December 3, 2007

Alberta all-party committee proposes beverage container recycling program changes

A review of Alberta's Beverage Container Recycling regulation by the government's all-party Standing Committee on Resources and Environment has yielded a dozen recommendations for changes to the regulation. Among the proposals is the inclusion of milk containers in the province's deposit-refund system as a means of increasing recycling rates. The committee is also advocating a stronger role for the Beverage Container Management Board (BCMB), the agency responsible for running Alberta's beverage container recycling program.

While the committee favours including milk containers in the system, its report indicated concern about how this might affect individuals and families. "The committee is recommending the impacts of including milk cartons be monitored closely," said committee chair Denis Ducharme, MLA for Bonnyville-Cold Lake.

Other recommendations include: establishing different deposit rates for different-sized containers (10 cents for containers one litre or less and 20 cents for beverage containers larger than one litre); setting an equal deposit rate of 10 cents for soft drink and beer cans. These proposals are aimed at making beverage container recycling easier for Alberta residents. "The committee felt that the easier things were on consumers, the higher the return rates would be," said Ducharme.

The committee made a number of recommendations relating to the operation of the BCMB. "It was equally important that we strengthen the role of the Beverage Container Management Board, ensuring that it will monitor service standards at depots, which will encourage public participation in beverage container recycling," Ducharme added.

Its report says the board's current structure should be maintained (i.e. 12 members: four municipal and urban representatives, four manufacturers, three bottle depot representatives and one retail liquor store representative). Its role, however, should be strengthened to give it new authority (or ensure that it uses its existing authority) to carry out certain activities. These include: reviewing the criteria for licensing depots; determining whether Alberta has enough depots; and setting criteria for the location and for return-rate targets of depots.

The committee also recommended that the BCMB actively enforce service standards aimed at maximizing the collection of recyclable containers, and that it review deposit rates every two years. As well, management of unredeemed deposits should be transferred to the BCMB and the operating levy used to fund Board operations discontinued.

This past July, Environment Minister Rob Renner asked the Standing Committee to review issues associated with the Beverage Container Recycling regulation such as the beverage container collection system, milk containers, deposit levels, unredeemed deposits, service quality and two common collection agents. The committee has recommended that there be only one, to be determined by the BCMB.

"Above all, the committee recognized that primarily this is an environmental issue," said Ducharme, noting that, The review was focused on the need to improve the recycling of containers." Input came from the public and other interested groups. "The committee received 114 written submissions and heard 14 oral presentations during public hearings in Calgary and Edmonton," he said.

The committee's report may be viewed on-line at www.assembly.ab.ca/resourcesandenvironment.

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