National Voluntary Steward Policy
There is a national Voluntary Steward Policy and approval process for many packaging and paper programs in Canada.
What is a voluntary steward?
A voluntary steward is a non-resident brand owner who supplies packaging and/or printed paper into a regulated jurisdiction and has elected to assume responsibility for its material. A business’ residency status is a core determinant of whether or not it is obligated by a province’s stewardship regulation. In the absence of a resident brand owner, the legal obligation falls to the “first importer” – typically the retailer or distributor that has residency in the province.
Voluntary stewards relieve the resident retailer/distributor of having to report and pay stewardship fees on their brands; it is a concept that is unique to Canada and widely supported by retailers as well as brand owners that want to be recognized by their retail customers and consumers for recycling their post-consumer waste.
How did the new policy change the status quo?
Initially, there were no clear and harmonized guidelines for determining which businesses are eligible to become voluntary stewards. In addition, the definition of “voluntary steward” and the process by which businesses join packaging and paper stewardship programs as voluntary stewards differs across the country.
Before the policy was put in place in 2015, there were no voluntary stewards in Ontario, although the Stewardship Ontario Rules did allow them, and the rules and processes for MMSM, Recycle BC and MMSW were not consistent.
Key Features of the New Voluntary Steward Policy
The objective is to provide a policy that clarifies which businesses are eligible to be a voluntary steward and contains a harmonized set of standards/requirements that must be met.
Key features of the policy (complete policy is available here) include:
- Clear definition of a voluntary steward:
- Not resident in the provincial jurisdiction for which it is applying for voluntary steward status;
- Must be a resident in Canada;
- Supplies material equal to or greater than the de minimis tonnage threshold for each program (i.e., 15 tonnes in Ontario, 1 tonne in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba).
- Voluntary steward agreement clearly sets out the obligations of the voluntary steward:
- Voluntary steward assumes responsibility for all brands it supplies into the provincial jurisdiction;
- Voluntary steward provides a list of its brand names for which it is assuming responsibility;
- Voluntary steward provides a list of names of all its first importer customers (retailers) in the jurisdiction for which it agrees to assume responsibility. (Voluntary stewards are not allowed to volunteer for some retailers and not others);
- Voluntary steward notifies each of its listed customers that they are not obligated to report on the brands for which the voluntary steward is now taking responsibility.
Please Note: All existing voluntary stewards were grandfathered under the new policy.
- A voluntary steward must enter into an agreement with each stewardship program for which it intends to assume a voluntary obligation. The agreement specifies that the stewardship obligation reverts back to the first importers (retailers or distributors) listed in the agreement in the event that the voluntary steward defaults on any of their reporting or payment obligations for the material supplied in that provincial jurisdiction. This provision protects the stewardship program from having to assume the liability for the uncollected receivables of voluntary stewards, the cost of which must then be borne by other stewards in the collective.
- Contract termination terms are designed to provide retailers with sufficient notice of voluntary steward exits: Voluntary stewards wishing to terminate their agreement will be required to provide 12 months written notice of termination. They must notify Circular Materials, MMSW’s service provider, by December 1st of a calendar year. This will release them from their obligation to submit any further reports. The voluntary steward will still however be obligated to pay in full for all the invoices that are based on reports already submitted (as fees will already have been set for that period). This payment obligation must be paid in full by May 31st of the year following their termination notification. This provision enables Circular Materials to provide retailers/first importers with sufficient notice of voluntary stewards’ termination in advance of the next reporting period at which time they will be required to assume the exiting voluntary stewards obligation.
Next Steps for Stewards
- Please review the voluntary steward policy
- To apply to be a new voluntary steward for MMSW, please download the agreement and complete all sections. Please then scan and send to National Steward Services via email at at or fax it to 1-844-471-1836. If you have any questions, please contact National Steward Services at:1-888-980-9549 or via email at .
- Voluntary Steward Agreement
- Applicants will be requested to submit a completed voluntary steward agreement by no later than December 1.
- If you are an existing voluntary steward wishing to terminate your agreement, please notify National Steward Services in writing no later than December 1.
- If you are an existing voluntary steward and want to continue as a voluntary steward, you do not need to take any immediate action as all existing voluntary stewards will be grandfathered under this policy.
MMSW Registered Steward Lists
A list of voluntary and resident stewards for MMSW is posted here, making it easier for retailers and other first importers to understand which suppliers’ products to include or exclude from their reports.
Reminder Not to Report for Resident Businesses
Please note that retailers and other first importers are not required to report for suppliers that are resident in Saskatchewan – whether or not they are MMSW members. Legally obligated resident businesses that are not yet MMSW members will be considered out of compliance with the The Household Packaging and Paper Stewardship Program Regulations and will be subject to regulatory action.