On July 1, 1999, the Alberta Dairy Council launched the Plastic Milk Jug Recycling Program — the result of more than a year of consultation between Alberta municipalities, Alberta Environment and the Alberta Dairy Council. This voluntary stewardship program for high-density polyethylene (HDPE) plastic milk jugs supports sustainable, province-wide municipal plastic recycling and aims to recycle 75 per cent of the 43 million four-litre equivalent plastic milk jugs sold in the province each year.
According to Roberta Windrum, program coordinator, about 30 million jugs were sent to municipal landfills before the program started. In the first year of the program, 1,197 tonnes of milk jugs (20 million four-litre milk jugs) were recycled — a 32 per cent increase over the previous year.
The program achieved these impressive results due in part to the stewardship program’s focus on the existing municipal infrastructure. Municipalities worked with the Alberta Dairy Council to provide protection against fluctuations in market demand and price. The cost per unit sold is one cent for a two-litre jug and two cents for a four-litre jug.
Almost two and a half million Albertans (86 per cent of the province) now have access to the program through their recycling authorities: municipalities, not-for-profits, bottle depots and private companies. This includes 60 communities that are new to plastic recycling as a direct result of this program.
In addition, the program has already resulted in significant new investments in municipal infrastructure. For example, the City of Calgary invested almost $500,000 to include HDPE milk jugs in its city wide recycling program by adding specially designed bins at their recycling depots drop-off locations, and purchasing a state-of-the-art vehicle with vacuum pick-up and on-board densification systems.
Total tonnage of HDPE milk jugs recycled in the first year represents a 40 per cent recovery rate for the province and a 48 per cent recovery rate for participating municipalities. Sixteen communities and recycling authorities have achieved recovery rates of 70 per cent or more, including St. Albert, Leduc, Edson, Bow Island and Ponoka.
In the first year, the Alberta Dairy Council distributed over $200,000 to recycling authorities for top-up payments and transportation supplements.
Having established a high level of municipal and consumer participation, the focus for the second year is to increase communication and education with residents and program participants to further increase recycling rates.
For more information call 1-877-414-JUGS (5847) or see www.solidwastemag.com.
Garry Prokop is communications consultant for the Alberta Dairy Council Plastic Milk Jug Recycling Program.