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Ontario Government’s Proposed E-Waste & Battery Regulations

The Government of Ontario is consulting on proposed regulations for specified waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and used batteries under the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016.
 
The new regulations will affect participants of the current Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Program operated by Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES).
 
The Ontario government has directed OES to wind up its operations to support the transition of the current waste diversion program for electronics to a new system that makes producers environmentally accountable and financially responsible for their products at end-of-life.

The proposed regulations would require:

  • producers to establish free collection networks for consumers
  • producers to achieve resource recovery (i.e. reduction, reuse and recycling) targets
  • producers to provide promotion and education materials to increase consumer awareness
  • producers and service providers to register, report and keep records and meet other requirements

The regulations would also encourage producers to reduce waste associated with the regulated products they supply into the Ontario market.

Review the draft regulations and register for a consultation webinar.

The Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority will be the regulator mandated by the Government of Ontario to enforce the requirements of the new WEEE and used batteries regulations once they take effect.

Ontario Electronic Stewardship will continue to operate the current program without disruption until the proposed regulations take effect.

Consultations begin on Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s Wind-Up Plan

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The Ontario Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority (RPRA) is consulting with stakeholders and the public on Ontario Electronic Stewardship’s (OES) Wind-Up Plan for the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Program. Public comment on the 85-page OES Wind up Plan will be accepted by the RPRA until April 18th.

Background on the Ontario Electronic Stewardship

Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES) is an Industry Funding Organization (IFO) designated to operate the waste diversion program for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) under the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 (WDTA). Since its inception in 2009, the WEEE program has diverted over 67 million electronic devices or over 500,000 tonnes of waste electronics from Ontario landfills. The WEEE program promotes the re-use and refurbishment of waste electronics and ensures that the valuable resources found in waste electronics, that cannot be re-used, are processed and recycled in an environmentally responsible manner.

Why is OES being wound up?

In 2016 the Ontario legislature passed the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (RRCEA) which creates a new legislative framework for managing waste in Ontario. Current waste diversion programs and related IFOs, such as Ontario Electronic Stewardship, will be wound up subject to provisions under the WDTA. Under the RRCEA, producers will be responsible for the implementation of new waste diversion programs that must meet recycling targets and objectives established under that Act.

Under the WDTA wind up process IFOs are required to develop wind up plans in accordance with specified statutory requirements once directed to do so by the Minister. Subsection 14 (13) of the WDTA requires IFOs to consult with stewards, municipalities and other stakeholders affected by termination of the program in developing wind up plans. IFOs submit wind up plans to the Resource Recovery and Productivity Authority (RPRA) which reviews and approves the plan if it is consistent with the Minister’s direction and statutory requirements.

In February 2018, OES received direction from the former Minister of Environment and Climate Change to wind up the WEEE program by June 30, 2020. (Note: In July 2018 the Honourable Rod Phillips, Minister of Environment, Conservation and Parks, assumed responsibility for administering the RRCEA and WDTA statutes.)

What’s Next in Ontario with respect to WEEE?

After wind up, electrical and electronic equipment will be managed under a new, mandatory individual producer responsibility (IPR) framework. This means that producers of electrical and electronic equipment will be responsible for ensuring their products and packaging are collected and reused or recycled at end-of-life. The RPRA is mandated by the Government of Ontario to oversee the wind up of Ontario’s current waste diversion programs and enforce IPR requirements.

Public Information and Feedback Sessions

The RPRA is hosting several sessions to present key elements of the plan for feedback and to answer any questions you may have. The sessions are open to all WEEE Program participants, municipalities, the public and other interested stakeholders.

The RPRA is encouraging all interested organizations and persons to attend to learn more about the wind-up, the new framework for electrical and electronic equipment.

The sessions consist of a presentation that will explore key aspects of OES’s proposed wind-up plan and there will be time for your questions. The Authority will also consult on OES’s revised projection for program surplus, which is based on information that was not available at the time of OES’s consultations.

The schedule for public consultations can be found in the table below.

LocationDate and TimeRegistration
WebinarThursday, March 21
1 p.m. – 3 p.m.
Register here
LondonFriday, March 22
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Register here
Ottawa (Kanata)Wednesday, April 3
9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Register here
North BayThursday, April 4
9 a.m. – 11 a.m.
Register here
TorontoTuesday, April 9
9 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Register here
WebinarWednesday, April 10
10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Register here

Feedback on the Wind-Up Plan is due by 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 18. You can provide feedback via email to [email protected].

UN Report Highlights Environmental, Health Risks from E-Waste

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As reported by the IISD, Seven UN entities released a report calling for a new vision for e-waste based on the circular economy. The report highlights that annual e-waste production is worth over USD 62.5 billion, underscoring the significant opportunity in moving towards a circular economy.

The report titled, ‘A New Circular Vision for Electronics: Time for a Global Reboot,’ finds that the global economy generates approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste annually, or approximately six kilograms per person on the planet. Less than 20 percent of this e-waste is recycled, resulting in global health and environmental risks to workers who are exposed to carcinogenic and hazardous substances, such as cadmium, lead and mercury, and to soil and groundwater, which are contaminated by e-waste in landfills, placing food and water systems at risk. Low recycling rates also contribute to the loss of scarce and valuable natural materials: for example, up to seven percent of the world’s gold may be currently contained in e-waste. Under a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the UN University (UNU) predicts e-waste could nearly triple to 120 million tonnes by 2050.

