In the wake of breweries’ shift towards cans in recent years, and following the end of the Recyc-Québec agreement two years ago, Teamsters Local Union 1999 made representations to the previous Environment Minister, David Heurtel. Since the arrival of Minister Isabelle Melançon, we haven’t heard a peep.
Until 2016, brewers, soft drink manufacturers and retailers were all bound by the Recyc-Québec agreement, which is the cornerstone of the deposit refund system that has been in place for cans in Québec since 1984. This agreement stems from the Act respecting the sale and distribution of beer and soft drinks in non-returnable containers, which imposed penalties on brewers if they sold more than 37% of their beer production in cans.
“In our opinion, not renewing the agreement created a regulatory loophole that encourages brewers to sell their beer in cans only,” explained Éric Picotte, of Local Union 1999, representing Molson workers. “We indicated to the Minister our interest in meeting with her to discuss upcoming legislative developments, but we’re still waiting to hear from her.”
Since 55% of beer production in Québec is sold in cans, it’s increasingly clear that financial sanctions imposed by the government have little or no impact on breweries. In fact, the move towards cans by the big brewers could become even more definite with the construction of the new Molson plant on the South Shore.
“Time is running out for the government to show leadership on this issue,” added the union leader. “Construction of the new Molson plant will begin soon and the Couillard government’s message must be clear: in Québec, we support the environment and quality jobs.”
A Recyc-Québec study shows that close to a third of cans end up in landfill sites. In other words, through the municipal taxes they pay, ordinary citizens end up footing the bill for breweries’ waste management. All the while, brown bottles are 98% recycled and reused up to 17 times, making them the greenest containers on the market.
The brown bottle deposit refund system also creates quality jobs in Québec. In short, from an environmental, social and economic standpoint, brown bottles are clearly superior to cans.
“Minister Melançon must make a decision based on the interests of all citizens,” concluded Éric Picotte. “Several European governments have demonstrated this type of leadership and the brewing industry is doing very well in these countries.”
Teamsters represent close to 125,000 members in Canada, including 45,000 in Québec. The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, with which Teamsters Canada is affiliated, has 1.4 million members in North America.