The Ashcroft Return-It depot — more commonly known as the bottle depot — is one of several B.C. Return-It facilities taking part in a six-month pilot project that will enable consumers to return both alcohol and non-alcohol aluminum beverage containers for recycling without having to sort them.
The single-stream system will also feature one deposit amount (10 cents per can), regardless of whether they are for alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages.
“The system is complex, with lots of different containers, and we’re trying to reduce the complexity in the system,” says Allen Langdon, President and CEO of Return-It. “Going to the one stream is easier for staff and customers, and makes it much simpler, so people know how much they’re getting back.”
He explains that Return-It has not previously had a contract with the beer industry to manage beer cans. In addition to having to sort their cans, in some cases consumers returning alcoholic beverage containers to Return-It depots rather than liquor stores did not receive the full deposit back.
“Now all aluminum containers are in one stream, which is a huge improvement for both operators and consumers. Since both alcohol and non-alcohol containers have the same refund amount, there’s no reason to separate them. The system has been used in Alberta and Saskatchewan for years, and it will be much simpler for Ashcroft consumers.”
With only 40 to 45 per cent of Return-It depots having an agreement with the beer industry, it meant that consumers were only getting five to eight cents, instead of 10 cents, back on each return, resulting in a loss of $3 to $3.5 million per year. With liquor stores not accepting returns due to COVID-19, Langdon says they saw a huge increase in complaints starting in March.
“We tried to work out something, and impressed on the beer companies that they had to make changes. When they didn’t, we took the bull by the horns and did it ourselves, so that customers coming to our depots never had to have their returns discounted.”
Langdon hopes that when the pilot project has run its course later this year, the Province will approve a plan to make the changes permanent. “The feedback we’ve received from operators is that they love it, because they don’t have to sort anymore. The reaction from customers has also been great.”
In a bid to make the system more efficient, last year the deposit on all containers under one litre was set at 10 cents per container; prior to that, some had been five cents and some were 10 cents. Langdon says that in order to streamline the overall service even more, this fall will see the introduction of a unified 10-cent deposit on all beverage containers, regardless of size.
Another major change coming to returning beverage containers will occur in Feb. 2022. “The Province has passed an amendment to the recycling regulations,” says Langdon. “In Feb. 2022 milk containers are coming in [for return for deposit], and we’re committed to taking them on as well.”
Return-It’s new Stewardship Plan is now up for consultation, and British Columbians are invited to read it and share their feedback at www.returnit.ca/beverageplan2020. For more information about locations participating in the six-month pilot program, and the program itself, go to www.return-it.ca/nosortingcans.