Eco-Fees 2: Stewardship Ontario

Yesterday’s post on Ontario’s eco fees generated quite a few emails and a couple of comments, and I promised to dig a little deeper into Stewardship Ontario.  The main questions asked were who is Stewardship Ontario, who collects the money and where does it go.  A long Friday night and a bottle of wine later, I have answers.

Who is Stewardship Ontario?

According to their 2009 Annual Report, Stewardship Ontario was incorporated as a ‘corporation witout share capital’ in 2003.  All that means is they are a not-for-profit operation regulated by the Ministry of the Environment, but not a government agency.

Stewardship Ontario defines their business as:

Originally established in 2004 to serve as a financing organization mandated under the Waste Diversion Act to raise industry funds to reimburse municipalities for 50% of the costs of Blue Box recycling, Stewardship Ontario has since evolved into a reverse supply chain business. We are responsible for the end-of-life management of several materials including paint, batteries, solvents, oil filters, oil containers, antifreeze, pesticides, fertilizers and pressurized containers. The municipal hazardous and special waste program launched on July 1, 2008. 2009 marked the first full year of operation for that program.

While our financing mandate continues under the shared responsibility model for the recycling of residentially generated printed paper and packaging, our direct end-of-life management responsibilities have led to the acquisition of new competencies and the development of a new strategic direction. We are no longer just in the business of funding sustainability – we are in the business of doing it.

Quick summary, Stewardship Ontario was formed to take money from business and pass it municipalities to ‘support the blue box recycling program’ but has engaged in mission creep since its formation.

Who collects the eco-fees?

The language is slippery, but here is how it works.  Stewardship Ontario collects revenue from businesses (‘stewards’) who sell any product on the fee schedule (pdf).  The ‘eco-fee’ on a consumer’s receipt goes to the retailer, distributor or manufacturer to offset the levy.  While technically the eco-fee goes to the entity that was charged by Stewardship Ontario, in reality there would be no need to charge consumers anything if it were not for the Stewardship Ontario programs.

This is how Stewardship Ontario can claim that eco-fees are not mandatory, but it’s a cynical argument that relies on the belief that businesses will not pass the cost to consumers.  Perhaps some businesses don’t, but the furor in the press about the surprise appearance of the fees on customer’s bills tells the true story.

In 2009, Stewardship Ontario collected almost $100 million from Ontario businesses:

Where does the money go?

The chart suggests that Ontario municipalities are indeed double dipping, charging property taxes for garbage collection and collecting funding from Stewardship Ontario.  No doubt local authorities would claim the need to raise property taxes if the back-end funds were unavailable, but the result is the same.

Only the way the cash leaves your pocket is different; as a tax payer or as a consumer.

The backlash against yet more fleecing of Ontarians has clearly caught Stewardship Ontario flat-footed, how else to explain the PR disaster now under way from their advice to stewards to ‘hide the fees’ to make ‘consumers none the wiser’?

This business needs to be folded.  If municipalities need more cash to fund recycling programs, let them increase taxes and face their voters, stealth taxes are dishonest at best.

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60 thoughts on “Eco-Fees 2: Stewardship Ontario”

  1. Thanks Natasha, I can’t compete with the Murphster.

    I think that this eco fee story will blow-up bigger yet, it’s a tax too far on top of the HST and the moronic 5c per plastic bag charges.

  2. Thanks Natasha, I can’t compete with the Murphster.

    I think that this eco fee story will blow-up bigger yet, it’s a tax too far on top of the HST and the moronic 5c per plastic bag charges.

  3. You are from London Ontario aren’t you? You should do an article on Jay Stanford. He is the poster boy for this stuff. He is such a ‘social engineering’ type. Some of the shit he gets away with in the name of ‘green’ is incredible.

  4. You are from London Ontario aren’t you? You should do an article on Jay Stanford. He is the poster boy for this stuff. He is such a ‘social engineering’ type. Some of the shit he gets away with in the name of ‘green’ is incredible.

  5. The apparent double-dipping aside, even some of us in North Carolina, USA recognize that “fee” and “tax” are both four-letter words.

