Ontario’s blue box program will be better without LCBO containers, say municipal program operators. The position of the operators differs from that of industry group Corporations Supporting Recycling (CSR) that recently issued a press release expressing concern about the province’s decision to place wine and liquor bottles on deposit, claiming that it will harm plans to build large glass recycling plants. (See “Editor’s Blog” at left side of the Solid Waste & Recycling magazine home page: www.solidwastemag.com)
Not only will the removal of empty wine and liquor bottles reduce a major contaminant in the program, but returning empties at beer stores will mean they can be recycled into new bottles and not be “downcycled” for low-value construction uses, the recyclers say.
“Broken glass has always been a major problem in the blue box program, damaging equipment and contaminating other streams,” says Mike Birett, Chair of the Association of Municipal Recycling Coordinators (AMRC). “Taking out the wine and liquor bottles will alleviate a lot of those issues and we are sure people will feel better knowing the bottles will be recycled into new bottles rather than lower value applications, such as road aggregate.”
In addition, the significant increase in anticipated recovery rates will help meet the province’s diversion goal of 60 per cent by 2008. (Current blue box recovery rates for LCBO containers are about 65 per cent. The Beer Store sees return rates on empty beer bottles in the high 90-per-cent range.)
Birett noted there may need to be a review in the way collection contracts are designed and in the way industry provides financial support to the program. Both are currently based on per-tonne payments, and the removal of LCBO containers will have a major impact on the make-up of the overall “basket of goods” collected by the blue box program.
“With so much based on weight, obviously there needs to be a rethinking in some areas, but these are temporary issues that can be figured out,” he says.
This summer the AMRC was co-author of a report with the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) on increasing efficiency in the blue box program. Among other things, that report urged the province to add deposits to wine and liquor bottles to improve recovery.
By transferring the collection to an industry-run program, the province is demonstrating full product stewardship and municipal taxpayers will no longer have to subsidize the service. Current industry support of blue box programs are based on 50 per cent of the net costs. Municipalities pay the balance.Vivian De Giovanni, Executive Director of the AMRC, says many recycling programs are finding the blue box is not big enough to accommodate the increasing amount of material placed at the curb for recycling. Removing wine and liquor bottles will also leave room for other recyclables.
De Giovanni says other provinces operate a very efficient blue box program without wine and liquor containers.
“We agree with the Ministry of the Environment and are committed to helping resolve the issues and concerns associated with this new initiative in a simple and cost effective manner. This will improve the blue box program, improve diversion rates and get us back to truly recycling glass.”
The AMRC is an incorporated, not-for-profit organization formed in 1987 by municipal waste management professionals to facilitate the sharing of municipal waste reduction and recycling information and experience.
Contact Mike Birett, AMRC Chair, at 905-895-1200 ext. 5738 or 905-716-1788 or Vivian De Giovanni, AMRC Executive Director, at 519-823-1990 or 519-588-9363.