August 27, 2014
The Ontario Zero Waste Coalition (OZWC) is calling on the Ontario government to mandate a province-wide deposit-refund system for used-beverage containers, as exists in most Canadian provinces.
The call for mandatory deposits arose from workshops at Ontario’s first Zero Waste Conference held at Lakehead University’s Orillia campus on Aug. 10 and 11, 2014. Participants rallied behind the idea of a single action the provincial government could take to shift Ontario onto a more sustainable footing.
“OZWC endorses requiring a deposit-refund on all beverage containers,”says Liz Benneian, founder of OZWC who was a speaker at the conference. She notes that Ontarians have seen great success with the existing deposit-refund system for used beer and alcohol containers, which are returned for recycling rates of 94 percent and 81 percent respectively, while the return rates of other kinds of containers (e.g., soft drinks and water bottles) through the Blue Box program has languished for years at only 40 percent.
Guy Crittenden, editor of industry magazine Solid Waste & Recycling, was at the event and supports the deposit-refund idea.
“While our magazine supports curbside recycling, we believe that used soft drink bottles and cans should be collected under deposit, as they are in other leading environmental provinces like British Columbia and Nova Scotia,” Crittenden says.
“It’s time to create an economic incentive for consumers to return these containers, either to stores or depots, since the municipal diversion rate from landfill flat-lined years ago,”Crittenden says, adding that the industry is externalizing its costs onto taxpayers and the environment in Ontario.
Emily Alfred, Waste Campaigner for the Toronto Environmental Alliance, also supports deposit-refund for beverage containers. ““Beverage containers are mostly recyclable, yet the majority of them are still ending up in landfill, says Alfred. “That’s a real waste.”
Benneian adds, the Zero Waste conference that brought representatives from many sectors together — from municipal leaders to manufacturers, from citizens’groups to the health care reps— to discuss how to limit waste and create a more sustainable system of resource management, was a valuable beginning. “Building on the momentum the conference generated, OZWC looks forward to working with all sectors, and the Province, to forge a Zero Waste future,” she says.