TORONTO, January 25, 2013 – Food & Consumer Products of Canada (FCPC) members, as well as representatives from retail, restaurant and foodservice, government, provincial stewardship organizations, and packaging manufacturers, convened at the Mississauga Convention Centre to engage in a lively and informative discussion about packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and harmonization.
The Globe and Mail’s award-winning national affairs columnist and author, Jeffrey Simpson, moderated the discussion between panelists debating the ‘pro’ and ‘con’ side of the resolution: Be it resolved that a nationally harmonized approach to EPR for packaging will be a benefit to the environment and business.
While perspectives on what harmonization really means and what is realistically achievable varied between the debaters, all agreed that some level of harmonization would be a benefit to businesses, governments and consumers alike.
“The aim of FCPC’s debate was to have an informed, fair dialogue to better understand the issues surrounding harmonization,” said FCPC’s vice president of environmental sustainability policy, Rachel Kagan. According to the results of the votes cast before and after the debate, the dialogue was effective. 16 per cent of attendees were undecided on whether or not they supported EPR harmonization before the debate began and only 4 per cent were still undecided when the debate ended. Support among attendees for EPR harmonization grew from 79 to 94 per cent.
Guy McGuffin, former vice president of sustainable packaging at Walmart Canada alongside John Coyne, vice president of legal & external affairs for Unilever Canada and chair of Stewardship Ontario, argued convincingly for the pro side.
On the other side, challenging the viability of the resolution, Vincent Sferrazza, Director of Solid Waste Policy & Planning for the City of Toronto and David Crump, account director with Hill+Knowlton Strategies and formerly the waste management branch director with the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, helped illuminate some of the critical factors which hamper the development of a nationally harmonized approach for packaging.
A cross section of issues were discussed and will be captured in FCPC’s white paper, which will be published in the spring. But two issues of significant debate were the role and effectiveness of municipalities under EPR and the role of the federal government in EPR.
Coyne stated that the role municipalities have historically played would likely continue, however he noted that they should not be in the processing business and they should not be trying to negotiate recovery values for materials. Sferrazza said municipalities have been recycling packaging effectively for 25 years and while costs have increased, it is not because municipalities are inefficient, but according to him it is because new materials are being introduced, which are problematic to process. He called for collaboration with industry to work together when making packaging changes.
While EPR programs are provincially mandated, a recurring theme of the debate was the role of the federal government. Crump stated success won’t happen through harmonization, it will only happen through re-engaging the federal government. He said industry and the provincial governments both have to agree that going to the federal government and getting them to take more responsibility for this issue is the only way of achieving success. Coyne said it was unrealistic for the federal government to get involved.
Before closing statements were made, Simpson noted that in the Constitution, the environment is a joint responsibility between the federal, provincial and local governments. In Sferrezza’s closing remarks, he agreed that this discussion needs to happen at the national level and said “let’s move forward from today, if there is a will, to make this happen.”
FCPC was excited to host the debate and open up the discourse on EPR harmonization and we look forward to continue propelling the conversation forward.
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Food & Consumer Products of Canada is Canada's largest industry association representing the companies that manufacture and distribute the vast majority of food, beverage and consumer goods found on grocery store shelves. Our members provide jobs to almost 300,000 Canadians, and include small and large; multinational and Canadian-owned companies.
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