Quebec touts ambitious plan to reduce waste, retailers ask for delay

Click to play video: 'Quebec promises to do more to reduce waste, increase recycling'
Quebec promises to do more to reduce waste, increase recycling
WATCH: After a report from Quebec's environmental watchdog called the province's waste-management efforts disappointing, some people say a new container deposit/return program is too ambitious – Jan 26, 2022

Quebec is pledging to do more to reduce waste in the province and some coming changes will have direct effects on people and their wallets.

After a report from Quebec’s environmental watchdog called waste management efforts disappointing, the environment minister touted an ambitious plan – too ambitious, some say.

“It’s a big change we’re confirming today,” Quebec Environment Minister Benoit Charette told a press conference Wednesday morning.

Quebec is planning to implement a deposit system for every drink container between 100 milliliters and 2 liters. Consumers will pay between 10 and 25 cents extra for each beverage, but the government will refund the money once the containers are returned to the store or another drop-off point.

“When we talk about this kind of reform in environments, we were quite later. We had to catch up with the rest of the country and we had to catch up with other countries also,” said Charette.

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It’s part of Quebec’s response to a report released Tuesday by the province’s environmental watchdog the BAPE.

READ MORE: Quebec’s recycling deposit program to include refunds for glass, plastic, metal bottles

After nearly a year of investigation, the report concluded that Quebec’s efforts to reduce waste in the province were nowhere near reaching its goals, and said action was needed to keep landfills from overflowing.

The idea is to put the onus on the drink companies to pick up and recycle their own stuff.

“We have to create an environment where it’s easy to waste less and that environment is by putting emphasis on fees for producers, the companies that actually produce the waste,” said Colleen Thorpe, director of the environmental advocacy group Equiterre.

Click to play video: 'How plastic beverage bottles are recycled in BC'
How plastic beverage bottles are recycled in BC

Some people Global News spoke with said they’ll have no issue bringing milk cartons and other items back to the store.

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“Yeah I think it’s worth the level of inconvenience that it requires, you should be bringing your own bags anyway, so it’s easy to throw some stuff in if you’re on the way to the store anyway,” said Madeleine Jackson while shopping at the Intermarché grocery store at Mont Royal and Boyer in the Plateau.

The owner of the store, however, is outraged.

“We don’t have room for that, and we don’t have employees to do it,” said Franck Henot.

He said he just installed self-checkouts because he can’t find enough employees for the store. He showed Global News a small room in the store’s basement that’s used to store beer bottles people return to get their deposits back.

READ MORE: Quebec to step up recycling capacity with 7 pilot projects

He fears he’ll need to store mountains of milk cartons and other containers in his store before they get picked up, and he worries about the smell they’ll bring, especially in the summer.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said of the plan, wondering why the government is giving stores that have struggled through throughout the pandemic extra responsibility.

Quebec is hoping to see the new system in place within 10 months, but beverage companies are asking for more time. They cite labour shortages, supply chain issues, and complex equipment that will need to be purchased from outside the country.

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“It’s not that we don’t want to do it. We just want to do it properly,” said Martin-Pierre Pelletier of the Canadian Beverage Association, which represents Coke, Pepsi, Nestle and other large beverage manufacturers.

The Canadian Retail Council, which represents most big grocery chains, is also asking for more time to implement the system.

Given the complexity of the regulation and especially the supply chain issues due to the pandemic, those would have an impact for sure on the production and installation of the required machinery to manage all that,” said Francis Mailly, director of government relations at the Canadian Retail Council’s Quebec branch.

However, the government and environmentalists are steadfast, saying to solve a big problem, a big effort is needed.

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