Good afternoon, and thank you for inviting Food and Consumer Products of Canada to appear before you today. We are pleased to be able to contribute to this important and timely study on the management of waste in Canada. While we know you are studying different areas, our remarks will mostly focus on waste diversion and extended producer responsibility, or EPR, as it relates to provincially mandated and legislated packaging stewardship programs.
FCPC and its members support waste diversion and producer responsibility that is based on the principles of fairness and shared responsibility, and that result in environmental benefit. I'll start by telling you a bit about FCPC, our industry, and our role in packaging EPR programs. FCPC is the largest national industry association in Canada representing companies that manufacture and distribute food and consumer products. Our industry operates 6,000 facilities in 170 federal ridings across the country, and we employ close to 300,000 people. What is EPR, and how does it impact food and consumer product manufacturers?
EPR, or stewardship as it's sometimes referred to, shifts the financial and/or the physical responsibility for recycling from municipalities to businesses, including FCPC members. In Canada these programs are regulated by provincial governments and often municipalities retain their role of providing recycling services as part of their overall waste management responsibilities. Food and consumer product manufacturers that supply packaging materials to consumers in provinces that have legislation—that would be British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec—are obligated to be part of a program, submit reports containing the type and quantity of packaging materials they make, and pay fees that are used to pay the costs associated with municipal recycling programs. I should note that fees are paid for all designated packaging materials regardless of whether or not they're recycled.
FCPC's role is to help our members comply with stewardship obligations. We also develop policy positions and participate in government consultations where new legislation is being considered. Given our experience, we're pleased to be able to share some of our insights with you. Today I'd like to provide an overview of some of the challenges with the current approach to EPR, namely the lack of harmonization, the need for better data, the misconception that EPR fosters packaging design changes, and the need for a broader view of sustainability.
I'll also be offering some suggestions on how the federal government may be able to help resolve some of these issues, which we hope you'll consider as part of your study. I'll now just take a minute to talk about our current perspective on EPR. In practice EPR in Canada has mostly focused on shifting only costs of recycling programs, and not responsibility. To us responsibility means a role for businesses in the decision-making related to program operations. In most provinces that role and responsibility is held by municipalities only, but to businesses simply being regulated to fund a portion of municipal cost is not extended producer responsibility. It is FCPC's view that if businesses are to help fund these programs then they must have a role in decision-making. A starting point for industry is to forge a truly shared responsibility model that would see businesses having a role in the decision-making with municipalities about the collection, processing, and sale of materials, and overall program operations.
Now I'd like to talk about harmonization and the role of the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. FCPC is concerned by both the current patchwork approach of EPR programs, and the CCME's continued push for what have become disjointed and rushed programs and regulations. We have disparate provincial and municipal approaches because decisions are made by province or by individual municipality. We believe that greater harmonization of how programs are regulated and managed, as well as a more national and coordinated approach to the decisions related to the collection, processing, and sale of recycled packaging materials, will lead to greater efficiencies and economies of scale, and ultimately to increased waste diversion and recycling.
How does CCME fit in? Provincial governments are likely feeling pressure to introduce EPR legislation because of the CCME. In an effort to create a harmonized approach the CCME developed their Canada-wide action plan on EPR in 2009, which calls for provinces to implement packaging EPR programs by 2015. Last November CCME conducted a consultation to ask if their plan had provided the impetus required for a harmonized approach. In FCPC's view, it had not.
We believe CCME's role is limited in this regard as they do not have the legislative authority to mandate governments to work toward achieving harmonization, which is evident in the patchwork approach that we have today. Other stakeholders who participated in the consultation agreed in a letter dated April 15 from the CCME to FCPC in response to our comments. It says, “A significant number of responses indicated that the [Action Plan] has not been successful in promoting harmonization of these programs and noted that some provinces closely follow [Action Plan] principles while others follow a different set of principles.”
However, in August CCME published a report, which stated that:
.... jurisdictions have been successful in working towards the objectives of CAP-EPR, while working towards a harmonized approach to EPR through the coordination and implementation of policies and programs across the country.
