Grocery industry advocates say new rules to make companies pay to recycle packaging they put into the market in Ontario could simply shift costs from communities to consumers in the coming months.
They say beverage companies have issued notices to retailers about a new container recycling fee on products ranging from milk and yogurt to juice and pop.
But an independent grocers' group says the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA) has now delayed passing the fee on to grocers—which they say would raise retail prices—until at least July 31.
Gary Sands, senior vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers (CFIG), says beverage companies should be absorbing the costs themselves and not passing it on to consumers.
Still, he welcomes the delay given the ongoing high inflation on food in Canada.
"It's not just this fee. It's these myriad other price increases that we're seeing in grocery,'' Sands said. "It's the cumulative impact on prices. Canadians just need time to breathe.''
Meanwhile, if the new container recycling fee is passed on to retailers, it should be done in a "fair and transparent'' manner, Sands said.
Currently, he said the big grocery chains have told beverage producers that the recycling fee has to be negotiated like any other fee increase.
However, the independent grocers don't have the same leverage to push back against the imposition of a new fee, Sands said.
"If the Bay Street grocers aren't paying, then the main street grocers shouldn't have to pay either,'' he said.
Ontario's new blue box recycling rules aim to shift 100 per cent of recycling costs back on to product and packaging companies.
The rules are intended to make companies pay to recycle the packaging they put into the market through a new provincial collection system—a move the province has said would save communities $156 million a year.
Food, Health & Consumer Products of Canada (FHCP) declined to comment and directed Canadian Grocer to CBCRA, which released a statement Tuesday afternoon that only confirmed the addition of 250,000 new recycling bins to special events and in municipal and commercial buildings.
CBCRA executive director Ken Friesen called it a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the way we recycle beverage containers in Ontario." CBCRA did not comment on fees.