Guiding principles for stewardship advocacy

RCC follows 11 guiding principles when advocating on behalf of members for environmental stewardship. In addition to ensuring a level playing field for all stewards, these principles promote regulatory harmonization, steward accountability, and fair targets and implementation timelines. Ultimately, these principles are the foundation of RCC’s policy positions when speaking to stakeholders, including various levels of government.

1. Harmonization

Governments must ensure that programs are harmonized across all Canadian jurisdictions to achieve economies of scale, efficiencies and convenience for consumers. This includes harmonizing program requirements, lists of designated materials, roles and responsibilities, the definition of a steward, accountability measures, reporting mechanisms and more. Governments also need to consult with stewards and their trade associations to ensure programs are effectively harmonized.

2. Level-playing field

Governments must require that all stewards participate either in an individual or collective stewardship program to maintain a level competitive playing field. 

Financial contributions must be made mandatory. In-kind contributions cannot be agreed to in any framework. Beyond this, governments can provide for fair and harmonized treatment of small businesses in a way that maintains a level playing field for all stewards while satisfying the need to reduce red tape. If exemptions are specified, there must be corresponding reductions in estimated tonnage to ensure obligated stewards are not unfairly paying for exempted businesses’ material.

Governments must provide industry collectives with the ability to enforce against free-riders. Where stewards or their collective have exhausted efforts to deal with free-riders, governments must take appropriate enforcement action. In particular, this applies to foreign free-riders through their distribution channels, including e-commerce. The concept of voluntary steward needs to be included and allowed in all jurisdictions.

3. Collective or individual responsibility

Governments need to provide flexibility for either an individual company or an industry collective response (i.e., not-for-profit organizations that collectively represent obligated stewards), and provide stewards with the ability to fully discharge their obligations through such collectives. When required, program plans or standard requirements have to be developed and submitted by stewards. Obligated stewards must be free to choose the collective.

4. Stability and predictability of stewardship fees – no regulation on the costs of programs

For all programs, fees, fee schedules and the ability to determine them, must be left to obligated stewards/industry collectives. Government must ensure that a clear mechanism exists to accurately split costs between fibers and other packaging materials. Product stewardship programs should include mechanisms to ensure cross-subsidization between categories of products is minimized, as much as possible. Government cannot impose mechanisms of arbitration or any other negotiated approach to determine the costs of programs, fee schedules or performance and efficiency incentives.

As fees are based on costs of collection, transportation, and sorting – in other words, on labour, fuel, equipment, and so forth – governments must not enact criteria to determine fees that are dependent upon recycled content of materials, the nature of the materials used, the volume of residual materials produced and their potential for recovery, recycling or other forms of reclamation.

5. No regulation on the visibility of fees

Governments must be silent on the visibility of fees. Obligated stewards must have the ability to decide whether to show fees associated with the costs of programs.

6. Exclusion of IC&I sector

Governments must exclude the waste from the industrial, commercial and institutional (IC&I) sector from stewardship programs. It is the responsibility of governments to strengthen and enforce regulations to hold IC&I generators accountable for the way they manage waste.

7. Competition

Governments must ensure that competition exists at the operational level to foster operational efficiencies but be silent with respect to the industry collective level. Governments must ensure that industry collectives include obligated producers in the governance structure, at the choosing of the obligated producers. Governments should have no authority to determine or nominate Board members of industry collectives.

8. Return-to-retail

Return-to-retail initiatives are decisions made by businesses and as such, governments must abstain from imposing this approach.

9. Realistic targets

Governments must set realistic targets that take into account that consumers have no obligation. While most governments insist on weight-based targets or targets based on the percentage of products sold in the market, several other options are available and should be considered. Targets need to be developed with producers and it is premature to identify performance targets in any program unless the program has been operational for at least one year and has sufficient data available.

10. Appropriate implementation timeline

Governments must ensure that at least one year is provided for producers to develop their response to the regulatory requirements and another year thereafter for program implementation. If applicable, there has to be a one-year implementation window after minister’s approval, to allow system changes. Programs cannot be launched around the holiday season (November-January) as well as back-to-school (August to October), as these represent the busiest periods for retailers.

11. Accountability, transparency and access to program management performance and financial information

Governments have to introduce reasonable mechanisms to ensure that all parties participating in the waste diversion stream are accountable to government, peers and the public. This applies to stewards or their industry collectives, municipalities, collectors, transporters, recyclers and processers of end-of-life products, and includes mandatory annual reports and audits of financial statements and performance. Compliance with existing recognized environmental standards has to play an important part of the review process. Governments must ensure that all collectors, transporters, recyclers and processers of end-of-life products demonstrate compliance to applicable laws and industry standards.