  6. The apparent double-dipping aside, even some of us in North Carolina, USA recognize that “fee” and “tax” are both four-letter words.

  7. Great article. The arrogant audacity of the McGuinty government knows no bounds.

    The head of Stewardship Ontario is also the Marketing Manager for Stantec Consulting Ltd. this is the same company that has spent the last several years pushing through wind projects throughout Ontario with fake environmental reviews fraught with spin and inaccuracies.

    http://windconcernsontario.org

  8. Great article. The arrogant audacity of the McGuinty government knows no bounds.

    The head of Stewardship Ontario is also the Marketing Manager for Stantec Consulting Ltd. this is the same company that has spent the last several years pushing through wind projects throughout Ontario with fake environmental reviews fraught with spin and inaccuracies.

    http://windconcernsontario.org

  9. No matter what the business even if they are selling just one item that has added an “ECO NOT A TAX” then as far as I am concerned they belong to the The “Stewardship of Ontario Program as such they now become a drop centre all used, not fully used items listed in part below. Even if they claim to be eating up the cost they are still part of the program, well as far as I am concerned they have now become a OrangeDrop for what they sell or do sell that are listed;

    All aerosol containers, from paint to hairspray.

    Rechargeable batteries, as well as non-lead acid motive batteries.

    Corrosives and irritants, such as household bleaches, drain cleaners and detergents.

    Assorted toxic, flammable and reactive products.

    Syringes and needles.

    Pharmaceuticals for humans and pets, including prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs and natural health products.

    Fluorescent tubes and bulbs.

    Fire extinguishers.

  10. No matter what the business even if they are selling just one item that has added an “ECO NOT A TAX” then as far as I am concerned they belong to the The “Stewardship of Ontario Program as such they now become a drop centre all used, not fully used items listed in part below. Even if they claim to be eating up the cost they are still part of the program, well as far as I am concerned they have now become a OrangeDrop for what they sell or do sell that are listed;

    All aerosol containers, from paint to hairspray.

    Rechargeable batteries, as well as non-lead acid motive batteries.

    Corrosives and irritants, such as household bleaches, drain cleaners and detergents.

    Assorted toxic, flammable and reactive products.

    Syringes and needles.

    Pharmaceuticals for humans and pets, including prescription medicine, over-the-counter drugs and natural health products.

    Fluorescent tubes and bulbs.

    Fire extinguishers.

  11. Mr alias, that’s actually a good idea. With all of the stuff that is subject to the “eco-fee” or eco tax, we should make the stewardship ontario’s offices thge new dropoff site for such tax materials.

    just some simple math here.. if 1 million people pay 1 cent per day towards the eco tax(the population is 14 million, so that’s 1/14th of the population) they would make 10 000 dollars per day. at the end of a 30 day month, they would have made 300 000 dollars. At the end of the year(based on a 30 day average per month), they would have made 3.6 million dollars. times that by 14..then that’s 50 million per year. So if they collected a penny from every Ontario citizen per day, they would pretty much pay 2/3 of Ontario’s blue box budget.

  12. Mr alias, that’s actually a good idea. With all of the stuff that is subject to the “eco-fee” or eco tax, we should make the stewardship ontario’s offices thge new dropoff site for such tax materials.

    just some simple math here.. if 1 million people pay 1 cent per day towards the eco tax(the population is 14 million, so that’s 1/14th of the population) they would make 10 000 dollars per day. at the end of a 30 day month, they would have made 300 000 dollars. At the end of the year(based on a 30 day average per month), they would have made 3.6 million dollars. times that by 14..then that’s 50 million per year. So if they collected a penny from every Ontario citizen per day, they would pretty much pay 2/3 of Ontario’s blue box budget.

  13. Now I’m not anti Government in any form (Federal, Provincial or Federal) and I am not anti tax in the regular form (Income, PST, or GST) because I know whom to complain to or whom campaign against, but who are these guys??? and where is a list of the products covered??? and is there an exact fee on these products or is it a percentage???
    I have just spent the better part of my morning (the past 4 hrs) trying to find the answers to these questions and am still none the wiser. Has anyone ever looked at the number of different sites covering “Stewartship Ontario”. Your site and article have been the most informative so far!
    I am also concerned about the amount your graf shows as “Program Management” (5.2%). To me, an accountant, that seems high just to oversee the distribution of “Fees Collected” when all the costs of collection are borne by the seller. If this is a political appointment of a Company or Group to oversee the reduction of waste to our landsites do we have another Hydro Generation or Ontario Lotteries problem where the top people have extensive salaries and payout programs???
    Wow, what a kaffufle!

