..Or Your Money Back

June 12, 1998

By Michael Jessen

Don't say you weren't warned.

Starting October 1, getting rid of recyclable material is probably going to be a little more complicated in the Kootenays. The reason? The BC government's decision to expand the beverage container deposit-refund system to include all ready-to-drink containers except those used for milk and milk substitutes.

Drinks that will be added to the deposit-refund system as of October 1 include bottled water, all carbonated and non-carbonated drinks, ice teas, wine, spirits, thirst quenchers, fruit and vegetable juices.

A lot of these containers are currently accepted in your recycling system, but if you want your nickel, dime or 30 cent deposit back after October 1, the container will have to go back to a refund depot.

Most recycling centres in the Kootenays are unattended dropoff locations. No attendant means no deposit refunds here. Translation: you're going to have to make two stops instead of one.

To be fair, there are a few months left before the fall deadline and maybe one stop depots staffed with attendants are in the plans but the news has yet to cross my desk.

There's still a lot of dispute about how to collect beverage containers. Michael Hare, an economic consultant and a professor of economics at the University of Toronto, cites a recent research project which concluded the waste reduction effectiveness for a deposit-refund system and a household source-separation system are approximately equal.

"As a side point," says Hare, "a source separation system also has the ability to reclaim many other fractions of municipal solid waste and is more cost effective for soft-drink containers than artificial deposit systems."

According to Hare, provincial government programs affect non-refillable soft-drink containers in the following ways: a sales ban (PEI), container taxes (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland) and container levies (Manitoba), artificial deposit-refund systems (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland), a mandated market share requirement for refillables (Ontario), and an impending landfill ban (Nova Scotia). I guess its too much to ask such a mish-mash of a system to give a little thought to the poor consumer; it can't even get the amount of the deposit uniform between provinces!

What you're reading here is strictly my opinion. Most regional districts, waste managers, and recycling coordinators have heartily endorsed this expanded deposit system as evidence of corporate product stewardship.

That may or may not be true. What is irrefutable is that you and I will pay more when we shop for groceries that include juices, mineral water and other beverages and then we'll be further inconvenienced to search out and travel to the place which can give us our money back.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all in favour of corporate product stewardship. I believe corporations should look after their packaging materials from cradle to grave. What I object to is that every attempt to do so ends up costing me time and money.

For instance, my buddy Ric told me he paid a $1.60 environmental levy for a $3.47 jug of paint thinner last weekend. The levy is supposed to cover the cost of the return and recycling of the thinner's plastic container. Only problem is the BC Paint Care Association says Nelson won't have a depot which will take back these containers until sometime in the October to December 1998 time period.

How come the system to take money from us is quick to implement, but the system to help us isn't?

My suggestion is that all communities have one centrally located facility which takes recyclables, refundables, and all environmental levy products. Anything less is just not civilized.

TRASH TIP: Glass is 100 percent recyclable and can be used over and over to make new glass containers with no loss in quality. Recycled content in glass packaging can be as high as 80 to 85 percent.

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