Recycling fee program for non-alcoholic drink containers put on pause as Ontario explores options | CBC News

An initiative that would have seen producers of non-alcoholic beverages pay recycling fees in Ontario has been paused, with the organization set to run it citing the province’s recent move to explore a different system for recovering cans and bottles.

The Canadian Beverage Container Recycling Association (CBCRA) said Friday that there is “no viability” to continue with the Recycle Everywhere program that had been set to take effect at the end of July after several earlier delays.

Recycle Everywhere was intended to be one element of the province’s overhauled Blue Box program, which in part shifts responsibility for covering the costs of recycling from taxpayers to companies that produce the waste.

A statement from CBCRA’s Executive Director Ken Friesen said there is no point in implementing the system “while the Ontario government adjusts the parameters for beverage container producer responsibility and explores a deposit return system for the recovery of non-alcoholic beverage containers.”

In a June letter obtained by CBC Toronto, Minister of Environment David Piccini invited industry stakeholders to join a working group to develop a deposit return system for the province, similar to the one that already exists for alcoholic beverage containers through The Beer Store. 

“Such a system would enable consumers to receive a refund for returning used beverage containers, promoting recycling, reducing litter, and encouraging sustainable practices,” Piccini wrote. 

The letter did not include a timeline for the implementation of such a system, but it came in the wake of controversy over the pending Recycle Everywhere program.

The CBCRA, which includes such major industry players as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Refresco, had intended to impose fees of one to three cents on each bottle, can, carton or drink box sold in Ontario. But it wasn’t clear if consumers would ultimately see those fees tacked on at the checkout or buried within the price of drinks, since producers had the option to offload the cost onto retailers.

The plan drew criticism from retail associations, among them the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, which didn’t want their members to bear the brunt of the new fees.

At one point, Piccini had threatened to block producers from dumping the fees onto retailers and in turn consumers. But there was nothing in existing legislation to give authority to do so. In the end, Piccini only urged producers not to pass the costs on to the public.

CBC Toronto has reached out to Piccini’s office for comment on the CBCRA’s decision to halt its program.

The CBCRA had estimated it would have collected some $80 million per year from the fees, which would be used to fund 250,000 recycling bins in locations across Ontario as well as awareness campaigns to boost recycling. 

It has been running a similar program since 2011 in Manitoba, where 72 per cent of all beverage containers are now recovered, up from 42 per cent when the program began.

The provincial government has mandated that the industry recover 80 per cent of all beverage containers by 2030. A consultant’s report found just 46 per cent of non-alcoholic drink containers were diverted from landfills in Ontario in 2019. 

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