Most jurisdictions in Canada support beverage container recycling and deposit-refund systems with legislation. Amendments to such legislation continue to be made in order to make the systems more effective and workable. Here are some interesting examples from around the country.
In New Brunswick, Bill 9–which amends the Beverage Containers Act–requires that “redemption centres” apply for a license. A “redemption centre” is defined as a business enterprise that accepts empty beverage containers from the public in exchange for a refund or for return to distributors.
When Bill 9 comes into force (at press time it had been given Royal Assent), a licensing system will replace the current registration system, which will allow for greater government control. Bill 9 sets out the considerations that the provincial environment ministry must take into account in deciding whether to authorize the operation of a centre in a specific location, including consideration of public interest and community need and impacts.
Bill 9 also amends the definition of “beverage” to include milk and milk products. In addition, fines for offences such as distributing an unapproved container, operating an unlicensed centre or contravening a stop order are increased (from the previous range of between $70 and $100) to a range of between $125 and $5,000.
In Newfoundland, Bill 53 is intended to replace the Packaging Material Act and expands the mandate of the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board. Bill 53 will provide for the continuation of the Board to “support and promote the protection, enhancement and wise use of the environment through waste management programs.” The amendments will also allow the development and implementation of additional programs.
In addition, Bill 53 will allow the Lieutenant Governor in Council to make regulations designating substances as waste material. This is significant because it enables the government to control materials that would not otherwise be regulated.
British Columbia recently amended the Beverage Container Stewardship Program Regulation under the Waste Management Act. The regulation, which was originally enacted in 1997, applies to a “brand owner” or a person who manufactures, distributes or imports a beverage that is sold in a container for resale into B.C. A brand owner or its agent was required to submit a stewardship plan for the collection and management of containers sold before February 15, 1998. The stewardship plan had to address: how containers would be recovered by use of a return-to-depot system on and after the implementation date (April 1, 1998 for most types of containers); how the containers would be managed in an environmentally responsible manner; how depots would be made convenient to consumers in all areas of B.C.; and, how an 85 per cent recovery rate would be achieved within two years after the implementation date. Beverages cannot be sold in a container without an approved stewardship plan in place.
The recent amendments add a definition for aseptic containers and exempt aseptic and paper-based polycoat gable-top containers and flexible plastic pouches from the requirements of the regulation until October 1, 1999. The amendments also revise the Schedule to the Regulation that sets out the amount of the deposit-refund for various types of beverage containers. The amount is now based on the container size and type, and the minimum deposit-refund amount for any beverage container holding more than one litre of fluid has been decreased.
Alberta has recently instituted a new stewardship program to increase the recycling of plastic milk jugs throughout the province. The program requires dairy processors to pay two cents for every four litre plastic jug and one cent for every two litre plastic jug sold to the Container Recovery Fund (an industry-administered
organization). The monies are directed to local recycling authorities in order to supplement revenues for recycled plastic.
Interestingly, although legislative progress continues in this area, the Society Promoting Environmental Conservation (SPEC) doesn’t consider plastics recycling levels, in particular, to be adequate. The group has stated that national reduction targets for plastic consumer packaging under the National Packaging Protocol are not being met and that this has fuelled the campaign. SPEC is preparing a draft regulation with the goal of having a minimum of 10 per cent recycled content in designated plastic packages and products. The scheme would require companies to obtain certification of recycled content from the container manufacturer. Rules would also apply to imported products.