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New study finds introduction of deposit on non-alcoholic beverages in Ontario will increase recycling and save millions

The report provides an analysis of an enhanced recycling system that would deliver on the ambition of Ontario'sResource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, passed in 2016, to shift the responsibility of recycling from taxpayers to producers.
The report provides an analysis of an enhanced recycling system that would deliver on the ambition of Ontario'sResource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, passed in 2016, to shift the responsibility of recycling from taxpayers to producers.

A newly released report, Better Together: How a Deposit Return System will Complement Ontario's Blue Box Program and Enhance the Circular Economy, has found that a 15-cent returnable deposit on non-alcoholic beverage containers in the province would result in over 90% of non-alcoholic beverage containers being collected for recycling. The report was commissioned by circular economy not-for-profit Reloop, and authored by international environmental consultancy Eunomia Research & Consulting. According to the report, the deposit program would not only divert waste from landfill but also reduce beverage container-related litter by around 80%.

The report provides an analysis of an enhanced recycling system that would deliver on the ambition of Ontario's Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, passed in 2016, to shift the responsibility of recycling from taxpayers to producers. The proposed system for Ontario would work alongside the existing Blue Box program to increase recycling rates across the province.

The study estimates that introducing a deposit system for non-alcoholic beverage containers would cost $34 millionannually, resulting in a cost of less than a penny ($0.0091) per container returned. Overall, however, the system would generate savings of $12 million, provided that the DRS was combined with an optimized Blue Box program.

Operating an optimized Blue Box program alongside a convenient deposit program for non-alcoholic beverages would reduce the overall cost per tonne of material recycled from $314 to $269 and push up Ontario's packaging recycling rate to around 74% from just under 65% today.

A recent report from the Ministry of Environment, Conservation and Parks, Reducing Litter and Waste in our Communities (March 2019), included DRS as a potential solution to reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfill across the province. DRSs have been proven to reduce roadside litter, increase recycling and increase the supply of recycled material for use in future products. Ontario has been running a successful deposit program for alcoholic beverages through The Beer Store for decades. The proposed system for non-alcoholic beverage containers would supplement this system.

Recent developments internationally have seen a push for higher recycling rates, with the European Union setting the goal of 90% collection for recycling of plastic beverage containers under their new Single Use Plastics Directive. This commitment to addressing plastic pollution was echoed by the Canadian Prime Minister who announced on June 10, a commitment to addressing harmful single use plastics through introduction of bans and collection targets by 2021.

Clarissa Morawski, Managing Director of Reloop, said: "for over a decade Ontario's container packaging rates have stagnated with a collection rate below 60%, and under 50% when you consider losses which occur after collection. Clearly the existing system needs a boost and DRS is a proven solution, with many global examples of efficiency and highly popular with consumers. This is likely why many European countries which also have comprehensive household recycling are adding DRS to the mix of their resource collection strategies."

Sarah Edwards, head of Eunomia's New York office and one of the report authors, said: "the deposit program for non-alcoholic beverage containers has been designed to complement the current Blue Box and deposit program for alcoholic beverages. It is based on producers taking a lead on implementing a program that will be convenient for consumers and deliver high recycling rates at least cost."

Vito Buonsante, Plastics Program Manager of environmental not-for-profit Environmental Defence ( said:

"Deposit return programs work. Every year in Ontario more than 1.5 billion plastic bottles end up in landfills or the environment because we don't have an effective system in place for capturing them. This is unacceptable. This report clearly shows that the best and cheapest way to improve the province's lagging recycling rate is by introducing a deposit return program for plastic bottles. It's no coincidence that return rates on wine and liquor bottles increased by about 20 per cent after they were added to The Beer Store's deposit program. The same is achievable for plastic bottles."

Chelsea Rochman and Stephanie Borrelle from the Plastic Pollutions Emissions Working Group at the University of Toronto, said:

"Examples from around the world show that effectively run deposit refund schemes (DRS) increase recovery of plastic materials significantly. DRSs simultaneously keep plastics out of the environment and drive up the value of recovered plastic material, thus generating capital that can be used to fund collection and recycling infrastructure that is desperately needed to manage the volume of plastic waste that is generated every year. Ontario has a goal to reduce waste by 50% per person by 2040 - this equates to approximately 100kg of plastic waste - or 7500 plastic water bottles. 

To help achieve Ontario's reduction goal, a suite of strategies are needed and DRS is an effective strategy to help keep millions of plastic bottles out of landfill, exported offshore (where the majority does not get recycled), and out of the environment. DRSs not only contribute to the recovery of plastic materials for recycling, but also generate important data that is needed to evaluate where plastic waste is being diverted, and if reductions are being achieved. For the Plastic Pollution Emissions Working Group, such data are crucial for our work, which aims to evaluate the effectiveness of mitigation strategies for reducing plastic pollution."

The report, 'Better Together: How a Deposit Return System will Complement Ontario's Blue Box Program and Enhance the Circular Economy', will be available to download for free on Reloop and Eunomia's websites on Thursday June 13, 2019.

Key figures

  • The proposed system is based on a 15-cent deposit for non-alcoholic beverage containers, which is expected to result in collection of over 90% of eligible containers.
  • This report shows that adding a deposit return system (DRS) for non-alcoholic beverage containers to complement an optimized Blue Box program in Ontario, would recycle an additional 118,000 tonnes of materials every year, and save over $12 million overall.
  • The DRS would cost $34 million annually, with each container returned costing less than a penny ($0.0091 per container returned and $0.0082 per container sold in Ontario) making it one of the most cost-efficient deposit return systems across Canada.
  • Operating an optimized Blue Box program alongside a convenient deposit program for non-alcoholic beverages would reduce the overall cost per tonne of material recycled from $314 to $269 per tonne and push up Ontario'spackaging recycling rate to around 74%. This excludes material collected through Ontario's existing Deposit Return Program that already covers alcoholic beverages.
  • Ontario is one of only two provinces without a deposit on non-alcoholic beverages
  • The proposed system will provide over 2,800 return points making it one of the most convenient DRS of any program in Canada.
  • Adding a deposit return system to complement Ontario's Blue Box recycling program would:
    • Generate 1,500 more direct, indirect and induced jobs in Ontario
    • Reduce CO2 GHG emissions by nearly 50,000 tonnes per year (equivalent to about 90,000 people taking a one-way flight from Toronto to Vancouver)
    • Reduce beverage container litter by around 80%, contributing to addressing the 10,000 tonnes of plastic waste that pollutes the Great Lakes every year.
  • The report includes a thorough proposal for a Deposit Return System that delivers on existing commitments from the Ontario government to shift the responsibility of recycling from taxpayers to producers (through the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act of 2016).

Eunomia's work on DRS

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