TORONTO - Ontario shoppers will pay more for their televisions, computers and electronic gadgets under a new $62-million recycling plan commissioned by the province and going up for approval before the environment minister Monday.

The five-year plan would see the number of places Ontarians can recycle their old electronics increase from the current 167 sites to 655, more than tripling the amount being diverted from landfill to 75,300 tonnes, The Canadian Press has learned.

Glenda Gies, executive director of Waste Diversion Ontario which drew up the plan, said the program will boost electronic recycling rates in Ontario from 27 per cent now to over 60 per cent in its fifth year.

Stockpiling old equipment

People have been crying out for such a program, refusing to put their old televisions and computers on the curb and choosing to stockpile them in basements and garages instead, she said.

"I have two old notebook computers sitting in my office waiting for a place to send them," Gies said in an interview.

"Part of it is that residents of Ontario, and residents of Canada generally, have an appreciation for the need to properly manage secondary resources and they appreciate that these things shouldn't go into landfills.

"A lot of (people) are simply holding them, waiting for a program like this to come along."

The entire cost of the program is being borne by those who manufacture, import and assemble electronics - adding between 32 cents and $13 to the cost of products.

Pushing for eco-fees

Rather than impose a so-called eco-fee - now paid by shoppers in Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia - Ontario is leaving it up to the individual companies to decide how much of the cost of the new recycling program to pass on to consumers.

"The fees are levied on them," Gies said. "They have to make their own corporate decision about whether or not they're going to pass all of that fee through in a visible way to the consumer, pass all of that fee through enclosed in the price ... or take some portion of it and pass it through to the consumer."

The governing Liberals tasked Waste Diversion Ontario with drawing up an electronics recycling plan last year in consultation with electronics firms, vowing to reduce the province's environmental footprint even if it costs consumers more.

The proposal comes as the Liberals muse about imposing a tire recycling fee on new tires to pay for their eventual disposal.

The country's major electronic companies are pushing for an electronics eco-fee like those paid in other provinces. Dalton Burger, head of Electronics Product Stewardship Canada which represents 20 of the leading manufacturers, said it makes sense to have a "homogenized approach" across the country.

Quebec showing interest

Quebec is showing an interest in setting up a similar electronic recycling program which - together with Ontario - makes up almost 70 per cent of sales, he said.

People won't mind paying a little extra for their laptops and flat-screen TVs if they know the money is going directly to recycling them in an environmentally responsible way, Burger said.

"People want to know what they're spending their money on so there is accountability built into the system," said Burger, adding the plan is non-profit.

"They're only collecting the fees necessary to run the program for this, so people know the money isn't going to be transferred to some different kind of budget."

The program is complex and it may take up to eight months to start it up but it will be worth it in the end, Burger said.

"We know the status quo isn't acceptable," he added.

Tax grab

But critics say the governing Liberals are just forcing electronics companies to do what they promised they wouldn't - raise taxes. Conservative Tim Hudak said this is nothing but a "tax grab."

The governing Liberals already take in tremendous revenues from the provincial sales tax, he said. They should use the money already in the coffers rather than forcing electronics companies to raise their prices, Hudak said.

"It is sneaky of the province to hide behind the skirts of the companies while it's still collecting the full provincial sales tax for its own coffers," he said.