Tires are left at the Upper Liard dump. (Submitted photo/Yukon News file)

Liberals postpone new recycling fees after concerns over consultation

Streicker admits he didn’t reach out to electronics industry

Yukon’s minister of community services admits his department didn’t consult with the electronics industry enough on new recycling fees that were slated to come into effect Feb. 1.

Now John Streicker says the implementation date will be pushed back a month or more so his department can meet with concerned businesses.

Streicker said the tire industry, which has raised concerns about the changes as well, will also have more time to comment.

Updates to the Yukon’s designated materials regulations mean Yukoners could pay new up-front fees when they buy tires or electronics. Those fees will replace tipping fees at the dump and are designed to force the purchaser to help pay for recycling.

The idea is not a Liberal government creation. Fees like this exist in almost all other Canadian jurisdictions. Talks on this issue in the Yukon go back to at least 2012 under the Yukon Party.

In July of 2016 the former government announced it was putting its plans to create these same fees on hold to do more consultation.

Streicker announced this May, at the Association of Yukon Communities meeting, that the Liberals were going to implement the changes as of Feb. 1. But now he admits that the electronics industry was not informed.

“When I talked with the department, we were working diligently to try and engage the tire retailers, that much is clear to me,” Streicker said.

But there was not the same level of diligence with the electronics industry, he said.

“We didn’t go back to engage the electronics retailers.”

Streicker said his department believed the electronics industry’s primary concerns, including around competition with online stores, had already been addressed.

Yukon will become part of national registries that require companies add specific surcharges to online purchases made in Canada depending on where you live.

Martin Lehner with Tangerine Technology said his company was never contacted by the current government. He was part of a community meeting on the topic last year before the previous government hit pause on its plans.

Then he got an email last week saying the regulations were going to come into affect Feb. 1.

Lehner he’s not against some type of recycling charge, but questions how the territory came up with its numbers.

If these regulations are implemented, a desktop computer will have $15 added to its price tag. According to charts available online, the recycling fee on a desktop varies across the provinces but is usually just a few dollars. The Northwest Territories charges the highest amount by far at $10.50.

“It’s also not reasonable when you look across the country at what everyone else is charging,” Lehner said.

Lehner said his company recycles old computers from clients through Raven Recycling’s Computers for Schools. That federally-funded program recycles and refurbishes computers for a fee.

If the Yukon’s upfront fees are added, people will now have to pay twice if they want their computers to go to Computers for Schools, he said.

Officials with the Computers for Schools program confirmed that if the new fees are enacted people will not have to pay twice. The fee would be paid once at the time of purchase and Raven would no longer have to charge its tipping fee, the organization said in a statement.

Lehner also said he’s concerned over how these new fees will impact competition with online stores.

He said he’s confident that reputable Canadian websites will add the fee they are required to, but it’s less certain when it comes to international companies.

As for tires, Streicker said his department consulted with the tire industry this summer.

Unlike with the electronics industry, there were letters sent to retailers, a survey, phone calls, and an open house, he said.

Still, Streicker acknowledged that the tire industry has concerns.

“With the tire industry, they’re feeling like they haven’t been heard. We did go and talk with them over the summer but they still have some concerns…. Let’s give them that moment to come back and let us know what those are and see if that changes anything or not.”

Under the new rules, tires greater than 22 inches would come with a $50 surcharge. Tires between 18 and 22 inches would have a $15 surcharge tacked on. Smaller tires would have a $7 fee attached at the time of purchase.

Rick Copes, senior assistant manager at Whitehorse’s Kal Tire, said a $50 surcharge per tire would mean losing customers.

“For my commercial customers, a set of eight tires on a big rig … it would cost them an extra $400,” he said. “The first thing that’s going to do …they’re just going to start picking them up in Fort Nelson or Fort St. John.”

According to the B.C. government’s webpage, tires sold in B.C. have fees attached to them ranging from $5 to $35 depending on the size of the tire.

Copes said he remembers getting a letter in 2014 about the proposed changes and may have filled out a survey, but said no one has reached out to him directly.

Like Lehner, Copes said he’s not opposed to some type of fee but that the government needs to explain where it gets its numbers from. He also suggested that the fee scale should be based on how the tires are used, not their size.

Roxanne Stasyszyn a spokesperson for Environment Yukon said the fees were chosen after looking at fees across the country. They take into account the tipping fees that will no longer be required at the dump and how much it will cost to ship the products out of the territory to be recycled, she said.

In the legislative assembly, Striecker pointed out that a $50 surcharge to large tires is less than the $80 currently charged as a tipping fee.

As for the new implimentation date, Striecker said that hasn’t been decided yet. The Liberal cabinet will have to discuss it at a meeting later this week, he said.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Correction: An earlier version of this story suggested that adding up-front recycling fees would result in consumers paying twice to recycling their computers through Computers for Schools. Officials with the organization say there would be no “fee doubling” if consumers paid an up-front recycling fee. The fee would be paid once at the time of purchase and Raven Recycling would no longer have to charge. The News regrets the error.

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