“There is a trail of e-waste generated from old technology” that needs to be addressed, the report states. One-half of all e-waste is personal devices, such as smartphones, screens, computers, tablets and TVs, and the rest is household appliances and heating and cooling equipment. Europe and the US generate nearly one-half of global e-waste annually.

The report argues that systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), civil society and other stakeholders is necessary to change the system and reduce e-waste. The report calls for a circular economy in which resources are valued and reused in ways that create decent, sustainable jobs and minimize environmental impacts. To capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and circular value chains, the report suggests manufacturer or retailer take-back programs and better product tracking. The report also recommends developing recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains. Further, the report explains that cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT) can support gradual de-materialization of the electronics industry.

The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PAGE) produced the report on behalf of seven UN entities that collaborate on the E-waste Coalition: the ILO; the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); UNEP, the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), the UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), UNU and the Secretariats of the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm (BRS) Conventions, with support from the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). The UN launched the report at the WEF in Davos, Switzerland. 

Ontario: Electronics & Batteries Producer Responsibility Consultation Ends February 6th, 2019

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As part of the legal directive to transfer current government-overseen waste diversion obligations to a privately-run Individual Producer Responsibility regime (IPR), the Ontario Ministry of the Environment is currently holding consultations with stakeholders in the electronics/electrical equipment (EEE) and batteries industries regarding the coming circular economy regulation for EEE and batteries (and their packaging) and key decisions affecting industry are in the process of being made.

What’s the Mandate?

In understanding the anticipated reach of the EEE/Batteries Regulation, the Ministry is overtly promoting three goals:

  • Improved Environmental Outcomes, including reduction of toxics in landfill and related greenhouse gases;
  • Economic Growth, such as building more “infrastructure for reuse, refurbishment and recycling industries”; and
  • Consistency, Ease, Cost Efficiency and Reduced Burden, with an emphasis on shifting the costs of waste management to individual producers and consumers with the hope that more “competition, innovation and better product design” will result.

To help relieve municipalities of waste handling obligations, and to get itself out of the business of end-of-life product diversion (which it seems intent on doing), the Ministry is giving the EEE/Batteries Regulations a potentially broad and expansionist scope. As of July 1st, 2020, EEE and batteries “producers” will be compelled to resource recover the products (or equivalencies) they put into the Ontario market.

What Could Be Caught under the EEE/Batteries Regulation?

It seems likely that the product categories of one or both of these current diversion programs will be broaden under IPR to include the:

  • likely expansion from the existing 44 types of EEE to capture some or all of:
    • headphones;
    • routers;
    • large and small appliances; and
    • power tools and some categories of lighting.
  • near certain addition of rechargeable batteries;
  • maybe very limited types of EEE and/or batteries embedded in other products; and
  • remote prospect of obligating primary, convenience and/or transportation package used with EEE and/or batteries – given paper/packaging IPR has not yet been implemented in the province.

The addition of products not currently obligated under waste diversion will create immediate needs and opportunities for industries to find new resource recovery solutions to meet these needs.

Who’s Obligated under IPR?

Along with the group of currently obligated producers – namely resident brand owners and resident importers (and, for EEE, assemblers), the Ministry is considering adding one or more other parties which have a “commercial connection” to the products, such as non-resident:

  • importers;
  • wholesalers;
  • licencees;
  • retailers (including on-line out-of-province); and
  • distributors

Many of these companies would not necessarily replace any existing resident parties, but would, instead, be default-obligated for products with no resident “producers”.  The sanctions contemplated for non-compliance under the EEE/Batteries Regulation may well include a prohibition against the sale of products failing to meet their resource recovery targets.

Will it be Like the Tire Regulation?

More than a year ago, stakeholders in the EEE and batteries space were already paying close attention to the Ministry’s implementation of the Tire Regulation, North America’s first comprehensive circular economy law.  Given the breadth of obligations, including the producer’s private obligation to run a reverse supply chain, it’s anticipated that affected companies may respond similarly – coalescing around a limited number of producer responsibility organizations based upon commercial, industry, and market commonalities, to run end-of-life product networks that meet the unique needs of the separate producer groups.

Industry also learned through the Tire Regulation process that critical commercial outcomes can be based upon the content of the regulatory requirements and that full advantage should be taken of the windows of opportunity offered to engage the Ministry on key facets of the coming law.  One such window for EEE and batteries stakeholders is closing on February 6th, 2019.


This has been republished with the permission of Baker MacKenzie. It was first published on the Baker Mackenzie website.

About the Author

Jonathan D. Cocker heads the Baker McKenzie’s Environmental Practice Group in Canada and is an active member of its Global Consumer Goods & Retail and Energy, Mining & Infrastructure groups. He participated in founding one of North America’s first circular economy producer responsibility organizations. Jonathan 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 most recently the author of the first edition of The Environment and Climate Change Law Review (Canada chapter) and the upcoming Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Chemicals chapter).