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Gazette article on Quebec deposits


Here’s an interesting article from The Gazette about the changing politics of deposits in Quebec. Enjoy.
A plea to province: Don’t drop the bottle
By MICHELLE LALONDE
The Gazette December 27, 2010
Retailers and recycling centres concede that bringing in a deposit system on wine and spirit bottles would get more bottles recycled, but they claim this environmental gain would be cancelled out by an increase in transport emissions.
It’s that time of year again, when our recycling bins and bags are bulging with wine and spirit bottles and I am once again reminded of the Quebec government’s stubborn refusal to adopt a deposit-return system for these containers.
All Canadian provinces and territories, except Quebec and Saskatchewan, require deposits on their wine and spirit bottles, a small extra fee added to the price and returned to the consumer when the empty container is returned to the retailer.
Why does virtually every other province use a deposit-return system?
Because deposit-return systems, combined with curbside recycling, produce the best results for recovering and recycling glass, metal, cardboard and plastic; all reusable resources.
Ontario recently announced it has recycled its 1 billionth container since that province brought in a deposit system on wine and spirit containers four years ago. Last year, 77 per cent of the wine and spirit containers sold under Ontario’s “Bag it Back” deposit program were returned and recycled, up from 68 per cent before the deposit system was adopted.
Only about 60 per cent of wine bottles are recycled in Quebec each year. The Société des alcools du Quebec, Quebec’s liquor retailer, is aiming to get to a 70 per cent recovery rate by 2015.
Not very ambitious for a province that likes to claim it is the greenest in Canada.
Quebec is certainly No. 1 in the country in terms of wine consumption. Each of us polishes off, on average, 21.4 litres of wine each year, or 28.5 standard bottles of wine. That’s a lot of glass; about 80,000 metric tonnes of glass containers annually. And about 40 per cent of that glass – 32,000 metric tonnes – ends up wasted and taking up precious space at landfill sites.
Beer bottles, on the other hand, are recycyled at a rate of almost 95 per cent. Not only that, but each beer bottle is reused at least 10 times. There is, of course, a deposit on beer bottles.
But instead of moving closer to this more effective system, the Quebec government seems to be considering a move in the opposite direction.
Last month, Environment Minister Pierre Arcand announced Récyc Québec, the government agency that manages the deposit system on beer bottles and other beverage containers, will be absorbed into the department in the spring.
At the same time, Arcand is re-examining the existing deposit system on other beverage containers, like soft drinks and energy drinks, in the context of the government’s new waste management policy. The minister also recently added to his staff a lobbyist from ÉcoEntreprises Québec, an industry lobby group that represents the SAQ, other large beverage retailers as well as certain recycling centres, on recycling issues. ÉcoEntreprises Québec frowns on deposit systems, and would like to see them abolished.
“There is a lot of pressure to stop the deposit system in Quebec,” said Karel Maynard, of the Front Commun Québécois pour un gestion écologique des déchets, a group that advocates for environmentally responsible waste management.
“Certain players, such as the recycling centres, want those cans and plastic bottles (that currently have deposits on them) in the recycling bins,” and not returned to the retailer by the consumer, he said.
And since many recycling centres are paid by the weight of the materials they pick up and sort, they want to keep glass in the recycling bins. Glass makes up about 20 per cent of the weight in the average recycling bin.
Environmental groups say not only should wine and spirit bottles carry deposits, but deposit rates on other beverage containers should be raised to encourage compliance. Deposit rates have stayed virtually the same since 1984. For example, an empty soft drink can is still worth only five cents. That kind of pocket change doesn’t inspire a lot of people to go out of their way to return a container to the store rather than to chuck it in the garbage.
Ménard says the government should be actively promoting public participation in deposit-return programs, the way it promotes recycling.
Retailers and recycling centres concede that bringing in a deposit system on wine and spirit bottles would get more bottles recycled, but they insist this environmental gain would be cancelled out by an increase in transportation emissions. They also say the overall cost of the system would rise, because many wine bottles will still end up in the recycling bins. The beverage industry pays municipalities part of the cost of curbside recycling, and they would have to cover the cost of a deposit-return system, too.
I don’t buy either argument. Trucks that deliver beer and wine and other beverages can pick up empties and bring them back to the plant. Consumers will drive to and from the SAQ, whether they are bringing back empties or not.
And if there is an increased cost to bringing in a proper deposit-return system that doesn’t increase fuel emissions, the industry should pay that cost, in accordance with the “polluter pay” philosophy. The Environment Department will be studying these issues over the next couple of years. One hopes it will come to its senses and broaden the deposit-return system, rather than abolish it.
In the meantime, what’s an environmentally conscious wine lover to do? Make your own wine. Or buy your wine at bulk retailers where you can refill your own bottles (Vin en Vrac, for example, at 2021 des Futailles St.) Write to Quebec’s environment minister to demand a deposit-return program on wine and spirit bottles.
Personally, I plan to drink more beer than wine or spirits this holiday season. It’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the planet. Cheers.
Read more: http://www.montrealgazette.com/technology/plea+province+drop+bottle/4028770/story.html#ixzz1ABQJ28FC


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