This week, the cost of disposing of electronic waste in Ontario will begin shifting from municipalities to corporations.
The first stage of the province’s long-awaited Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (WEEE) comes into effect Apr. 1, meaning a new recycling fee will be slapped on everything from computers, to televisions, to printers, and everything in between.
It is unclear whether the fee will be combined into prices, added on, or recovered at the point of sale.
“It’s directed at the manufacturers or the brand owners, is the term that they use, as opposed to some of the other provincial programs where it is actually tied to the end user or the person to whom the product is actually sold, the person including company,” says Michelle Chaisson, an associate with Blake Cassels & Graydon LLP.
“In my conversations with OES, which is Ontario Electronic Stewardship, the entity for responsible for overseeing the program, they have left it up to the manufacturers or the brand owners themselves to determine how that fee is either incorporated in the costs for the product or whether they internalize the cost."
Products covered in the first stage of the program include desktop computers, portable computers, and computer peripherals including mice, monitors, televisions, and printers.
A list of fees can be found on the OES web site and range from $13.44 for a desktop computer to five cents for certain printing device.
The OES has begun identifying companies in Ontario considered “stewards” of the products for the purpose of charging the new fees to them.
“[OES] sent letters to companies identified as potential stewards of electrical and electronic waste informing them that they may be obligated under the Waste Diversion Act,” a spokesperson Barbara McConnell for Stewardship Ontario said in an e-mail to Canadian Lawyer InHouse.
“The letter asked them to log onto an online registration system and by examining the definitions describing the designated waste electrical and electronic equipment, declare whether or not they are stewards. OES works with companies to assist in determining their obligation or questions about definitions.”
However, some companies may not have been identified in the initial mail out. McConnell advises companies that believe they are “stewards” to self-declare through the OES online registration process.
“Self-declaration will ensure the company is involved from the earliest opportunities. If it is notified at a later date and is obligated, it will be required to file reports and pay fees retroactively to the beginning of the program,” McConnell wrote.
Chaisson points out because the Ontario program is different than other provinces and still very new, companies are contacting her firm to ask about their obligations.
She says if a company thinks it may be covered under the regulations it should speak to its lawyers either internally or externally to see if the regulations apply.
“Companies have been calling us that may not have been notified, but they have been notified by a distributor saying, ‘Hey, what’s your OES registration number?’ and maybe our client is an international client saying ‘what is OES, what is electronic waste stewardship?’”
McConnell says the fees OES collects will be used to operate the WEEE program. This includes collection, transportation, processing, research and development, program enforcement, compliance and audit, and promotion and education programs.
The second phase of the program will be submitted for approval in July. This phase is likely to include hand-held devices including BlackBerrys.
Chaisson says if the second phase is approved it will likely be one more year before it comes into force.
More information about the program can be found at the OES web site.