Extended Producer Responsibility reduces waste and impacts the workplace

Cutting the wasteThe October 16  report from the Ecofiscal Commission ,  Cutting the Waste: How to save money while improving our solid waste systems  is a thorough examination of the issue of waste management in Canada, and while it discusses consumer behaviour (including single use plastics, briefly), the main focus is on municipal programs of disposal pricing ( tipping fees and  “pay as you throw”)  and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs shift the costs and responsibility for waste management from taxpayers and consumers to manufacturers.  Cutting the Waste  recommends expanding and harmonizing Canada’s EPR programs, stating…. “ “extended producer responsibility” programs … can improve the efficiency of recycling programs while also creating incentives to produce goods that generate less waste or goods that can more easily be recycled.”  The report provides a good overview of the history, structure, and efficiency of EPR programs in Canada, stating that there are over 120 such programs (both voluntary and legislated) in Canada, following an EPR Action Plan which was  developed through the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in 2009. Their most recent progress report on the Action Plan was conducted in 2014 .  The Ecofiscal Commission highlights British Columbia as having the most stringent and comprehensive plan, and states, “Alberta is the only province that does not have legislated extended producer responsibility (EPR) programs and is falling behind in its commitments under the Canada-wide Action Plan for EPR.”  EPR Canada , a non-profit association, also publishes Report Cards – their most recent was released in 2017.

How does waste management translate into a greener workplace?  The automobile manufacturing industry provides a Canadian example, and in its 2011 Fact Sheet  “Taking Back our Jobs – Taking Back our Environment “ , the Canadian Auto Workers endorsed EPR, with concise arguments,  stating “The future job creation potential is enormous. The motor vehicle industry is one of the best examples of EPR job creation.”   (The Fact Sheet was republished by Unifor in 2013,  here).  From the company, the GM Landfill-free Blueprint (2018) makes a business case for reducing waste and includes the concept of employee engagement.

In September 2018 , one of  Canada’s Clean50 awards for 2019 went to the General Motors Assembly plant in Oshawa Ontario for its “zero waste to landfill” project   .  The announcement states:   “At the core of the success of General Motors Landfill-Free Project at GM Oshawa Assembly Plant initiative lies the fact that the “team” for this project numbers approximately 3,000.  …. it was the employees at the plant who were directly and indirectly part of the successful implementation of their project.”

According to a GM press ( February 2018) ,GM is now diverting 100 per cent waste from landfills at all Canadian manufacturing facilities;  St. Catharines Propulsion facility since 2008,  and CAMI Assembly since 2014.  The St. Catharines facility is also the proposed site of  Ontario’s first complete renewable landfill gas industrial co-generation system, which will use landfill gas from an offsite source, delivered via pipeline, to generate electricity and  reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the plant by more than 77 per cent. More details are here .  A caveat: although this project was projected to come online in mid-2019, it  was initiated under the previous Liberal government,  funded by cap and trade revenues through GreenON Industries, which is one of the programs cancelled by the current Conservative government.

CEP & CAW Statements to the House of Commons Committee: Pipelines and Dutch Disease

The federal House of Commons Committee on Natural Resources began hearings on “Market Diversification in the Energy Sector” on April 18th. (Previous hearings were on “Innovation in the Energy Sector”).   On April 23, the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union submitted its position paper to the Committee, opposing pipeline development such as Northern Gateway and Keystone XL.  However, “CEP endorses that decision (i.e. approval of Enbridge’s Line 9A pipeline) and supports Enbridge’s current application for Line 9A to extend supply to the Montreal Suncor and Quebec City Ultramar refineries. CEP supports Line 9B on the basis that its 300,000 bbl/d capacity will provide just 75% of the capacity of the two Quebec refineries. CEP does not support a further expansion or a revival of the “Trailblazer” project which would have transformed Line 9 into an export line to Portland, Maine.”

In the Canadian Auto Workers submission by Jim Stanford, also submitted on April 23, the focus is on reviewing the economic debate about “Dutch disease”, or what Stanford calls “resource-driven deindustrialization”.  The paper summarizes the arguments and reviews 7 previous studies, concluding that resource-driven deindustrialization does exist. He then raises (but does not answer) the questions: how large has the effect been, have the costs to manufacturing been offset by the benefits of resource expansion, and should the government and the Bank of Canada intervene?

Many others have appeared before the Committee, including representatives from the Fraser Institute, Conference Board of Canada, and Macdonald Laurier Institute. Unions have been represented by:  Christopher Smillie (Building and Construction Trades Department, AFL-CIO) on April 25; Gil McGowan (President, Alberta Federation of Labour) on April 30.


CEP submission is at http://www.cep.ca/sites/cep.ca/files/docs/en/130424-Fred-NatResCmttee.pdf

CAW submission, Resource-driven Deindustrialization   is at http://www.cep.ca/sites/cep.ca/files/docs/en/130424-Jim-NatResCmttee.pdf

Transcripts are available at the Committee website, by date, (in English)  at http://www.parl.gc.ca/committeebusiness/CommitteeMeetings.aspx?Cmte=RNNR&Language=E&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1  and (in French) at http://www.parl.gc.ca/committeebusiness/CommitteeMeetings.aspx?Cmte=RNNR&Mode=1&Parl=41&Ses=1&Language=F