Newspapers: Recycling and Recovery

Governments are increasingly approaching industry to take more responsibility to achieve waste diversion goals and are looking to producers (“stewards”) to pay for the cost of waste management, including recycling programs.

In most Canadian provinces, recycling programs are run by municipalities and funded through the tax base or user fees. The sale of recyclable materials by municipalities – especially aluminum and old newspapers (ONP) back to aluminum manufacturers and paper mills – off-sets a substantial portion of the costs. Such is the case in BC and Alberta: The Alberta government notes that “[old newspaper] is the most visible and most widely collected waste paper grade in Alberta’s municipal recycling programs and generally contributes the most revenue for municipal collection programs.” In New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador, municipalities use revenues from the sale of recyclable products like ONP to fund recycling programs and absorb the cost difference out of the tax base. In Saskatchewan and Manitoba, a levy on soft drink containers raises sufficient revenues to finance recycling. However Manitoba has begun moving toward a “Stewardship Model”.

Quebec, Ontario and Nova Scotia have fully adopted stewardship models. It is somewhat different in each province, however there are strong similarities in how newspapers are treated. All three share the same approach, in that newspapers are required to make a contribution to municipalities’ recycling programs, but do so in the form of in-kind donations of advertising space to promote recycling.

This approach is consistent with how newspapers are managed in recycling regimes all over the world. There is no jurisdiction in the world where newspapers are required to make a cash contribution to fund recycling programs. Newspapers have been treated differently because of the recognition, in Canada and abroad, that they provide a public benefit, that they can make a significant contribution to public education on recycling, and that they are not a packaged good like other materials in the recycling stream.

The Rationale

Newspapers have earned an entitlement to different treatment based on recognition that:

  • Newspapers perform a role in democratic process and in public education that is recognized and protected under the Charter as well as numerous Supreme Court decisions.
  • Abundant legal precedent exists for treating newspapers differently from other industries and especially from other consumer products (Income Tax Act S19; PIPEDA, new Telemarketing Rules in Bill C-37, etc.
  • Newspapers are not a consumable product – there are no contents and no packaging; the two are indistinguishable.
  • Treating newspapers like packaged goods discriminates unfairly against newspapers, as the packaged goods industry has no obligations with regard to the contents of their packages, just the packaging.
  • ONP has value as a commodity traded on international markets; while that value fluctuates in accordance with demand it is a fact that Canada cannot produce enough ONP to satisfy the demand of Canadian mills, which is a reason why over time the activity of recycling ONP should be cost neutral when systems are operated efficiently.

Nova Scotia and Newspaper Recycling

Nova Scotia adopted a Stewardship Model and newspapers make an in-kind, not cash contribution.

Recycling is managed through the RRFB (Resource Recovery Board), a non-profit corporation managed by a board of directors with representatives from the private sector and government. Stewardship agreements have been signed with newspapers throughout Nova Scotia. Newspapers’ in-kind contribution is calculated on the basis of $10 per tonne of self produced news print. Newspapers pay this fee in the form of advertising credits to the RRFB for advertisements which would not otherwise be required (e.g. awareness advertising campaigns). The newspaper industry donates approximately $200,000 of in-kind advertising space annually to assist RRFB Nova Scotia and the municipalities to educate the public about recycling issues.