Changes to the province’s beverage container recycling program should encourage Albertans to return their empties to one of more than 200 collection sites in the province, including a new location in Rimbey that should be open by this coming January.
New regulations, which will be fully implemented by June 1, 2009, make Alberta the first province in Canada to accept all milk cartons at bottle depot locations, as well as increase deposit-refunds on containers already in the program.
Under the updated program, Albertans will pay a deposit on all milk containers and will be able to drop off the containers at any Alberta bottle depot. The deposits on all beverage containers, including milk containers, will increase to 10 cents for containers one litre and under and 25 cents for containers greater than one litre.
According to statistics supplied by the government, an average of two billion beverage containers are sold in Alberta each year and of those, 500 million containers are not returned to a bottle depot for recycling. At the minimum refund price of 10 cents each, that amounts to a staggering $50 million being basically thrown away.
“We’re down to about 70 to 75 per cent and the goal is to get it back up to 85 per cent or higher,” said Gerry Winters, owner/operator of the Side Street Liquor Store and Bottle Depot in Rimbey. “There’s definitely been a lot thrown away and I think the fact that the same price existed for a container for 20 years, had something to do with it. With the increase in rates, more people are going to hold on to them and bring them in.”
“The 85-per-cent return rate is going to require cooperation and partnerships with all the stakeholders,” said Ross Risvold, Chair of the Beverage Container Management Board. “I hope to establish real partnerships where programs to increase return rates are jointly developed with collection agents, the Alberta Bottle Depot Association, and the Beverage Container Management Board.”
As for the situation locally, Winters said his outlet has never taken milk jugs, despite what the public may think.
“We don’t have a deposit on them so we don’t accept them right now. People think we are taking them, but not until June 1, 2009,” Winters said adding the new depot, to be located at 5602 44th Street, should make recycling a bit easier for consumers. “We’re going to be opening a new bottle depot centre right behind the Super 8 motel possibly in January and we’ll have quite a bit more room.”
He said once the bottles and cans have been dropped off at the depot, they are transferred to Red Deer where they are processed and baled before being transported to recycling facilities.
Until June 1 of next year however, Winters suggests the public should continue to take milk containers to their normal disposal as opposed to his facility. He also said if people are thinking about hanging on to their milk jugs until that date, they should think again as the government intends on marking the jugs in some manner that will exclude any purchases made prior.
“Until then, we would encourage customers to take their milk jugs over to the Lions Recycling Centre as they will be in operation at least until then,” he said. “But you won’t be paid for any container you purchase before June 1 of next year. They’re talking about identifying them in some manner so that you can’t get a refund for them.”
The increase in refund rates, which took effect on Nov. 1, has already had a bit of an effect in Rimbey.
“That’s why the deposit rates were increased. It’s to encourage more recycling, and it’s picked up some here as well.”
In an effort to make things run a bit smoother, and save his staff’s sense of smell, Winters offered a few tips to the public including to remove the tops or caps on all applicable recyclables and, if possible, to please rinse out the milk jugs before bringing them in to the facility.
Although he couldn’t say for sure, Winters believes the updated program will also accept paper or cardboard milk cartons as well.
The hours of the current recycling depot, along with hours at the new location are 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon and from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00p.m. from Monday to Saturday.