News Media Canada president and CEO Paul Deegan published a column in the Regina Leader-Post telling Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe that printed newspapers should be exempt from recycling charges since they represent the product, not excess packaging that can be reduced.
Saskatchewan is considering changes to The Household Packaging and Paper Stewardship Program Regulations (blue bin recycling program). As part of this review, we believe Premier Scott Moe should follow Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s lead and exempt newspapers.
Across the world, municipalities and provinces have been moving their recycling programmes to extended producer responsibility (EPR).
EPR is great in theory and in practice. It levies fees on manufacturers and retailers for the packaging that wraps everything from the food we eat to the toys our kids play with.
Any parents who have helped their child open a new toy knows that between the thick plastic that practically takes garden shears to open, the twist ties and the cardboard, there is still way too much wasteful packaging associated with so many products.
EPR has one laudable objective: Reduce packaging in the waste/recycling stream. It does so by shifting the burden of recycling costs from taxpayers to producers. When producers must pay these fees, they innovate and find ways to wrap their products in far less packaging.
Since the advent of the blue bin, 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 recovered resource in 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 news to the public is a necessary element of a vibrant and healthy democracy and a well-functioning society.
Fake news — around COVID-19, elections, and many other issues — has highlighted the importance and value of credible news provided by trusted media sources.
Indeed, newspapers have played and will continue to play an important role in educating the public on environmental issues, including recycling. Newspapers allow the reader to pause, engage and reflect, providing an important service that is not met through other media.
EPR programs in several provinces treat newspapers the same as waste packaging. Unlike product packaging, the newspaper is the product. Publishers have moved to thinner paper to lower our footprint.
Driving up the cost of newspaper production with EPR fees drives down the content as newspapers are forced to cut pages and, therefore, value to readers. The knock-on effects are a loss of jobs, many of which are unionized, in a sector that is already facing many external challenges, and a less-informed citizenry.
Across Canada, newspapers face a patchwork of provincial regulations, administrative regimes and fees. The levies charged are based on opaque formulas often devised by monopolies controlled by large retailers and consumer packaged goods companies.
In British Columbia, the levy on newsprint went up 24.1 per cent in 2022, while the levy on PET bottles went down 47.4 per cent.
In Saskatchewan, Multi-Material Stewardship Western, is governed by the same group that runs Recycle B.C., and they use their near monopoly power to control rates.
For example, the levy on newsprint went up a whopping 75 per cent in 2022, while the levy on aluminum and other containers went down 38.2 per cent. That’s what happens when the fox guards the henhouse.
We cannot have a misguided system that puts newspapers at risk at a time when the public needs trusted sources of information more than ever before. The unintended consequences of EPR on newspapers are to reduce the number of pages in a newspaper or for the paper to simply close.
This has a detrimental effect on both readers and advertisers across Canada. Surely, that is not the government’s public policy objective.
Canada’s newspaper publishers applaud Ontario’s leadership in exempting newspapers, and we hope Premier Scott Moe’s government will do the same.
If you agree that Saskatchewan’s newspapers should not be hit with a rigged system with punitive fees — based on the flawed premise that newspapers are unnecessary and wasteful packaging — please participate in the public consultation by sending your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by June 30.