February 19, 2007

Ontario's "Bag it back" targets beverage alcohol containers for increased diversion, recycling

On February 5, Ontario launched its new "Bag it back" deposit-return program for recycling wine, beer and spirit containers. By encouraging Ontarians to return empty containers to The Beer Store for a refund, the program aims to increase Ontario's waste diversion rate, keeping an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 additional tonnes of glass out of landfills (equivalent to about 80 million bottles). It will also free up space in Blue Boxes, giving municipal governments the opportunity to expand recycling programs.

As of February 5, 2007 Ontario consumers pay a 10- or 20-cent deposit on all wine and spirit containers purchased in Ontario at the LCBO, agency stores, and winery and distillery retail stores. Containers used in U-brew and "make your own" wine operations are not included in the program. They can then return empty containers to The Beer Store for a full refund.

The Beer Store already operates one of the most successful container return programs in the world, collecting 98% of refillable beer bottles. The company will handle all post-collection processing and recycling of the wine and spirit containers, and will be expected to operate the program cost efficiently, as it does with its existing system. This will be verified by regular audits.

While beverage alcohol containers are the largest single source of glass in the municipal waste stream and account for about 7% of all Blue Box waste, only about 68% of all wine and spirit containers in the province are going into the Blue Box.

Added to the challenge is the fact that some of the glass going into the Blue Box gets broken and becomes contaminated by other waste, rendering it difficult to recycle. When this occurs, it either ends up in landfills or is made into lower-end uses like road aggregate rather than new bottles or other high-end products.

"Bag it back" will:

-aim to recycle 85% per cent of wine and spirit containers into other products. Once the program is in place, 90% of LCBO glass containers will go to higher value products such as new bottles, fiberglass insulation and glazes for ceramic tiles.

-divert an additional 25,000 to 30,000 tonnes of glass from landfill annually. This represents about a 32 to 38% increase over the approximately 78,000 tonnes of glass currently being recycled through the Blue Box program and by licensed restaurants and bars.

-help increase the recycling efforts of licensed establishments. Too often, glass and other containers end up in garbage bins. Putting a value on wine and spirit containers will encourage recycling in this sector.

-provide economic benefits: Putting a value on containers could encourage new markets for recyclable goods since there could be a ready supply of unbroken and uncontaminated glass. As well, new businesses offering pickup and haulage of containers from hotels, restaurants and other commercial sectors may spring up.

Seven other provinces have container return systems for wine and spirit containers, with deposit rates ranging from five to 40 cents, depending on jurisdiction and container size. The Atlantic provinces have half-back programs which refund only half of consumer deposits.

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