system and will have a minimal impact on municipal budgets. They add that choosing how to proceed will be the focus of upcoming public consultations, however it will ultimately be up to city council to approve any new strategies.

According to data collected in 2017, the city handled 41,760 tonnes of household waste. Of that amount, 16,405 tonnes was sent to the landfill and 25,355 tonnes was diverted through recycling and compost programs.

Ontario: Orphaned Eco-Fees Raises Legal Questions for Electronics Industry

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by Jonathan D. Cocker, Baker McKenzie

Ontario’s waste electrical and electronic equipment (e-waste) stewardship obligations are being transitioned to a circular economy legal regime.  The government-overseen e-waste program is being wound-up and will effectively cease as of June 30, 2020. The program has managed to generate such a surplus of funds from consumers it otherwise would pay the electronics recycling industry that it’s obtained approval from the Ontario government to grant the industry, and presumably in turn, consumers a “fee holiday” in order to expend the surplus. The fee holiday started on February 1st, 2019 and runs until June 30, 2020.

This means no eco-fees (or Environmental Handling Fees) on electronics are to be charged and remitted for the next 17 months when the program ends.

No Relaxation For Electronics Industry During Fee Holiday

But what if the electronics supply chain and retailers somehow continue to pass the now orphaned eco-fee down the supply chain and ultimately to consumers in spite of industry’s inability to remit it.  Most consumers will not likely be aware of this reprieve in obligation. Most suppliers and retailers have systems already programed to charge the fee. It’s not clear any regulatory authority is actively policing industry on this. So if it’s business as usual in electronics sales, where will the money go and what are the risks?

Whose Money Is it Anyway?

The e-waste program, like all government-overseen plans in the province, funds its ongoing program costs with an eco-fee cost imposed upon consumers. The rates are rigidly set and the supply chain and retail parties simply pass the eco-fee through to point-of-sale and then remit to the program. No risks or rewards are assumed by these parties and there is no opportunity to internalize or otherwise alter the eco-fee for competitive or profit purposes.

The fees have not been, and cannot credibly be claimed as, margin adjustments when charged in an identical manner to unwitting consumers.  It would be difficult for industry to claim title to the monies, whether as an advance or an investment. The monies are simply consumer overpayments relative to the costs of the soon-to-be-defunct program, and the amount at issue is not insignificant. Orphaned eco-fees which could be passed to consumers during the holiday could potentially be as high as one hundred million dollars.

Duty of Care for Orphaned Eco-Fees

As the e-waste program can no longer accept eco-fees charged after February 1st, 2019, it raises questions as to what proactive measures the electronics industry, including brand owners and importers, must take to ensure no such fees continue to be passed on to consumers who should otherwise be enjoying the fee holiday they’ve effectively funded.

Ignorance of the holiday may not protect electronics companies. Through their participation in the e-waste program, industry will be deemed to have knowledge that any post-February 1st, 2019 eco-fees are effectively orphaned.  Nor are any parties clearly insulated from risk. Continued charging of the eco-fee by supply chain parties, effectively compelling retailers to recapture the costs from consumers, may also create legal uncertainty. All parties may have a duty of care here.

Be Neither Recipient Nor Beneficiary of Orphaned Eco-fees?

Resetting systems and processes to eliminate the eco-fee will be laborious. Instead, some parties within the electronics industry may be inclined to accrue the orphaned eco-fee for a future mutually-beneficial use, such as supporting industry-segmented private producer responsibility organizations which will rise from the ashes of the government program. This, however, may appear as industry doing indirectly what it cannot do directly and may not be defensible if and when someone comes asking about the treasure trove of orphaned fees.

It’s clear that the 17-month fee holiday journey to a private circular economy model for electronics provides no time off for industry.  It must act now to address any unsanctioned charging of orphaned eco-fees.  The holiday has already started.

About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads the Firm’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of firm Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining and Infrastructure groups. Mr. Cocker provides advice and representation to multinational companies on a variety of environment, health and safety matters, including product content, dangerous goods transportation, GHS, regulated wastes, consumer product and food safety, extended producer responsibilities and contaminated lands matters. He appears before both EHS tribunals and civil courts across Canada. Mr. Cocker is a frequent speaker and writer on EHS matters, an active participant on EHS issues in a number of national and international industry associations and the recent author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).