  14. Now I’m not anti Government in any form (Federal, Provincial or Federal) and I am not anti tax in the regular form (Income, PST, or GST) because I know whom to complain to or whom campaign against, but who are these guys??? and where is a list of the products covered??? and is there an exact fee on these products or is it a percentage???
    I have just spent the better part of my morning (the past 4 hrs) trying to find the answers to these questions and am still none the wiser. Has anyone ever looked at the number of different sites covering “Stewartship Ontario”. Your site and article have been the most informative so far!
    I am also concerned about the amount your graf shows as “Program Management” (5.2%). To me, an accountant, that seems high just to oversee the distribution of “Fees Collected” when all the costs of collection are borne by the seller. If this is a political appointment of a Company or Group to oversee the reduction of waste to our landsites do we have another Hydro Generation or Ontario Lotteries problem where the top people have extensive salaries and payout programs???
    Wow, what a kaffufle!

  15. This is an insult to all Canadians! They snuck this tax in without telling us!

    I think it’s time to start YELLING! I don’t care if they tell us to EAT CAKE! I’ve had it!

  16. This is an insult to all Canadians! They snuck this tax in without telling us!

    I think it’s time to start YELLING! I don’t care if they tell us to EAT CAKE! I’ve had it!

  17. Thank you for this post, I’ve learned more about Stewardship Ontario in this article as opposed to everything else in the media. The list of fees is on the the website http://www.stewardshipontario.ca/sites/default/files/StewardFees.pdf (not sure if this link will work there’s a link to in on their main page). What angers me the most about this whole thing is how are consumers suppose to know which retailers and which manufacturers will not pass the eco fee to us! It seems to easy for Stewardship Ontario to say we only deal with our ‘Stewards’ we can’t control what they do about it. The thing I don’t understand though is if the retailers could just have upped the price of merchandise why would they set up their tills to state eco fees. Its not like when gas was exceptionally high and produce went up they also charged a transportation fee as separate. Something seems very off about this whole thing and I don’t believe Stewardship Ontario truly explained any of these fees to the retailers at all!

    1. Sandy,
      I think some retailers put the eco-fee on receipts because they don’t like being shaken down by Ontario. If everyone hid the green stealth tax by eating the cost or passing it on invisibly, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

      No matter how much Stewardship Ontario or the McGuinty Liberals dress this up, its a tax on business and its costing consumer at the exact moment we all have to bite the HST bullet.

  18. Thank you for this post, I’ve learned more about Stewardship Ontario in this article as opposed to everything else in the media. The list of fees is on the the website http://www.stewardshipontario.ca/sites/default/files/StewardFees.pdf (not sure if this link will work there’s a link to in on their main page). What angers me the most about this whole thing is how are consumers suppose to know which retailers and which manufacturers will not pass the eco fee to us! It seems to easy for Stewardship Ontario to say we only deal with our ‘Stewards’ we can’t control what they do about it. The thing I don’t understand though is if the retailers could just have upped the price of merchandise why would they set up their tills to state eco fees. Its not like when gas was exceptionally high and produce went up they also charged a transportation fee as separate. Something seems very off about this whole thing and I don’t believe Stewardship Ontario truly explained any of these fees to the retailers at all!

    1. Sandy,
      I think some retailers put the eco-fee on receipts because they don’t like being shaken down by Ontario. If everyone hid the green stealth tax by eating the cost or passing it on invisibly, we wouldn’t even be having this discussion.

      No matter how much Stewardship Ontario or the McGuinty Liberals dress this up, its a tax on business and its costing consumer at the exact moment we all have to bite the HST bullet.

