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Quebec to expand deposit system to cover all drink containers by 2022

Quebec will expand its deposit system to include different kinds of alcohol and beverage containers in an effort to recycle more products and reduce the amount of waste going to landfills.

The province announced its plan Thursday – set to begin by late 2022 – that will see a deposit charged to a wide variety of containers ranging in size from 100 millilitres to two litres, whether the bottles are made of plastic, glass or metal.

The government intends for a simple system that shouldn’t require too much of consumers to change their habits, with an estimated 400 privately run drop-off points, said Environment Minister Benoit Charrette.

“In one depot or one store, where the technology will be available, they will be able to bring back all their materials,” Charrette said in St-Sauveur, Que., where the Coalition Avenir Quebec are holding a caucus meeting.

“We want the system as simple of possible because we need results, and the industry has a lot of interest to put in place a simple system because they will have to respect some specific goals as soon as 2025.”

The plan is to charge 25 cents for wine and spirits bottles and 10 cents for other bottles, including plastic water bottles, fruit juices and milk jugs.

Officials project more than four billion containers will be returned annually, including more than one billion plastic water bottles.

Recyc-Quebec, a government corporation, will oversee the implementation of the new returnable container recovery system, but the companies that market the containers will have to present a deposit management plan within a year.

Quebec will aim to recover and recycle 75% of returnable containers by 2025 and 90% by 2030, with the government establishing targets and penalties if they’re not reached.

The announcement was applauded by environmental groups including Equiterre, which said the expansion of the system make sense for environmental, social and economic reasons.

“As we seek to move towards a circular economy, a deposit refund system helps us view used containers as resources rather than waste,” said executive director Colleen Thorpe. “By transforming perceptions and habits, we can help reintegrate these items into the manufacturing cycle by sorting at the source, which in turn makes these resources more valuable.”

Greenpeace Canada said beer bottle collection has shown to be beneficial and welcome the plan, but the group urged the Legault government to fight against single-use plastic and seek more ambitious measures like banning water bottles.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, which has repeatedly raised concerns about expanding the deposit system, said it believes curbside recycling already in place is the best for recovering single-use beverage containers, though it will participate in the design of the new system.

The Quebec Union of Municipalities applauded the measure but urged a reform of the entire recovery and recycling system in Quebec, with a focus on making producers responsible.

It also expressed support for the province as it navigates a waste-management crisis involving collection and sorting services affecting 26 municipalities.

Groupe RSC, a subsidiary of French firm TIRU, announced it would be pulling out of operations in four plants it operates across the province – two in the Montreal area, one in Chateauguay and another in Saguenay – “due to the collapse of the world market for recycled paper.”

The company has said it has encountered “great difficulties linked to the economic model of its sorting centres” with financial losses in recent years.

The Quebec government said this week the facilities will maintain operations in the short term until new operators can be found.

 

 


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Beverage companies work to get bottles recycled, not trashed

UnknownEvery year, an estimated 100 billion plastic bottles are produced in the U.S., the bulk of which come from three of America’s biggest beverage companies: Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Keurig Dr Pepper.

The problem? Only one-third of those bottles get recycled; the rest end up in the trash.

That bleak trend has persisted for more than a decade because of spotty collection, outdated processing facilities and other issues, according to the American Beverage Association.

Now, Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo and Keurig Dr Pepper are trying to change that by investing $100 million to improve recycling collection and processing. They also plan to come out with new packaging next year reminding consumers to recycle.

The American Beverage Association is co-ordinating the investment, which will be distributed through The Recycling Partnership, a Virginia-based non-profit that works with local governments to improve recycling rates, and Closed Loop Partners, a New York firm that invests in recycling facilities and new research. The World Wildlife Fund will track the companies’ progress.

Both The Recycling Partnership and Closed Loop Partners say the scale of the investment is unprecedented–and sorely needed. U.S. recycling is a hodge-podge, with 20,000 local governments deciding how best to provide the service. Only 53% of U.S. households have curbside recycling and 6% have no recycling options at all.

China’s decision last year to cut back drastically on the recycling it accepts from the U.S. also put a spotlight on the problem.

“The U.S. system is so desperate,” said Keefe Harrison, the CEO of The Recycling Partnership.

Katherine Lugar, president and CEO of the American Beverage Association, said that’s a source of frustration for both soda drinkers and corporations.

“Consumers in many cases like the convenience of our plastic bottles, but they are rightfully frustrated when they see a bottle on the beach or in a trash can,” Lugar said. “It’s clear that our recycling system needs big improvements, so consumers know their efforts are going to make a difference.”

Closed Loop will invest in things like robot sorters, which make recycling centres more efficient and profitable. Through matching grants, municipal funds and private investors, the fund says it can triple the beverage companies’ investment to around $400 million.

Right now, only around 6% of U.S. bottles are made from recycled plastic, according to The Recycling Partnership.

Coke has pledged that half its bottles will be made from recycled materials by 2030. Pepsi wants 33% of its beverage bottles to be made from recycled material by 2025; Keurig Dr Pepper wants them in 30% of its packaging by 2025.

Reaching those targets will be difficult. Wood Mackenzie, a consulting firm for the oil and gas industry, estimates plastic bottle collection rates would have to rise 38% by 2025 and 78% by 2030 to meet them.

Soda companies have made recycling promises before. In the early 1990s, Pepsi promised to phase out virgin plastic in its bottles by 1994. It never happened. In 2007, Coke invested $60 million in a bottle recycling plant. The plant closed in 2014.

The companies have also vehemently fought bottle deposit programs, which have increased recycling rates in the 10 states that have them. The programs require consumers to pay extra for drinks and get the deposit back when they return the bottles to the store.

Lugar said her association wants to help develop policies to get more recyclables back, but thinks current bottle laws burden the consumer.

Some environmental groups say the companies should move beyond plastic altogether and adopt new delivery systems, like machines that refill reusable containers.

“Putting the onus on people to just recycle more, rather than the companies reducing their throwaway plastic, is cowardly,” said Graham Forbes, the global plastic projects leader for Greenpeace USA. “If these companies were serious about addressing the plastic pollution crisis, they would stop making so much plastic and shift toward systems of reuse.”

The three beverage companies are looking at new ways to sell drinks. Coke is testing Dasani water refill stations on college campuses. Pepsi bought SodaStream last year so consumers can make fizzy drinks with home machines. Keurig Dr Pepper has partnered with LifeFuels, the maker of a smart water bottle.