Solid Waste & Recycling

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The Update

As the price of oil approaches $150 a barrel and energy is at a premium, high quality empty beverage containers made from aluminum, plastic, and glass are in great demand. Canadian provincial governme...


As the price of oil approaches $150 a barrel and energy is at a premium, high quality empty beverage containers made from aluminum, plastic, and glass are in great demand. Canadian provincial governments and beverage producers (on their own) have taken steps to increase collection for recycling.

New programs

Following years of pressure from municipalities, British Columbia’s Dairy Council launched the Used Milk Container Recycling Program in October 2006. In addition to on-going curbside collection, this program offers an additional recovery infrastructure for empty milk containers through 116 existing beverage depots. Encorp Pacific, the organization that manages the stewardship obligation for non-alcohol, wine, spirit and imported beer producers, has been contracted by the dairy industry to manage this program. The dairy industry picks-up the costs associated with depot collection, processing and program advertising.

In February 2007, Ontario’s Deposit Return Program (ODRP) was launched by the provincial government for all wine, spirit and imported beer containers. The deposits, or “financial return incentives,” are 10-cents on small bottles (representing a share of 48 per cent of all units), and 20-cents on larger containers, (52 per cent share) like wine bottles. In spite of its naysayers, the program has actually succeeded in shifting consumer behaviour from conveniently tossing their empty wine bottle into their household blue bin to taking it back to their local beer store, usually within five kms of their home, apartment or back alley. In 2007-2008, the program diverted over 78,000 tonnes of which about 67 per cent was re-manufactured into new glass bottles, and the remaining 33 per cent into fibreglass.

Late in 2007, Prince Edward Island repealed pealed the law prohibiting non-refillable beer and soft-drinks on the island. The law was introduced in 1973 for beer and later expanded to include soft drinks in 1984. Last April, the Minister of Environment, Energy and Forestry announced details about the new deposit return program to manage all the new non-refillable containers brought to the island. This provincial system has harmonized program elements with its Atlantic counter-parts. Encorp PEI, (like Encorp Pacific in British Columbia, and Encorp Atlantic in New Brunswick) is the system administrator on behalf of beverage producers. The new halfback program will compensate 10 island-wide depots with a 3.6-cent handling fee.

A plan for change?

Following a robust consultation process in Alberta last November, an all-party government committee reviewing the beverage container regulation delivered 12 specific recommendations to the minister. Of particular interest were the following four:

• The Beverage Container Management Board (BCMB) should review and set deposit rates every two years;

• Deposit levels should be raised to a minimum of 10-cents for containers under or equal to one litre and a minimum of 20-cents for containers over one litre;

• Management of unredeemed deposit revenue should be transferred to the BCMB; and

• Milk containers should be included in the deposit return system, and the current levy [on milk] should be removed. Whether the existing Alberta government chooses to act on its government’s non-partisan counsel is anybody’s guess.

Manitoba’s WRAP program, which in- cludes charging a two-cent levy on all non-refi llable, non-beer containers to finance 80 per cent of the municipal recycling system will be terminated before 2009, to be replaced with a multi-material brandowner-funded program. The program will be similar to the programs currently operating in Ontario and Quebec, but brandowners will be required to off-set 80 per cent of the municipal net costs versus 50 per cent.

Quebec’s all-party Committee on Transportation and the Environment of the National Assembly also held public hearings and consultation on residual material management in Qubec, including increasing the recovery of empty beverage containers. Early this summer the committee finally released its recommended preference for one system — that of the Collect Selective program (curbside), ONLY IF this system is able to improve collection of beverage containers generated away-from-home and in multi-residential units. The beverage and grocery industries are hopeful that their new investment plan in promotion and education will propel increased municipal public space, event and commercial collection. Until successful, the status quo in Quebec remains.

Who pays what?

In order to provide a clearer picture of the associated program costs, a method of analysis called Who Pays What developed by CM Consulting provides a transparent picture of the program cost/unit sold as they relate to the various “funders” or stakeholders of the system.

Table 1 provides a summary of stakeholder costs for 2006-2007. These average costs are unique to the individual stakeholder for every container sold, and will vary year-to-year. It’s important to note that each identified stakeholder cost represents but a portion of the total. For example, the “wasting consumer” represents only a small portion of all consumers — those who chose not to redeem their container; the “recycling consumer” represents only those consumers that redeem their container. As such, these costs should be examined on their own, as individual stakeholder costs, and columns or rows should not be totalled.

Environmental benefits

Traditionally, the measurement of waste and recycling has been based on the weight of material disposed or diverted. More recently, however, recycling measurements are being expanded to comprise of factors which include the amount of energy saved and the reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from recycling.

Environment Canada has undertaken extensive life-cycle analyses to measure the inputs and outputs from cradle-to-grave of various materials. The results can be applied to beverage container diversion in order to quantify the environmental benefits associated with those programs. Table 2 presents a summary of the environmental benefits of beverage reuse and recycling (glass, PET, HDPE and aluminum) for Canada.

Environment Canada has undertaken extensive life-cycle analyses to measure the inputs and outputs from cradle-to-grave of various materials. The results can be applied to beverage container diversion in order to quantify the environmental benefits associated with those programs. Table 2 presents a summary of the environmental benefits of beverage reuse and recycling (glass, PET, HDPE and aluminum) for Canada.

Increasing costs, performance

Canada’s relatively high handling fees for depots, and the high cost of fuel will surely result in overall cost increases, in spite of the large revenues from high-value secondary material. While recycling markets are strong for traditional beverage materials, newer container materials like pouches, poly cups, aseptic boxes, polystyrene and paperboard cups are difficult to market and may require long transportation distances to recyclers in the U. S. or off-shore.

Overall, capture rates are declining. This is symptomatic of the diminishing value of deposits which have not kept pace with inflation. In jurisdictions with residential recycling for beverage containers, lack of progress is due primarily to the inherent difficulties of multi-residential recycling and recycling of away-from-home or “on-the-go” beverage consumption.

With the current economic and environmental interest in the collection of beverage containers, opportunities abound. Small-scale, affordable compaction technology, like the Enviropactor (see June/July 2008 edition) can have a dramatic impact on shipping and labor costs. As awareness grows around the associated benefits of reducing greenhouse gases, the level of interest in recycling is greater th

an ever. Comprehensive data is readily available, which means those involved can better understand the full life-cycle implications on carbon dioxide emissions, as well as other pollutants.

In a country where over 10 billion beverage containers are sold each year, the data on climate change mitigation from recycling aluminum PET, steel and glass clearly shows that recycling beverage containers is a priority.

Clarissa Morawski is principal of CM Consulting based in Peterborough, Ontario. Contact Clarissa at morawski@ca.inter.net


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