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Halifax will soon hold corporations responsible for garbage from their products

Council passed a motion Tuesday to look further into implementing extended producer responsibility for packaging and paper products
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A garbage bag rejected by waste collection crews. (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

This past Tuesday at HRM council, Deputy Mayor Tony Mancini put forward that HRM endorse a motion by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).

That motion would see the FCM call on the government to seek progress reports from provinces towards implementation of extended producer responsibility (EPR). It would also seek to create regulatory framework for EPR across the country for packaging and paper products (PPP).

"This is definitely the route that we need to go," said Mancini.

Mancini says that using EPR would shift the burden of recycling from taxpayers on to the large companies that are creating products.

"This puts the responsibility on the producer of products and packaging," he told council. "And away from the taxpayer deciding what to do with those products."

The Deputy Mayor told council that "100 per cent" of municipalities across the province and beyond are in agreement that EPR is in the future.

"Speaking to many of our colleagues across the country, it is the direction we want to go, that circular economy," he explained.

This would move use away from a linear economy, according to Mancini.

"Right now, a product is made, it goes to market, it's sold and then once the consumer has it it's really up to the consumer whether they recycle it or they throw it in the garbage," he said.

But with EPR, the producers would be responsible for their own products at end-of-life.

"Whoever makes the product, they're responsible for the end-of-life, including the packaging, so that it doesn't end up in the landfill," he added.

Mancini says producers end up sending less to the landfill by making products simpler and easier to recycle.

"The fewer the ingredients the easier it is for the marketplace to recycle it," he says. "If it has multiple ingredients it's very difficult to recycle that plastic and a lot of the times it ends up in the environment."

But some councillors said they don't yet have all the facts.

"I admit I don’t know about this, I don’t know about the economic impact of this, I don’t know what it will cost, I don’t know how it will make things better," said District 13 Councillor Matt Whitman.

But Whitman said he was willing to sign off on the motion, mainly to be able to follow what other jurisdictions are doing regarding EPR.

"I wish someone from staff was here who could give me the answers about what it’s going to cost, what’s the benefit, and where is the money going to go to?" he asked.

Currently, Mancini says British Columbia is the only province with full EPR, while Alberta and Nova Scotia were the only provinces without any.

"The money's already collected now, but because we don't have EPR here it doesn't stay here, it goes to provinces that have it," Mancini told council. "Harmonization is about getting all the provinces together on the same page with this."

CAO Jacques Dubé reinforced that council had already supported moving towards EPR on two occasions, passing motions back in September 2014 and again February 2018.

"This motion is simply following a trend across North America where EPRs are being implemented through provincial legislation and then regulated from there," Dubé said.

The councillors wanted clear direction on who will pay more and who will benefit from EPR.

"I’m not opposed to this but I would like to know the financial implications should this be done," asked District 11 Councillor Steve Adams.

District 10 Councillor Russell Walker says that the province and the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities are working towards an agreement on EPR.

"We're very close to having an agreement with the province on how we're going to move forward on this. I feel that the province is on side," he says.

Walker hopes it will be in place by next year, but Mancini says it could be a longer process.

"If approved it takes a period of time to be put in place. It's still a three to five year process. There's a lot of things we have to look at and municipalities have to line up for it," Mancini says.

The councillors approved the motion and requested that staff give a more in-depth presentation on EPR at their next meeting.



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Victoria  Walton

About the Author: Victoria Walton

Victoria is HalifaxToday.ca's weekend editor and a Halifax-based freelancer. She is originally from Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley.
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