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Re: “Don’t foist product life cycle, packaging costs on small firms” by Jordi Morgan (Nov. 8 online edition).

Nova Scotia needs thriving small businesses, and people who work in local government know it. We care about small businesses in this province, and we want them to succeed: what is good for them is good for us. Municipalities in Nova Scotia listen to what small businesses have to say, and we have heard that some are concerned about bringing in an extended producer responsibility (EPR) model. I’m happy to say that less than one per cent of Nova Scotian businesses would be included in the Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities’ proposed model.

EPR emerged in Sweden in the 1990s as a strategy to decrease the total environmental impact of a product by making the manufacturer of the product responsible for the entire life cycle of the product and especially for take-back, recycling and final disposal. Our EPR proposal focuses specifically on printed paper and packaging.

Five Canadian provinces have gone forward with EPR programs. They’ve learned and made adjustments, and our plan is to follow what they’ve done. Just like each of those other provinces, the EPR proposal for Nova Scotia would include less than one per cent of businesses.

Only businesses that make more than $2 million and produce more than a tonne of printed paper and packaging are included in our proposal. If they fall short on either, they’re out. If they have a single storefront, they’re out. Newspapers and charities are out.

For businesses that are in, the ones producing the most printed paper and packaging will have to shoulder most of the load. We’ve discussed this in conversations with big business, and they support this “level playing field” approach. It’s the Molson Coors companies of the world, not your favourite craft brewery. It’s Starbucks, not your local coffee shop.

In other provinces, big producers of printed paper and packaging are now working together to do a job that was once done by government. With their innovation and business expertise, they have found ways to be more efficient than the old system.

Municipalities have been working on an EPR proposal, and earlier this month NSFM members voted to endorse it. In coming weeks, we will send businesses the details and requests for their feedback, comments and concerns. We look forward to the input of chambers of commerce, CFIB members, as well as businesspeople and the public at large.

Mr. Morgan is wrong about one key issue: this isn’t just about money. Our residents care about the environment. Yes, Nova Scotians are proud of the great job we are all doing at waste diversion, but they know we can and must continue to do better. And EPR will help us do just that. When you look at the plastics in our oceans and waterways, you know that these issues are not going away.

At the end of the day, this is about empowering business to find efficiencies while protecting the environment. We look forward to working together toward EPR implementation.

HRM councillor Waye Mason is president, Nova Scotia Federation of Municipalities

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