TORONTO - There's no need for manufacturers and distributors to add recycling charges to their products as an extra eco fee at the cash register, Environment Minister Jim Bradley said Friday as he promised new legislation to protect consumers.
Companies don't add rent increases or the cost of new equipment as extra charges for their products, and they don't need to add eco fees as separate line items either, said Bradley.
"It seems they take pleasure, some of them, in showing what the requirement to recycle or reuse is going to cost them and therefore the consumer," he said.
"If they'd just put it right in their price, all the costs of doing business in one price, then they can't say the reason you're paying so much is because of the recycling fee. If you build it into your costs, you can't use that excuse."
The Progressive Conservatives called eco fees a tax grab, and said they would wipe out the recycling charges, shut down the "bloated bureaucracies" of the industry-led stewardship agencies and have government set targets for companies to meet.
The opposition accused Bradley of speaking out of both sides of his mouth.
"He personally signed off on massive fee hikes for electronics and tires," said PC environment critic Michael Harris.
"It's the Liberals who allow retailers to pass these costs onto consumers at the cash register in the form of an eco-tax."
The New Democrats said Ontario's recycling program is broken and needs better provincial oversight and firm targets to help eliminate as much as waste as possible in the manufacturing process.
"There is a consensus that we need extended producer responsibility, where producers pay the full cost of recycling," said NDP environment critic Jonah Schein.
"They should have an incentive to make less toxic products, because they're not doing that under this system."
The Liberal government came under fire earlier this week when it was learned eco fees for large screen televisions would jump to almost $40 May 1 as the charges are adjusted to reflect the actual cost of recycling each product.
At the same time, Premier Kathleen Wynne admitted the government would also have to lower recently increased recycling fees for tires used on agricultural equipment.
There is a need for clarification on the recycling charges in new legislation, Wynne said during a visit to Kitchener Friday.
"As we come up with new technologies for doing that there are different costs associated with those technologies, and so we need to make sure that the producers and the consumers understand what those costs are," she said.
Even though he hates the eco fees, there's no guarantee the charges will disappear at cash registers after the new legislation is passed, admitted Bradley.
"We'll explore ways to protect the consumer, but I can't specifically say that yet because we have to go through with our ministry lawyers to determine just what can be done," he said.
"It'd be great if there was a buy in by the industry, but you always have to look at the legal implications before you head out on a limb and say we're going to do this."
Bradley said he wants the stewardship agencies to hire consumer experts so they don't keep adjusting their recycling charges without first telling the public.