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Canadian recycling program costs taxpayers $18.6 million

An article in the Toronto Star reported that Ontario taxpayers have been hit with an $18.6 million bill for the province's eco-fee program, discontinued last summer after an outcry from consumers who noticed extra charges on their receipts.

The program, which began in 2008, was rolled out in phases, starting with a household waste program for paint, solvents and antifreeze. Other products later included medications and fluorescent light tubes. The third phase, scheduled to begin on July 1, 2010, added bleach, corrosive cleaners and contact cement. It also included fees for retailers. Some companies, like Home Hardware and Lowe’s, passed them on to consumers. Others hid them in the price of goods, or just absorbed them.

Stewardship Ontario, a private industry-funded organization created by the government, managed the recycling programs on behalf of its 1,500 members, which are businesses that make and sell the designated products. The organization has now sent the Ontario government a bill for $18.6 million in costs for the canceled program.

The bill from Stewardship Ontario includes a charge of $8 million to $10 million for research and development of the programs, legal fees, marketing campaigns, and the purchase of a $3 million computer system designed to track an array of household hazardous waste materials through the recycling process. A separate fee of $8.6 million covers the payments that Stewardship Ontario made to the municipalities that collected recycled materials since the cancellation.