TechYukon vice-president Martin Lehner sits on an outdated Dell computer tower in Whitehorse on July 3. Lehner said the revised figures for the electronic and tires recycling surcharge are a lot more in line with what they were hoping for. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon government releases new recycling surcharge plan

Surcharges on several items are significantly lower than what the YG proposed last year

The Yukon government has released its new recycling surcharge scheme for electronics and tires that features significantly lower fees than proposed last year, something that two Whitehorse business managers say relieves industry fears about remaining competitive with Outside markets.

In a press release July 4, the Yukon government announced that beginning Oct. 1, a surcharge will be added to the price of electronics — everything from computers to cellphones to household appliances — and tires bought in the territory. The surcharges, which vary from 14 cents for a cellphone to $200 for large industrial tires, are being introduced under the Designated Materials Regulation and are meant to cover the costs associated with recycling the items once they reach the end of their lifespans. Those costs include shipping material Outside and, in some cases, paying facilities to accept the material.

Currently, recycling is covered, in part, by “tipping fees” that Yukoners pay when they drop off their items at waste management facilities or recycling centres. Those fees will be eliminated for items with surcharges applied to them at the point of purchase.

“The whole idea is that we’re collecting the money up front to cover the recycling costs,” Minister of Community Services John Streicker said in a phone interview July 4.

“We’ll still use things like Computers for Schools to try and reuse as many computers as possible, but the responsibility for dealing with the recycling of all of that material will be dealt with from the funds which we have accrued.”

The cost of recycling can fluctuate based on a variety of factors, including the demand for certain materials (or the lack thereof) in the market and what other jurisdictions are shipping in and out, but the government is aiming to recover about 80 per cent of it through the surcharges, Streicker said. The Yukon government will cover the remaining 20 per cent, or whatever amount is left outstanding.

The government will be putting out a request for proposals that companies can bid on to get the recycling contract.

This surcharge scheme, a version of which exists in almost every other jurisdiction in Canada, has been years in the making, with talks about introducing one in the Yukon dating back to at least 2012.

Streicker had announced a previous iteration of the surcharges in May 2017, with a planned implementation date of February 2018. However, the Yukon government held back on the roll-out after outcry from Yukoners in the electronics and tire industries that the surcharges, as they existed then, would cripple local businesses as consumers took their money Outside in search of a better deal.

In January, the Yukon government held two town halls in Whitehorse, where members of the tire and electronics industries expressed their frustrations over the lack of adequate consultation with industry about the surcharges and the negative impacts they would have on local businesses.

Among the people at those meetings were Whitehorse Kal Tire manager Rick Copes and Tangerine Technology general manager and TechYukon vice-president Martin Lehner. In separate interviews July 4, both said that they were satisfied with the surcharges taking effect in October.

Lehner said the revised figures are “a lot more in line with what we were looking for,” explaining that, before the revision, he was not so much opposed to the implementation of surcharges than how “disproportionate” the Yukon government’s initial figures were compared to other jurisdictions. For example, a desktop computer initially had a $15 surcharge on it — now, it’s $2.80. That’s still double the surcharge currently applied on computers sold in British Columbia, Lehner said, but he doesn’t think that consumers would go out of their way to shop Outside just to save $1.40 the same way they would to save $12.20.

“I’m happy they’re not implementing what they (were) going to implement before, so let’s put it that way,” he said. “I would be most happy if we implemented something that was literally in line with what our neighbours are doing, but of course, I understand that costs are higher here, economy of scale is not a thing here, so there are those factors and I understand that.”

Kal Tire’s Copes agreed, saying that he was breathing a sigh of relief that the surcharges to be applied on semi-truck tires has been dropped from $50 each to $9.

“I know (the surcharges are) slightly higher on the passenger and light truck (tires), but I think that’s kind of to be expected when we’re this far north,” he said. “But yeah, no, the big scare was going to $50 per tire for a medium-truck tire and they have not done that which is fantastic, because that would have just murdered the industry… It was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this, what do you guys think?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh my God, what are you thinking?’”

Copes said he’s also not concerned about the slight increase on car tires negatively affecting his business. Currently, Yukoners have to pay a $5 tipping fee on them; come October, they’ll be subject to a $7 surcharge.

“It’s not leaps and bounds here. I don’t think it’s going to stop somebody from buying tires,” he said.

A list of the surcharges can be found here.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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