Eco Fees: Paying More to Live
On July 1, Ontario levied a so-called eco fee on thousands of common but toxic household items.
Not surprisingly, consumers have voiced their discontent very strongly, seeing that the fee can be as high as $6.66 per item.
Three weeks into the program, city officials were obliged to respond to the widespread unpopularity by suspending the eco fee, but existing recycling charges on paint, TVs and other home electronics remain.
At the core of the problem is the question of what to do with household hazardous waste? Rechargeable batteries, single-use batteries, pharmaceuticals, fire extinguishers, syringes, compact fluorescent bulbs, tires, paints, solvents, bleach and other household cleaners, and many more. These are but a very few of the numerous consumer products that require adequate and costly disposal at hazardous waste sites.
The question is, who will pay for the collection, transportation, processing, and removal of the hazardous materials?
Should consumers be charged a fee when they buy the products or when they dispose of the product? What about manufacturers and retailers who make and sell those products? Why should consumers be the only ones to pay the fee?
Many consumer products produce negative environmental impact. All the items mentioned above, as well as hand sanitizers, fertilizers for lawns and gardening, moth balls in closets and drawers, have toxic chemicals. But lacking greener alternatives or affordable greener alternatives aside, most consumers are unable to bypass buying or using the various consumer goods they need because the daily business of living requires consumption of all kinds of goods.
Of course, consumers can choose greener options, but even those need disposal eventually. Instead of using bleach to sanitize the kitchen counter-top, distilled vinegar can be used, but distilled vinegar is still a chemical, albeit less harmful to the environment. Even table salt, sodium chloride, is a chemical. Can or should the eco fee be designed to discriminate between industrial chemicals such as bleach and "natural" chemicals such as vinegar and salt? If so, wouldn't the complexity of doing so cost a great deal of time and money as well? Who will pay for the detailed classification and categorization of hundreds of thousands of consumer products?Continued on the next page