Clearly, there is a bit of a disconnect, and while we support what CCME attempted to do, they were not successful. Since approving the action plan, programs have become more complex, more rushed, more expensive, and have left little time for what is working well and what is not. That said, at the recent CCME meeting in September, ministers agreed that governments will continue to implement EPR as agreed to under the action plan. It would appear that CCME is more interested in rushing to have provinces adopt an EPR regulatory approach in absence of a well-defined and informed approach of what EPR can and should look like in Canada.
FCPC does not believe that provincial governments should follow their recommended timelines for introducing the packaging programs. We believe, and we hope this committee would agree, that the CCME needs to slow down the rush toward this fragmented approach and take the time to assess how packaging EPR programs should operate before making any further decisions. We also believe those decisions must be supported by sound data, which I'll speak to next.
Based on our experience, there is much learning and FCPC has many recommendations for packaging EPR programs. A critical one is the need for better data. I know you have heard this before. When CCME was here in June, Michael said that, “lack of data is a real problem. It's a problem for governments; it's a problem for industry; it's a problem for all stakeholders”. We certainly agree with him.
Peter Hargreave, from the Ontario Waste Management Association, who was here, also spoke to the need for data. He said:
Statistics Canada is currently the only source of broad-level information on the movement of waste materials....it does miss large portions of data, and it lacks detail that would allow businesses and policy-makers to make more informed decisions.
Again, we agree.
How can we develop effective policies unless they are based on facts? We need sound data, such as current waste generation and diversion statistics, information on collection and sorting capabilities and information on the state of the infrastructure that exists to process those materials in addition to information of where end markets exist to sell those materials once they have been processed. As municipalities have been the deliverers of these programs, it's very important that they share their historical program performance information and their cost data. This information is needed to develop effective programs when governments legislate these types of EPR models. We recommend this committee consider national and provincial data needs as part of its study.
Next I'll speak to design for environment, which is when businesses incorporate environmental considerations into the design of their products and packaging. Governments have linked EPR legislation to design for environment saying that EPR fosters packaging decisions, but we don't believe that's the case. A recent report from the European Commission said that there's no clear evidence of a strong positive impact of EPR in the eco-design of the products.
Furthermore, we believe that packaging design must be viewed through a broader sustainability lens. While recyclability is an important factor, it's one of several considerations. Others exist, such as water, energy and carbon. If possible, all these considerations must be considered as long as they are balanced within the context of the overall function of packaging, which is to preserve and protect the product and to provide consumers with important information about content.
It's also important to note that packaging is seldom designed for a provincial market. More often it is designed for a North American or global distribution system.
Due to the lack of harmonization among provincial packaging EPR programs, it is difficult for some companies to make informed decisions. It's not always clear which materials are compatible with which recycling facilities across municipal and provincial borders. EPR, as it stands today, does not wholly foster packaging design changes.
In closing, we believe environmental sustainability should naturally align with business productivity and competitiveness if the right conditions exist. While we agree with the desire to shift to a circular economy, as suggested by the National Zero Waste Council, which also appeared before you a few months ago, we question if that's possible and if those conditions do exist, given that the focus in Canada seems to be on shifting funding from municipally run recycling programs to industry, which, as we mentioned earlier, we don't believe is EPR.
I don't want to focus just on cost here but there are a few things wrong with the notion that EPR in Canada means only shifting costs. First, just because it's called producer responsibility does not mean that producers are the only ones responsible. Waste diversion and recycling are a shared responsibility. For them to achieve true, meaningful environmental benefit, everyone has a role to play: businesses, waste management companies, government, legislators, and consumers.
Second, for EPR to really be EPR we have to see more than just a financing arrangement. Businesses need to have decision-making powers when it comes to the oversight of these programs. We know there are opportunities to use resources more efficiently but we won't be able to get there if we continue to focus only on recycling. We need to step back and ensure we are working together with the same understanding, objectives, and knowledge base of how these programs can and should operate in the most harmonized and efficient way to achieve greater environmental benefit. It can't be overstated how important the consumer role is in the success of recycling programs. Ultimately, it is consumers who decide how to dispose of their recyclables. Programs will only be successful if residents are aware of and understand their role in sorting waste from recyclables. At the end of the day if we as a country want to manage waste more effectively we need to have a more coordinated approach, with government creating the conditions necessary to encourage the most efficient use of all resources across the entire supply chain.