Reduce greenhouse gas emissions, create jobs, get monetary savings on municipal taxes, keep recycling similar to before… these are the advantages of adopting prolonged producers responsibility (EPR) regulations for paper and plastic packaging, says Calgary’s Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong.
“Everybody wins. No person loses,” Demong told Global News. “Some people get extra money.”
A recent city committee meeting forwarded a suggestion to council to push for packaging EPR across the province.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines EPR as “an environmental policy approach wherein a producer’s responsibility for a product is prolonged to the post-consumer stage of its life cycle.”
In keeping with a study done for the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), the cities of Edmonton and Calgary and the Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance, a provincewide EPR could save $107 million a 12 months in recycling costs and create about 219 jobs.
Recycling could go up by 13 per cent, and it will avoid greenhouse gas emissions comparable to 15,000 cars per 12 months.
City of Calgary data shows that 330,000 households are a part of the blue cart recycling program. In 2019, the town collected 52,000 tonnes of recyclables within the blue carts and community recycling depots.
Alberta has EPR regulations for items like beverage containers, but is the one province west of Quebec to not have any EPR program for paper and plastic packaging, as an alternative leaving it as much as municipalities.
The fee of recycling paper and plastic packaging is borne by municipalities across Alberta, who in turn fund that through taxpayers. An EPR shifts those costs onto the paper and plastic manufacturers.
Demong wants that $107 million passed along to homeowners and ratepayers across the province, and said it will equate to an eight per cent savings on their municipal taxes.
“This isn’t chump change,” the Ward 14 councillor said.
“This is critical dollars that we might be rebating back to our constituents and customers.”
“And for the lifetime of me, I don’t understand why the Alberta government wouldn’t be doing this.”
Thursday, the AUMA passed a resolution stating that municipalities would pass along any savings from a province-wide EPR to taxpayers.
Demong characterised conversations about EPR with Environment Minister Jason Nixon as “favourable,” however the provincial government has yet to announce an EPR framework for packaging.
“Increasing the lifecycle of plastic products creates jobs and attracts investment all while reducing environmental impacts,” Jess Sinclair, press secretary for Nixon, said in a press release.
“As well as, we’re currently exploring ways to avoid wasting ratepayers and municipalities money in the case of recycling plastics, hazardous household waste and packaging and paper products.”
The plastics industry is essentially in favour of Alberta adopting an EPR for plastic packaging and that industry pay for all related recycling costs, in response to the Chemisty Industry Association of Canada (CIAC), whose members include plastics manufacturers.
“If it’s a 100 per cent paid for and managed prolonged producer responsibility system, then producers are incented to place a product into the market that’s recyclable,” Greg Moffatt, CIAC senior director of business and economics, told Global News. “They manage the recovery of that product.”
“Advanced recycling is exclusive in that what we’re really talking about is taking that plastic and, through chemical processes, taking it back to its constructing blocks so it might be reused in one other plastic item and proceed its way through the economy.”
That strategy of initial plastic manufacturing, use by a consumer, breaking it down into its chemical components and manufacturing into one other product is often called a circular economy, and is a goal for the CIAC and its members.
“The last item we should always be doing with it’s landfilling it or not directly, shape or form, allowing for it to enter into the environment.”
Demong hopes that Alberta gets some manner of an EPR framework in place soon.
“If, at the tip of the day, an EPR program were to roll out in Alberta and is barely offering 50 per cent coverage, I’ll take that every single day of the week,” he said. “That’s 50 per cent greater than what I’ve got now.
“And it’s a step in the fitting direction.”