  19. There may be a way to foil everyone on this. When you get to the cash register, and since Stewartship Ontario has said in their own words that the Eco fee is “not mandatory”, refuse to pay it. Leave your name and address and let the goon-squad come and try to “collect” it personally. At the very least the store will refuse the sale, at which time they will have to go through the inconvenience of cancelling everything on the checkout counter. Or they will let you walk out without paying it. I am sorry, but make the retailer suffer enough and someone will finally have the fortitude to have this abomination stopped.

  20. There may be a way to foil everyone on this. When you get to the cash register, and since Stewartship Ontario has said in their own words that the Eco fee is “not mandatory”, refuse to pay it. Leave your name and address and let the goon-squad come and try to “collect” it personally. At the very least the store will refuse the sale, at which time they will have to go through the inconvenience of cancelling everything on the checkout counter. Or they will let you walk out without paying it. I am sorry, but make the retailer suffer enough and someone will finally have the fortitude to have this abomination stopped.

  21. so are they gonna cut our taxes for all this now when we pay fees? why would we pay two times for the same product? also are they in charge or treating our water as well (otherwise why are they allowed to touch vitamins or shampoos)

    1. kselmak – I’m certain that Stewardship Ontario would justify their fees on vitamins and shampoos based on the containers rather than the product. Also, I’ve had a lot of hits from Ontario government this past week, so please don’t be giving them any ideas about charging eco-fees for waste water!

  22. so are they gonna cut our taxes for all this now when we pay fees? why would we pay two times for the same product? also are they in charge or treating our water as well (otherwise why are they allowed to touch vitamins or shampoos)

    1. kselmak – I’m certain that Stewardship Ontario would justify their fees on vitamins and shampoos based on the containers rather than the product. Also, I’ve had a lot of hits from Ontario government this past week, so please don’t be giving them any ideas about charging eco-fees for waste water!

  23. Hi! Love your site! When you suggest that the municipalities are double dipping through property tax and Stewardship funding you forget that in a great many places in rural Ontario (where I live) that still pay those fees and get NO garbage service at all. You can pay a loonie at the local transfer station or a loonie and a half for a yellow bag that the county will pick up. In effect you are charged twice for nothing!

    1. Hi Jeff, thanks for reading, and your kind comment.

      I’m glad you let us know how garbage collection works (or doesn’t) in rural Ontario, because I wondered by couldn’t find any information on it. Being charged twice for nothing sounds pretty much what I’d expect, and no doubt you’ll be paying HST on that now too.

  24. Hi! Love your site! When you suggest that the municipalities are double dipping through property tax and Stewardship funding you forget that in a great many places in rural Ontario (where I live) that still pay those fees and get NO garbage service at all. You can pay a loonie at the local transfer station or a loonie and a half for a yellow bag that the county will pick up. In effect you are charged twice for nothing!

    1. Hi Jeff, thanks for reading, and your kind comment.

      I’m glad you let us know how garbage collection works (or doesn’t) in rural Ontario, because I wondered by couldn’t find any information on it. Being charged twice for nothing sounds pretty much what I’d expect, and no doubt you’ll be paying HST on that now too.

  25. If you look on the Stewardship Ontario website, they mention that the “eco fee is not a tax”… Of course not, it’s just another revenue stream…!

    If you also look at their annual report, they essentially elected a board of directors from companies who had “paid at least $10MM in fees” to them… talk about a way to get elected; they more fees you had us “consumers” give you, the better the chance you have of getting on the board! Oh, from what I gather, they don’t get paid while on the 2-3 year term period but you have to question why a CEO of a corporation would take/give some time on a board of directors for free??? There has to be a catch…

  26. If you look on the Stewardship Ontario website, they mention that the “eco fee is not a tax”… Of course not, it’s just another revenue stream…!

    If you also look at their annual report, they essentially elected a board of directors from companies who had “paid at least $10MM in fees” to them… talk about a way to get elected; they more fees you had us “consumers” give you, the better the chance you have of getting on the board! Oh, from what I gather, they don’t get paid while on the 2-3 year term period but you have to question why a CEO of a corporation would take/give some time on a board of directors for free??? There has to be a catch…

  27. Stewardship Ontario is the brainchild Ontario Liberals under Dalton McGuinty and initially established to serve as a financing organization mandated under the Waste Diversion Act to raise industry funds to reimburse municipalities for 50% of the costs of Blue Box recycling. It has evolved into an independent, unregulated end of life management organization of several products and materials.

