On July 20, in response to a firestorm of negative media surrounding the July 1 launch of the expanded Orange Drop program, Minister Gerretsen temporarily suspended the operation of the Consolidated Phase of the program, which affects products ranging from dish soap and bleach to fire extinguishers. The Orange Drop program is intended to fund end-of-life management costs for a wide range of consumer products, and to shift the financial burden for these efforts from municipalities to manufacturers and importers. Phase I has been in place since 2008, while the Consolidated Phase took effect July 1 of this year. The minister has also set up a consumer protection hotline to facilitate reporting of instances where consumers are charged eco-fees that are incorrect or that apply to products covered by the suspension.

As a result of the minister's announcement, stewards of products in the Consolidated Phase will be exempt from fee payment obligations for the third quarter of 2010, from July through September, and Stewardship Ontario has advised that stewards should not report for this period until further directions are given. Stewardship Ontario offers the following list to illustrate the range of products covered by the Consolidated Phase, which is currently under suspension:

  • "All aerosol containers, including those that contain paint, cleaners, food, hairspray, air fresheners and insecticides
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Industrial stationary and non-lead acid motive batteries
  • Corrosives and irritants, such as drain cleaners, household bleaches, cleaning products and detergents
  • Portable fire extinguishers
  • Flammables including solvents, gasoline, automotive additives, and other assorted flammables
  • Fluorescent tubes and bulbs
  • Cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFLs) used for backlighting in liquid crystal displays, like your computer or LCD TV
  • Leachate toxics, including those materials that may be found in lighting ballasts for neon lights
  • Mercury devices, including measuring devices such as thermometers
  • Pharmaceuticals for both humans and pets, including prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs and natural health products
  • Reactive materials, which may include materials such as cream hardeners used in auto body repair
  • Sharps, including needles, syringes, lancets and pens
  • Toxic materials, which may include some adhesives and some automotive additives"

Phase I of the Orange Drop program remains in effect during the suspension period, and fees continue to be levied on the original nine product categories, which include: paints, coatings and their containers, solvents and their containers, automobile antifreeze and related containers, oil filters, oil containers, pressurized containers, single-use dry cell batteries, pesticides and fertilizers. Eco-fees may still be charged in relation to these original nine product categories.

Over the next 90 days, Minister Gerretsen will be examining options for revision of the Orange Drop program. Issues include inconsistency in the eco-fees charged to consumers on similar products, and between retail locations, together with general resistance to the imposition of the eco-fee on the heels of HST implementation. The roles of Waste Diversion Ontario and Stewardship Ontario in managing the Orange Drop program, and the effectiveness of existing collection options, have also attracted close attention.

Stewards who are affected by the Consolidated Phase of the Orange Drop program have a unique opportunity to help shape what could be a significant overhaul of this initiative.