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Increasing deposit fees may not be answer to improving recycling; Return-it CEO

Last Updated May 4, 2019 at 12:37 am PDT

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Trying to keep more beverage containers out of our landfills and oceans will cost more for consumers

Recycling rates may improve with the launch of new drop-off service

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – Trying to keep more beverage containers out of our landfills and oceans will cost more for consumers.

That’s the warning on the heels of a recent report critical about the amount of containers not being recycled in BC.

The report, put together by the Ocean Legacy Foundation, says 1.6 billion beverage containers were not recycled through BC’s deposit refund system in a five year period ending in 2017.

The report’s authors found containers fetch twice as much at depots in Alberta and Saskatchewan, and a greater percentage of containers are returned to depots in those two provinces.

One of the recommendations is to increase the deposit fees in BC.

RELATED: Return-It launches clothing donation pilot across Lower Mainland

But Allen Langdon with Return-it points out deposits are derived from a surcharge on beverages.

“Considering the fact that would mean charging consumers $60 million more a year and not all that money will get back to consumers. So it could be a discussion to have,” he says, pointing out the province is ultimately responsible for setting the rates.

The report notes 80 per cent of all beverage containers in BC got returned to a depot in 2017. The minimum return refund is five cents. In Alberta and Saskatchwan, the return rate was 85 per cent and the minimum refund is ten cents.

While Langdon says BC’s return rate is comparable to the rest of the provinces, he says making returning containers more convenient may be the key.

In July, the non-profit organization is launching a drop-and-go service, where consumers can drop off their beverages in a bag. Staff will sort the beverages and credit an online account set up by the consumer.

“Our research shows that what people value more than anything is convenience. If they can drop off their containers and be in and out in 30 seconds, that’s what they want.”

Return-it textiles pilot enters half way mark

Meantime, other cities in BC are showing an interest in a pilot program launched by Return-it, enabling consumers to drop off used clothing and textiles at their depots.

Return-it began the service in late February, and intends to keep it running until the end of June.

Whether it continues depends on whether it makes fiscal sense.

Langdon says there are expenses associated with collecting old clothes, then handing them over to the Ontario company which has agreed to buy them.

“We’ve got to pay our depots to collect it and pay for transportation and storage. At the end of the day, if it’s financially viable, great. If there’s an opportunity to expand it, based on the interest so far, it’s something we will seriously consider.

Only 13 depots, all in the Lower Mainland, are taking part in the project. Return-it operates 170 depots across BC.

REPORT: British Columbia’s Beverage Container Legacy: The Missing Millions