A new eco fee came into effect in Ontario this month, adding charges to thousands of products, including dish soap, light bulbs, paints and pharmaceuticals.

The new fee quietly came into effect on July 1, the same day as the Harmonized Sales Tax.

The long list of products includes aerosol containers, fire extinguishers, fluorescent tubes, syringes and needles, and all toxic, corrosive and flammable products.

Eco fees were brought in to ensure products are collected, recycled, reused or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

The fees are set by manufacturers or retailers who are required to pay the province for recycling their products. However, some companies are passing the cost onto consumers.

Eco fees range from a few cents to several dollars, depending on the product. For example, the rate for batteries is based on weight.

Stewardship Ontario -- the agency overseeing eco fees -- is quick to insist the fee is not a tax. Rather, it should be considered a levy.

However, the provincial Conservatives say the government is using the fees as a tax grab, adding the province should have done more to let people know the fees were coming.

"They snuck it through," said Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa MacLeod. "Mr. McGuinty didn't advertise this tax grab because he knew he could sneak it under the radar when the HST hit, and consumers would be none the wiser."

The first phase of eco fees were introduced on July 1, 2008. The fees go to various stewardship councils across the province to ensure hazardous materials don't end up in landfills.

With a report from CTV Ottawa's Vanessa Lee