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Steward Responsibility – What is it all about?

Extended Producer Responsibility

Across Canada, governments are examining and adopting policies that make industry responsible (physically and/or financially) for managing their packaging and printed paper (PPP) as well as other products such as electronics and tires at the end-of-life, or, in other words, when consumers are finished with them.

The individual industries that are the brand owners or importers of these products are called “producers” or more commonly “stewards” in Canada, and “steward responsibility” is referred to in policy circles as “extended producer responsibility” or EPR.

The typical practice in many provinces and territories is for municipalities to collect PPP in recycling programs and to pay for these programs, in whole or in part, through property taxes. In some cases, provinces (e.g., Ontario, Manitoba and Quebec) have stewardship programs in place calling for industry to pay a portion of the cost of the PPP recycling program. However, in a number of provinces these policy approaches are changing or have changed to full EPR meaning stewards pay the full cost of recovering and recycling their waste packaging and printed paper. It is believed this policy approach will provide incentives to stewards to incorporate environmental considerations, such as using recyclable packaging materials or using more recycled content, in the design of their products.

Developing and implementing EPR programs affects companies and organizations that are stewards, municipalities/local governments/haulers that collect PPP and processors that prepare PPP for shipment to end-markets.

 Whether consumers see changes in their recycling programs depends on a number of factors including the regulations enacted by their provincial government. For example, some consumers may find that new materials are added to their programs. Others might find that access to recycling programs becomes more convenient. (See below for links to individual provincial stewardship programs.) 

Emterra is Getting Ready for EPR

Over the past 35 years of operation, Emterra has been able to adapt and thrive with changing market conditions. We are embracing the shift to an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) management model for consumer packaging and printed paper products and the related change in Zero Waste service models. We have a strong working relationship with several organizations that represent stewards’ interests across Canada, including Encorp Pacific (Canada) in British Columbia, and Stewardship Ontario and the Ontario Tire Stewardship Program in Ontario. As a result, we have a full understanding of current EPR programs and their service needs and reporting requirements, and we will continue to monitor and have input into new EPR policy directions in Canada to ensure we serve the needs of our customers.  

The EPR Model

Most jurisdictions in Canada define EPR as an environmental policy approach in which the producer's responsibility for reducing environmental impact and managing the product is extended across the whole life cycle of the product - from selection of materials, designing the packaging, and developing and paying for recycling programs to recovery these products at end-of-life. In other words, a "closed loop" approach to the materials management of a product.

Traditionally, waste material has been managed through a linear system:

  • Natural resource extraction
  • Product manufacturing
  • Sale of product to consumer
  • Consumer disposes of the product into the municipal/local government waste stream at end-of-life

 In an EPR model, the waste material is managed through a closed resource recovery loop creating more of a total resource management model:

  • Governments enact legislation like the Recycling Regulation in BC, to establish EPR programs
  • Stewards are obligated through regulation to take end-of-life physical and/or financial management of the products they bring into the marketplace
  • Steward responsibility drives ‘design for environment’ policies throughout the manufacturing process
  • Resulting in more and more products containing recycled content
  • Resulting in more and more products made from components and packaging that can be recycled
  • Creating jobs in secondary resource collection, recovery and manufacturing