An environmental organization based in Vancouver says one million recyclable bottles and cans “go missing” every day in British Columbia, and it’s calling for higher deposits to discourage consumers from littering or throwing them away.
Chloe Dubois, of the Ocean Legacy Foundation, says her organization analysed data from the Brewers Recycled Container Collection Council and Encorp Pacific, the corporation in charge of container management, to compare bottles and cans sold with the number that are returned.
The foundation says about 387 million beverage containers, including items like plastic drink bottles and beer cans, didn’t make it back into the province’s regulated deposit refund system in 2017.
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The group is recommending the province increase the deposit rate, add containers like milk cartons to the deposit refund system and enforce those targets in a meaningful way, like requiring producers to pay to clean up ocean plastics equal to the amount they fail to recycle.
It says an addition 2.3 million beverage container caps go missing every day and it recommends that producers also be required to collect and report on bottle-cap recycling.
In a statement, the B.C. Ministry of Environment says it is reviewing the report, adding the recommendations are generally in keeping with the province’s goal of reducing the use of plastics and other single-use items.
The ministry says more than one billion containers are recycled under the Encorp program alone each year.
Stewardship plans at both Encorp and the Brewers council’s are due for renewal this year and the ministry says it’s encouraging the public to give feedback during consultations over the next few months.
Dubois says she and other members of the foundation regularly volunteer to clean beaches in British Columbia and they’re shocked by the amount of recyclable litter they find.
“We need this to change. We can’t keep going out on the shorelines collecting thousands of bottles and caps.”
Dubois says that although B.C. was the first jurisdiction in the world to adopt a regulated beverage container refund system, it’s time for revitalization.
B.C. has a 5-cent minimum deposit return rate. Dubois says other countries and provinces have achieved better recycling and return rates in line with higher deposit rates.
Alberta and Saskatchewan both have a minimum regulated deposit of 10 cents per bottle and saw 86 per cent and 82 per cent of their bottles returned, respectively. Encorp’s bottle-return rate in 2017 was 76 per cent.
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Germany and the Netherlands, which both charge the equivalent of 37 cents per container, return rates are 98 per cent and 95 per cent, respectively.
Setting the rate is up to the provincial government but Dubois says Ocean Legacy is recommending deposits of at least 10 cents per container.
“This system was implemented 50 years ago, it hasn’t been updated in 15 years, and it’s age is showing,” she says.