An initiative that would have seen non-alcoholic beverage producers pay recycling fees in Ontario has been halted, with the organization set to execute 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 on Friday that there is “no feasibility” to continue the Recycle Everywhere program that had been scheduled for the end of July after several previous delays.
Recycle Everywhere was meant to be an element of the province’s revised Blue Box program, which in part shifts responsibility for covering recycling costs from taxpayers to the companies that produce the waste.
A statement from CBCRA executive director Ken Friesen said there was no point in implementing the system “while the Ontario government adjusts the parameters for producer liability for beverage containers and explores a deposit return system for the recovery of non-alcoholic beverage containers.”
In a June letter obtained by CBC Toronto, Environment Minister David Piccini invited industry stakeholders to join a working group to develop a deposit return system for the province, similar to the one already in place for spirits containers through The Beer Store.
“Such a system would allow consumers to be reimbursed for returning used beverage containers, promote recycling, reduce litter, and encourage 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 the controversy over the pending Recycle Everywhere program.
The CBCRA, which includes major industry players such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Refresco, intended to impose fees of one to three cents for each bottle, can, carton or case of beverage sold in Ontario. But it was unclear whether consumers would ultimately see those fees tacked on at checkout or buried in the price of drinks, as producers had the option of offloading the cost to retailers.
The plan drew criticism from retail associations, including the Canadian Federation of Independent Grocers, which did not want its members to bear the brunt of the new fees.
At one point, Piccini had threatened to stop producers from dumping the fees on retailers and, in turn, on consumers. But there was nothing in the existing legislation authorizing to do so. In the end, Piccini only urged the producers not to pass the costs on to the public.
CBC Toronto has contacted Piccini’s office for comment on the CBCRA’s decision to stop his show.
The CBCRA had estimated that it would have collected about $80 million per year from the fees, which would be used to finance 250,000 recycling bins at locations across Ontario, as well as awareness campaigns to encourage recycling.
It has been running a similar program since 2011 in Manitoba, where 72 percent of all beverage containers are now taken back, up from 42 percent when the program began.
The provincial government has mandated that the industry take back 80 percent of all beverage packaging by 2030. A consultant’s report found that only 46 percent of non-alcoholic beverage containers diverted from landfills in Ontario in 2019.