A tax-deposit system combines specialized product taxation with a container recycling deposit, much like what is currently in place for alcoholic beverages in Ontario. It has been suggested that a system like this could prove beneficial to public health and the rising obesity issue in Canada if applied to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), but this is simply not the case for two reasons:
First, proposing higher taxes on SSBs fails to consider the changing consumption trends that are already occurring in Canada; and second, tying these taxes together with a deposit recycling system for refreshment beverage containers under the umbrella of an anti-obesity strategy is illogical, with no foundation in reason or any proven health outcomes.
Public health and environmental stewardship are two separate and serious issues for our country—both of which the refreshment beverage industry is highly cognizant of and actively engaged in initiatives to improve. S
SB taxes won’t work
Sugar-sweetened beverages hold a disproportionate focus as unique contributors to obesity. According to 2014 Canadean data, Canadians’ calories from non-alcoholic beverages make up only 5% of our diets, based on an average 2000 calorie per day diet. The same source says Canadians’ beverage calories have declined by 20% in the past decade, while instances of obesity have grown, according to Statistics Canada.
A tax can not be justified by the World Health Organization’s recommendation to limit added sugar to 10% of daily energy intake because, depending on the study, the average Canadian’s daily intake from added sugar differs by only 20-100 calories more than this recommendation, according to authors of a 2014 study titled, “Estimated intakes and sources of total and added sugars in the Canadian diet.” Not all of those calories come from beverages. Any resulting change from raising taxes on SSBs would therefore have a negligible impact on reaching this 10% goal.
There has been some comparison to the beverage tax in Mexico; however, Mexicans consume twice the volume of SSBs as Canadians, and Mexico’s tax has not actually succeeded in impacting public health. A small decrease in soda sales in the first year was equivalent to a scant reduction of five calories per day. In fact, there is no case globally in which beverage taxes have resulted in health benefits.
The beverage industry recognizes its role in the lifestyle of Canadians and is already innovating to positively impact the calories we consume from beverages. Successful past initiatives include prohibiting the marketing of almost all beverages to children, removing certain products from schools, and voluntarily providing a clear calorie label on the front of all beverage packaging.
Most recently, the industry announced its Balance Calories initiative, which is actively working toward reducing Canadians’ daily beverage calories by an additional 20% by 2025. This will have real-world impact in helping people reduce their consumption of calories and sugar from beverages, without increasing consumer and taxpayer costs.
Deposit recycling system unsuitable for Ontario Consumer
convenience is an important factor in increasing the diversion rate of beverage containers. A system that forces consumers to walk past their Blue Box to return beverage containers to another location is not only inconvenient, but environmentally inefficient, considering greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, operating a deposit system parallel to a curbside recycling program results in higher overall costs to consumers, municipalities, and industry.
The beverage industry believes there is a better model for Ontario. As the supplier of a portion of recyclable materials into the marketplace, taking responsibility for its role in environmental stewardship is crucial; the advent of the Waste Free Ontario Act offers beverage companies opportunity to increase the recycling rate without having to impose a costly and inconvenient deposit system. This is why the Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA) filed an Industry Stewardship Plan with Waste Diversion Ontario, proposing an integrated recycling system similar to Manitoba’s Recycle Everywhere program.
Industry Stewardship the way forward
Instead of charging a refundable deposit plus a non-refundable container recycling fee, the CBCRA system only charges a container recycling fee, used to help recover beverage containers in the residential blue box program; provide free recycling bins to businesses, multi-family dwellings, municipalities, public spaces, and special events; and, run award-winning promotional and educational campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of recycling.
Since CBCRA’s 2010 launch in Manitoba, litter audits in the cities of Winnipeg and Brandon have shown 48% and 56% less beverage container litter, respectively, while Manitoba’s third largest city, Steinbach, exhibited the lowest litter numbers ever seen by the independent auditors for any city in North America. In its first five years, Recycle Everywhere raised Manitoba’s overall beverage container recovery LETTERS 6 » Solid Waste & Recycling rate from 42% to 65%, meaning 55% more beverage containers are being recycled today than just a few short years ago.
While it is true deposit systems typically achieve recovery rates near 75%, most have been in place for decades and their implementation brings many other complexities beyond significantly higher costs and inconvenience for consumers. Canadian Beverage Association members believe all stakeholders play a role in developing workable solutions to the serious issues affecting Canadians, but ideas should be based in scientific research with cost efficiency, consumer choice, and convenience at top of mind.