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TORONTO—Extended producer responsibility (EPR) is the tire recycling model most countries in the world are following, according to speakers at the 2012 Rubber Recycling Symposium held late last year in Toronto.

EPR is a program in which tire manufacturers and importers are fully responsible for funding and operating their own waste tire diversion program, according to Glenn Maidment, president of the Rubber Association of Canada (RAC).

The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment published a “Canada Wide Action Plan” in October 2009, agreeing to move its waste diversion programs from prod-uct stewardship to EPR by 2015, Mr. Maidment said.

To date, British Columbia, Man-itoba and Ontario have established scrap tire programs that meet the Action Plan's definitions of EPR, according to Mr. Maidment. Quebec is next, and New Brunswick may also establish an EPR program shortly, he said.

While EPR programs are well-established among many industries in Canada, they are by no means uniform, according to Mr. Maidment.

“Electronics EPR is very different from tire EPR, which is different from packaging EPR,” he said. “It's even different within the same category: the British Columbia tire EPR is nothing like the Ontario tire EPR. One is retail-based and the other is brand owner-based.

“What makes them EPR?” he said. “It's not who pays—it's who's responsible.”

Canadian provincial governments established scrap tire management programs in the 1990s and 2000s, in the wake of the massive tire fire in Hagersville, Ontario, in 1990, according to Mr. Maidment.

They were all more or less successful in achieving their product stewardship mandate, he said. “The bad news is that they were all beholden to government.”

Government control over the tire programs made the process very politicized over the years, Mr. Maidment said. The biggest problem was the fee on each new tire sold in each province to pay for scrap tire recycling, known as an “eco-fee” in Canada.

Because government officials see eco-fees as taxes, they were reluctant to approve increases in those fees, even when there was an obvious need for it, he said.

Some interest groups, such as agriculture, lobbied in some provinces to avoid eco-fees entirely, he said. Also, provincial governments refused to allow certain tire reuse options, such as tire-derived fuel.

“The result today is a hodgepodge of eco-fee rates and tire category exclusions,” Mr. Maidment said. He displayed a map showing eco-fees for passenger and light truck tires in Canadian provinces, ranging from $3 per tire in Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland to $5.84 in Ontario.

The Canadian EPR model is a provincial corporation run as a not-for-profit entity without share capital, according to Mr. Maidment. The members of each tire EPR are the RAC, the Retail Council of Canada, the provincial tire dealers association and—in British Columbia only—the provincial new car dealers' association.

Participation in the EPR must be mandatory, according to Mr. Maidment. Eco-fees must be sufficient to cover all costs, and all collected fees must go strictly to scrap tire management, he said. Tire retailers receive free scrap tire pickup; haulers cannot be paid until tires are delivered to registered processors; and processors are paid only when they sell products in the marketplace.

Mr. Maidment cited the Ontario Tire Stewardship program as an example of a faulty EPR.

“Since its inception in 2009, the Ontario Tire Stewardship program has not been a good experience for brand owners and first importers, though it has been extraordinarily successful in terms of diversion rates,” he said.

Poorly written initial legislation, on top of the legacy of a failed program in the early 1990s, is the crux of the program's problems, according to Mr. Maidment. But most of those problems would have been solved if the Ontario government had merely heeded the recommendations of the 2009 Action Plan.

“EPR in Canada can only work when the stewards have complete responsibility for both the revenue side and the expense side of the program,” he said.

Although the RAC favors EPR programs, the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) in the U.S. advocates a more free-market approach, said RMA Vice President Michael Blumenthal.

“We are not totally opposed to EPR—a lot of good things can come out of an EPR program,” Mr. Blumenthal said. “But the failing of an EPR is that it focuses on the collection and processing of tires, which is not the recycling of tires. The focus has to be market-based.”

After the 2008 European Union directive on waste management, most though not all European countries have moved to an EPR program, according to Jesus Maria Nunez Imaz, director general of Spain's EPR corporation, SIGNUS Ecovalor S.L.

European eco-fees vary more widely than those in Canada, according to Mr. Nunez, ranging from 0.95 euros per passenger tire in Greece to 2.80 euros in Italy. Spain, at 1.57 euros per passenger tire, is somewhere in the middle, he said.

“The main principle in European EPRs is to have a new legal policy for waste management—to minimize the negative effects of the generation and management of waste, and to use waste as a resource,” he said.

SIGNUS was founded in May 2005 and has been operational since October 2006, Mr. Nunez said. Like other EPR programs, it is incorporated as a non-profit organization. “If there is money left over at the end of the year, it is used to reduce eco-fees or fund research and development,” he said.

SIGNUS has been involved in many R&D projects around the world, including one in New Jersey to create eco-friendly highway barriers made of recycled tires, recycled plastics and modified concrete, Mr. Nunez said.

Tires sold for the first time in the replacement market by their producers or importers are the limit of SIGNUS' responsibility, according to Mr. Nunez. Unfortunately, the organization has ongoing problems with tires from non-declared importers, used tire dealers and vehicle dismantlers who add their tires to SIGNUS' processing stream without buying into the corporation, he said.

In 2011, SIGNUS collected 20,000 excess tons of waste tires for which it had received no eco-fees, resulting in the organization going 4 million euros over budget, Mr. Nunez said. The organization had no choice but to raise eco-fees on its legitimate members, which is both unfair to them and leads to decreasing support for the program, he said.

Spain's environmental and finance ministries are working on ways to identify and eliminate freeloaders from the SIGNUS program, but that process will probably take three or four years, Mr. Nunez said.
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