    This new Eco Fee, Eco Tax or whatever they chose to call it is simply another huge money grab.

    What is all this nonsense about. For example, why is an Eco fee charged on a refillable propane cylinder, each time a cylinder is refilled and recycled to another consumer. Isn’t the purpose of refilling a propane cylinder to enable it to live another day and keep them from the garbage heap. This isn’t the end-of-life for a consumer recyclable product and thus it appears Stewardship is overstepping their own self stated mandate charging a recurring fee on such products.

    And here is what Stewardship Ontario has to say about it:

    “We have no authority over how stewards (a manufacturers) manage the fees within their operations – again, they may choose to absorb the cost of their fees into their product price or pass the cost on to retailers.”

    And Stewardship Ontario’s definition of “stewards”:

    “companies (our stewards) that produce or distribute”

    Wow…. A fee set by manufacturers to recover costs charged them by Stewardship Ontario. It seem as if they can charge any fee on almost anything identified by Stewardship Ontario as being compliant. And yes… Stewardship Ontario’s fee for a refillable propane container is $0.44 each time it refilled and recycled to the consumer? Home Depot added an additional $0.15 for an Eco Fee of $0.59.

    It appears this Eco Fee program is simply a huge money grab, unregulated and wide open for abuse.

    Stephane Dion soon discovered the wrath of consumer when he proposed similar fees. Likewise, I expect the Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals will soon feel the wrath of an Ontario electorate. Enough is enough. Screw me once… shame on you. Screw me twice… shame on me. Unfortunately McGuinty and his team has conspired and done it to us many times since 2003.

  28. Stewardship Ontario is the brainchild Ontario Liberals under Dalton McGuinty and initially established to serve as a financing organization mandated under the Waste Diversion Act to raise industry funds to reimburse municipalities for 50% of the costs of Blue Box recycling. It has evolved into an independent, unregulated end of life management organization of several products and materials.

    This new Eco Fee, Eco Tax or whatever they chose to call it is simply another huge money grab.

    What is all this nonsense about. For example, why is an Eco fee charged on a refillable propane cylinder, each time a cylinder is refilled and recycled to another consumer. Isn’t the purpose of refilling a propane cylinder to enable it to live another day and keep them from the garbage heap. This isn’t the end-of-life for a consumer recyclable product and thus it appears Stewardship is overstepping their own self stated mandate charging a recurring fee on such products.

    And here is what Stewardship Ontario has to say about it:

    “We have no authority over how stewards (a manufacturers) manage the fees within their operations – again, they may choose to absorb the cost of their fees into their product price or pass the cost on to retailers.”

    And Stewardship Ontario’s definition of “stewards”:

    “companies (our stewards) that produce or distribute”

    Wow…. A fee set by manufacturers to recover costs charged them by Stewardship Ontario. It seem as if they can charge any fee on almost anything identified by Stewardship Ontario as being compliant. And yes… Stewardship Ontario’s fee for a refillable propane container is $0.44 each time it refilled and recycled to the consumer? Home Depot added an additional $0.15 for an Eco Fee of $0.59.

    It appears this Eco Fee program is simply a huge money grab, unregulated and wide open for abuse.

    Stephane Dion soon discovered the wrath of consumer when he proposed similar fees. Likewise, I expect the Dalton McGuinty and the Ontario Liberals will soon feel the wrath of an Ontario electorate. Enough is enough. Screw me once… shame on you. Screw me twice… shame on me. Unfortunately McGuinty and his team has conspired and done it to us many times since 2003.

  29. What I find incredible is how this government thinks anything they propose that is so-called green…the public will accept with starry eyed moral goodness.

    I find some people actually defending it on other forums because it’s “green”. This illustrates quite clearly how our society has been thoroughly greenwashed where all reason and critical thinking have disappeared.

  30. What I find incredible is how this government thinks anything they propose that is so-called green…the public will accept with starry eyed moral goodness.

