News Media Canada urges provinces across the country to follow Ontario’s lead in exempting industry from EPR levies
Open letter to readers,
Around the world, municipalities and provinces have shifted their recycling programs to Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).
The EPR is great in theory and in practice. It collects fees from manufacturers and retailers for packaging that wraps everything from the food we eat to the toys our children play with.
Any parent who has helped their child open a new toy knows that between the thick plastic that practically requires garden shears to open, twist ties and cardboard, there is still far too much unnecessary packaging associated with so many products.
EPR has a laudable goal: to reduce packaging in the waste/recycling stream. It does this by shifting the burden of recycling costs from taxpayers to producers. When producers have to pay these fees, they innovate and find ways to package their products in far less packaging.
Since the advent of the blue box, newspapers have had the highest level of collection of all recyclable materials – more than plastics and even more than aluminum. Newspapers continue to be a valuable resource recovered from the recycling stream. They have a stable end market and high commercial value. And recycling newspapers saves trees.
Newspapers have always been a public good — the dissemination of information to the public is a necessary part of a vibrant, healthy democracy and a well-functioning society.
Fake news – about COVID-19, elections and many other issues – has highlighted the importance and value of credible information from trusted media sources. Newspapers allow the reader to pause, engage and reflect, providing an important service not provided by other media.
So what does all of this have to do with extended producer responsibility?
Until recently in Ontario, most provinces in Canada’s EPR program treated newspapers the same as packaging waste. Unlike product packaging, the newspaper is the product. Publishers have switched to thinner paper to reduce our footprint. The increase in the cost of producing newspapers with EPR fees results in lower content as newspapers are forced to reduce pages and hence value to readers. The ripple effects are a loss of jobs, many of them unionized, in a sector that already faces many external challenges, and a less informed population.
Across Canada, newspapers face a patchwork of provincial regulations, administrative regimes and fees.
The levies are based on opaque formulas often devised by monopolies controlled by waste haulers, retailers and consumer packaged goods companies. In British Columbia, for example, the tax on newsprint increased by 80% in a single year, while the tax on plastics remained stable. It is not fair.
We cannot have a flawed system that puts newspapers at risk at a time when the public needs reliable sources of information more than ever. The unintended consequences of the ERP on newspapers are to reduce the number of pages in a newspaper or simply to close the newspaper. This has a detrimental effect on readers and advertisers across Canada.
Recently, the Ontario government released a regulation that will exempt newspapers from REP royalties in the province. Newspaper publishers across Canada applaud this change and we hope other provinces will follow Ontario’s lead. Alberta is about to implement an EPR plan, and British Columbia is working on changes in that province. We hope Premier Jason Kenney and Premier John Horgan will exempt newspapers.
To its considerable credit, the federal government has taken significant steps to support local journalism across Canada. Provincial and municipal governments should not undo this with punitive fees based on the mistaken premise that newspapers are wasteful, wasteful wrappers.
Jamie Irving (Chair)
Paul Deegan (Chairman, CEO)
NEWS MEDIA CANADA