Higher environmental fees for manufacturers and resellers of electronic equipment are hurting businesses and consumers and should be scrapped, says the MPP for Kitchener-Conestoga.
Michael Harris last week used a Breslau firm as the backdrop for critiquing new eco fees that came into effect at the beginning of the year. Office equipment companies such as Document Imaging Partners face an ever-increasing tax burden, he said of fees charged by the Ontario Electronic Stewardship (OES).
New fees that came into effect January 1 upped the eco-tax on the printing and copying machines handled by the Breslau company by $32.50 to $341.20, he said. Document Imaging Partners and other businesses suffer at the hands of the program.
“In an attempt to cover up a financial failure in of its electronics recycling program, the Liberal government has rubber stamped a series of eco-fee hikes, leaving small businesses … and consumers to foot the bill,” he said.
Harris used Sherri-Lynn Teri, owner of Document Imaging Partners, as an example. The company is a supplier for the Upper Grand District School Board and the Wellington Catholic School Board. It is the second largest dealer of Kyocera products in Ontario. The increased fees hurt business at a time when the economy is already soft.
“In our case potentially 90 per cent of our business and customers will be affected,” said Teri.
Many of the machines affected by the hikes sell between $3,000-9,000, she explained, adding that major contract holders like school boards will see the new fees affect their budgets.
The Ministry of the Environment counters, however, that the decision to pass on recycling fees to customers lies with the businesses themselves.
MOE spokesperson Lindsay Davidson said the electronics industry “has chosen to pass on these costs to the consumer.”
OES executive director Jonathan Spencer said the fees vary from product to product. In the case of standing printing apparatus, which make up about 90 per cent of the inventory for businesses like Document Imaging Partners, the recycling costs are greater and consequently demand higher fees. In contrast, desktop printers and the like have an attached fee of $11.45.
Spencer calls the OES successful in its endeavours, having exceeded targets two years and recycled close to 73,000 tones of electronics in 2012.
“All of that comes at a cost,” he said of running OES.
He also admits that concerns were raised in 2010 over a $20-million deficit.
“In setting the fees in August 2011 it was felt that the fees could be brought down to draw down that deficit, which we did.”
In 2011 the OES reported a deficit of $7 million. Spencer said the stewardship continued to draw down the deficit but raised fees to the current level to increase working capital that would keep programs running.
The fees as they stand today aren’t exactly new, however, the ministry maintains. Current fees are similar to those in place in the summer of 2011 before they were reduced.
Some larger electronic goods are subject to fees higher than in previous years, Davidson acknowledges.
“In Ontario, the producers and importers that sell electronic goods in Ontario must take full responsibility for the costs of recycling or safe disposal of these products. That money does not go to the government,” he wrote in an e-mail.
The OES held steward fee consultations last year to notify businesses of the proposed fees that came into effect January 1. He said the organization also met with vendors of floor-standing printers.
For her part, Teri said neither her company nor its manufacturers were notified by OES prior to the fee increases, adding her firm already has a premium recycling policy in place.
“We as a company 100 per cent recycle all of our parts supplies and cartridges and at our own cost. We’ve had a full program in place for the past nine years with a policy of zero landfill.”