A three-party committee of the Alberta legislature is recommending significant changes to the province’s deposit-refund system for used beverage containers that are collected in a return-to-depot program in that province. The recommendations include raising deposits on small and large containers to 10 and 20 cents respectively, and including all milk containers.
The recommendations are widely expected to be accepted by the government since they have the support of all three major political parties. The inclusion of milk containers is a North American first (except for the deposit on plastic milk jugs in Ontario, which represents only a small portion of milk packaging there; plastic pouches and cartons are ubiquitous). Industry observers say this may eventually lead to milk’s inclusion in deposit-refund programs in other provinces.
The Standing Committee on Resources and Environment was asked to review key issues pertaining to the Beverage Container Recycling Regulation pursuant to a letter from the Minister of Environment to the Chair of the committee dated July 11, 2007. Prior to this request, the ministry consulted with members of the public and stakeholder groups on aspects of the regulation, which was scheduled to expire on October 31, 2007. The committee was asked to focus its review of the regulation on the following specific issues:
The beverage container collection system,
The exemption of milk containers,
Service quality, and
Two common collection agents.
In conducting its review, the committee solicited written submissions from interested parties and asked witnesses to appear to present their views. Public hearings were held on September 18, 2007, in Edmonton and on September 20, 2007, in Calgary. The September 20 meeting was the first meeting of a Policy Field Committee to occur outside of Edmonton. In total, the committee heard from 14 witnesses appearing in person and received 114 written submissions from interested individuals and groups.
The Standing Committee on Resources and Environment makes the following recommendations on the Beverage Container Recycling Regulation.
1. The composition of the Beverage Container Management Board should be maintained as currently structured.
2. The Beverage Container Recycling Regulation or the by-law should be amended to require a two-thirds majority to reach decisions on handling commissions.
3. Resolution of issues pertaining to the container collection system should be left to the Beverage Container Management Board, the delegated administrative organization.
4. The role of the Beverage Container Management Board should be strengthened. More specifically, the Board should be granted the authority or should exercise its existing authority to conduct a number of activities:
review the criteria for licensing depots and ensure that they are clear and defensible,
set the criteria for the location of depots and establish annual return-rate targets for depots, and
determine whether the number of depots within the province is adequate.
5. The Beverage Container Management Board must actively enforce those service standards connected with the principle of maximizing the collection of recyclable containers.
6. The Beverage Container Management Board should review and set deposit rates every two years.
7. Different deposit rates should be established for different-size containers as follows: a minimum of 10 cents for containers less than or equal to one litre and a minimum of 20 cents for containers more than one litre. The deposit rate on pop cans and beer cans should be equal.
8. Management of unredeemed deposits should be transferred to the Beverage Container Management Board.
9. The operating levy, which is used for the purposes of funding Beverage Container Management Board operations, shall be discontinued.
10. The Beverage Container Management Board shall publicly demonstrate, by annual report to the Minister, that funding has been used for the management and delivery of the entire beverage container recycling system; for additional activities designed to enhance return rates; and for other activities determined by the Minister.
11. There should be only one common collection agent, to be determined by the Beverage Container Management Board.
12. Milk containers should be included in the deposit refund system, and the current levy (one or two cents as the case may be) should be removed. While this recommendation is made with the intent of increasing recycling rates, the Committee recommends that its potential impact on Albertans be closely monitored.
Solid Waste & Recycling magazine will provide an in-depth analysis of these changes in an upcoming edition.