    I find some people actually defending it on other forums because it’s “green”. This illustrates quite clearly how our society has been thoroughly greenwashed where all reason and critical thinking have disappeared.

  31. Just finished listening to the environment minister….holy crap….who is this moron? Said nothing useful. typical for mcsquinty government. I have always been a responsible recycler but those days are over. I’ll be hiding all my hazardous waste in my regular garbage from now on. The “stewards” can hand pick and sort it themselves since they’re being paid. I’m not so I’m done.

  32. Just finished listening to the environment minister….holy crap….who is this moron? Said nothing useful. typical for mcsquinty government. I have always been a responsible recycler but those days are over. I’ll be hiding all my hazardous waste in my regular garbage from now on. The “stewards” can hand pick and sort it themselves since they’re being paid. I’m not so I’m done.

  33. Eco fee for Vitamins, Sunscreen, Potting Soil, Asthma inhalers, prescription drugs ?!

    It’s obviusly a MASSIVE tax grab just by the types of items they are charging for!!

    They keep shouting “hazardous”, and they tax everything. What does potting soil have to do with it??

    I wonder how they decide how bad for the environment potting soil is?

  34. I been watching the public response to this eco-fee
    boondoggle and I just have to add my reponse as a consumer.
    Ok, I’m all for recycling and try to be as green as I can
    possibly be. I pay for the Ottawa green boxes out of my
    property taxes as well as for garbage collection. I was
    under the impression that the blue box program, while not
    self sustaining was a necessary thing in today’s throwaway
    society and understand that the recycling doesn’t always
    pay for itself…but..last year I bought 3.78 litres of
    paint thinner (varsol) and CTC here in Bell’s Corners charge me nearly 80cents extra for the eco fee.
    I questioned the amount, but not having any guidelines
    in place then for the fee schedules, CTC staff just shrugged their shoulders and told me that THEY don’t set
    the eco fees but Stewardshiop Ontario and pointed to an
    information sticker on their checkout.

    So my question is: On a plastic container of 3.78 litres
    of a petroleum derived solvent..which I use to thin paints
    and varnishes..why is there such a hefty eco fee charged
    by CTC in 2009 when the product is used up and not disposed by me and the empty container is completely recycleable in the blue box program.
    If Stewardship Ontario is saying that it costs 80cents
    to recycle a 4litre plastic container..why are they not
    charging a similar amount for plastic ice cream or margarine containers?

    Recycling plastics is supposed to be real recycling and making other products out of clean containers and not going into landfill.

    While it’s only .80 cents out of my after tax pocket, it
    irritates me to be part of some provincial program that
    is not accountable for how the money is spent.

    I can understand items such as CFLs and light bulbs as
    none of the material can be effectively recycle, so ok
    as a consumer of these products I have to bite the bullet
    and pay for landfill use to dispose of these as the recycling is non existant..but not for products that have
    recyclable containers.

  35. Leave it to the government to figure out ways to get money and make it look like it is not a tax. Ruthless bunch, they are. Roni

  36. Eco fees for anitfreeze have been around for a year or more now. This program was to offset the cost of the plastic jug recycling transportation as well as the fee to transport used antifreeze to recycling processors.
    Prior to this, service centres were paying in the range of 15 cents per litre to have waste antifreeze picked up and properly disposed of. Sufice to say that there were lots of places that were dumping waste antifreeze down the drain before paying the fee. Mostly small shops but there have been some big ones that had been caught in the past.

    Now that fee has been mandated by Stewardship Ontario as a FREE service. that service is part of what is covered by the 9 cents per litre on the new coolant side. That relates roughly to 2 cents for the jug and 7 cents for the coolant transporter. This new free pickup program should mean that the majority of centres will collect used coolant & recycle properly.

    Recycling is never really free. Retailers and service providers build all of their costs into their prices so dont be suprised to see these fees passed on some way.. At least if the fees are shown as ECO fees.. they are not rolled into the product cost and marked-up the typical 50% Now how they handle the cost savings of 15 cents per litre is another story… I doubt that savings got passed on anywhere.

    I for one like eco fees.. it is transparent and retailers are less likely to mark them up

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