The province of British Columbia in July attained the highest score nationally from Extended Producer Responsibility Canada (EPR) for measures making producers wholly responsible for recycling end-of-life product and packaging waste. EPR Canada ranked each jurisdiction by evaluating federal, provincial and territorial EPR policies and programs in place or pending as of the end of last year.
“B.C. is seriously committed to the principles of reducing the amount of waste we produce,” said Terry Lake, the province’s Minister of the Environment. “We’ve worked hard for years to create policies that put responsibility fully in the hands of producers and consumers and we assess our progress continually to take stock of how we are doing and what more we can do.”
The B.C. Recycling Regulation, a flexible, performance-based regulatory framework within which to operate, comes under the authority of the Environmental Management Act and shifts taxpayer funded responsibility for managing end-of-life products and packaging to producers and consumers.
Not-for-profit stewardship agencies, developed by industry to collect and recycle products at end-of-life, implement industry-developed and government-approved plans. British Columbians divert close to 20,000 metric tonnes of electronics, two million litres of hazardous household waste, 40,000 tonnes of scrap tires and over one billion beverage containers from landfills each year. The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from these programs is equivalent to removing more than 73,000 cars from B.C.’s roads annually.
The Stewardship Agencies of BC (SABC) emerged as a voluntary council for stewardship agencies and programs. Each regulated product’s manufacturer, distributor or brand owner develops a product stewardship plan and implements a program to collect and recycle their products through SABC.
“After more than 18 years in operation, we have demonstrated that the industry self-managed model meets or exceeds expectations of most stakeholders,” says Neil Hastie, president and CEO, Encorp (Pacific) Canada. He adds: “We recover 80 percent of all the beverage containers sold in B.C. and operate without any form of subsidy from any level of government.”
SABC members include: Encorp Pacific, Brewers Distributors, Electronic Products Recycling Association, Recycle My Cell, ElectroRecycle, LightRecycle, Switch The ‘Stat, Call2Recycle, BC Used Oil Association, Tire Stewardship BC, Product Care Association, Outdoor Power Equipment Institute of Canada and Post Consumer Pharmaceutical Stewardship Association.
Encorp Pacific, one of the largest stewardship agencies, was launched in 1994 to create a province-wide network of industry owned and operated beverage recycling depots; within four years 125 were established. The unique structure and flexibility of Encorp allows the agency to concentrate on managing collection and recycling programs while ensuring that stakeholder and consumer interests are addressed.
Today, Encorp has a network of 180 independently owned Return It depots, mobile collectors, and has contracted 33 partners in transportation and 17 in processing. The Electronic Products Recycling Association and the BC Dairy Council have contracted Encorp to manage their respective collection operations by utilizing Encorp’s existing Return It depots.
“Each year our network of owners invest in new locations and upgrades, all in keeping with our commitment to enhance the appeal and customer service for our citizens who are doing their part by returning containers for recycling,” Hastie says. “Encorp combines private-sector efficiencies with a high degree of public-sector transparency and accountability. This transparency provides the public and all interested parties with information about its mission, key objectives, operational and financial performance as well as consumer awareness and educational programs.”
A driving force behind product stewardship is growth. Soon SABC, government and consumers are about to do the next big thing. Governing boards of the 13 stewardship agencies operating in B.C. are anticipating the addition of packaging and printed paper to the Recycling Regulation, moving responsibility for recycling these items from municipalities to industry. Industry, municipalities and stakeholders will decide the type of program that will fit their communities, but one model may have municipalities acting as a service provider and continue collecting through curbside recycling programs.
B.C. stewardship agencies have demonstrated the benefits of merging public sector accountability with private sector know how. And while we welcome the kudos from EPR Canada, we hope that the scorecard motivates all jurisdictions to our shared aspiration of fewer new landfill sites and the reduction of energy needed to produce new products from raw materials.
Sandy Sigmund is vice president, Development & CMO, for Encorp Pacific (Canada). For more information about the SABC visit bcstewards.com.