British Columbia

Name of Program Industry Product Stewardship:  Beverage Container Product Category
Date Implemented 1970, current version implemented in 2004
Beverages Covered All ready-to-drink beverages except milk & milk substitutes1
Containers Covered All container types
Deposits Non-Alcohol:
  • Up to & Including 1 Litre: 5¢
  • Over 1 L: 20 ¢
Alcohol:
  • Up to & Including 1 Litre: 10¢
  • Over 1 L: 20 ¢
Handling Fees Not regulated by government. Paid by producer agencies, Encorp Pacific (Canada) or Brewers Distributors Ltd. The handling fee varies by container type and retail store or depot agreement.
Other Fees / Taxes Not regulated by government. Determined by producers and their agencies.
Reclamation System Return to retail or depots
Program Success In 2010 over 1.5 billion beverage containers were recycled and diverted from BC landfills. 2010 redemption rates:3
Encorp (Alcoholic and non-alcoholic): 80%
Brewers Distributors Ltd (Refillable beer bottles and domestic beer cans): 94%
Unredeemed Deposits Retained by producers, or the producer agency, to cover program management including collection, recycling, and consumer awareness.

Details

The British Columbia Recycling Regulation (2004) provides a single results-based framework for Extended Producer Responsibility with an emphasis on environmental outcomes and program performance. One of the most significant outcomes is a recovery goal of 75%[5]

The Regulation includes core requirements that apply to all producers and stewardship programs with specific product category provisions listed in schedules.  All ready-to-drink beverages sold in the province are required to be offered for sale in recyclable or refillable containers. All are subject to a deposit; with the exception of milk and milk substitutes.

The deposit-refund system is operated by the beverage producers and there are no statutory fees or charges remitted to government under the system. To carry out deposit-refund obligations within a common province-wide system, beverage producers have formed two stewardship agencies. Brewers Distributor Ltd. (BDL) serves as a stewardship agency for most domestic beer and some cider brands. Encorp Pacific (Canada) serves as the industry’s container stewardship agency for all other beverage types including wine, coolers, spirits, some import beer and all non-alcoholic beverages.

The Recycling Regulation prescribes deposit-refund requirements for sellers of containers. All retailers selling beverage containers are to collect beverage container deposits at the point of sale and pay refunds for redeemed containers of the same type and brand that the retailer sells in an amount equal to the deposit collected. Retailers are entitled under the regulation to limit the total number of returns to 24 containers per person per day. Further, retailers are not required to accept any container that is contaminated, rusty, dirty, was purchased outside of the province or cannot be reasonably identified as a deposit bearing beverage container.

Restaurants and pubs are charged deposits by the appropriate stewardship agency and are responsible for the redemption of containers, but are exempt from charging the consumer the deposit if the beverage is consumed on the premises.

Stewardship program funding is the responsibility of the producer. Both Encorp Pacific and Brewers Distributor Ltd. pay various handling fees to authorized depots and contracted retailers.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

British Columbia's deposit law is managed by Encorp Pacific, an industry consortium comprising the soft drink and grocery industries, with a program called the Return-It program. A multi-stakeholder advisory group (the Container Management Board) oversees the system. This board has no decision-making powers but advises the Minister on issues relating to the system. The Minister holds the power over decisions on the nature and evolution of the system.

Beverage containers can be returned either retailers or special Return-It depots regulated by Encorp. Retailers must, by law, take back what they sell, up to 24 containers per person per day. Encorp also suggests, "Alternatively, you may want to hold onto your containers so that they are ready when your community fundraising groups come knocking." While not subject to a deposit, milk containers can still be returned at depots for recycling.

Encorp provides the equipment and expertise for collecting containers, paying out deposits, processing containers and marketing the scrap materials. Depot operators register with Encorp and are kept a sufficient distance apart so they do not cannibalize each other's territory.

Annual recovery rates including specific container types

Financing the program

Encorp pays a handling fee to authorized Return-It™ Depots handling the returned beverage containers and preparing them for shipment to processors. The handling fee varies by container type and depot agreement.

Any unredeemed deposits are kept by Encorp to cover collection & recycling costs. After the unredeemed deposits have been depleted, a Container Recycling Fee (CRF) is put into place. The CRF is the fee Encorp charges to cover the net cost of recycling a beverage container type after any unredeemed deposits and commodity revenues for that container type have been used. The CRF varies for each beverage container category.  As a not-for-profit, product stewardship agency, Encorp Pacific only charges the net cost for recovering and recycling beverage containers.

For more information about the CRF, go to http://www.return-it.ca/beverage/products/.

Alcoholic Beverages

Wine and spirits are sold largely through government liquor stores as controlled by the British Columbia Liquor Commission (BCLC). The bottle depots handling non-alcoholic beverage returns also redeem wine and spirit deposits. 

Beer System

In BC, beer containers are not exempt from beverage container legislation. The system is still return-to-retail, operating as an independent system. Beer, wine and spirits are sold through government operated Liquor Commission stores and a limited number of Cold Beer and Wine stores, mostly attached to hotels. Refillable bottles are recovered for full deposit at the Liquor stores and the Cold Beer and Wine stores. Bottles that are returned to the Return-It depots are discounted by the depot operator who then returns the bottles to the brewers. 

  • Deposit: $1.20 per dozen 
  • Handling Fees: 5 cents/doz. to Liquor Commission and retailers. 12 cents/doz. to bottle wholesalers plus a 10 cents/doz. sorting fee. 
  • Freight: Brewers pick up empties at their own cost. 
  • Unredeemed Deposits: Retained by Brewers.

Annual recovery rates including specific container types

 

History

British Columbia's beverage container recovery system, enacted in 1970, is the oldest legislated deposit-return system in North America. On October 1, 1998, BC's Beverage Container Stewardship Program Regulation (now known as Recycling Regulation,4 see especially Schedule 1) went into effect to address changes in beverage container packaging, particularly the growth of 'new age' beverages. 

The regulation expanded the previous deposit-return system to include all ready-to-drink beverages except milk, milk substitutes and meal replacements.  Under the regulation, all beverage containers must be refillable and no containers recovered by the system can be landfilled or incinerated2.

Encorp, the not-for-profit body responsible for administering the recycling program in BC charges a “recycling fee” affixed to some products ( plastic, glass, some drinking boxes, and poly cups) in order to operate. The fee was previously included in the purchase price, but now is shown separately to demonstrate to consumers the price of recycling.

Footnotes

1. While milk and milk substitutes are not covered by a legislated deposit, they are regulated under the "packaging and printed paper" category of the Recycling Regulation, enacted May 2011.

2. Recycling Regulation, B.C. Reg. 449/2004, ss. 8(2).

3. Source: Kristi MacMillan, British Columbia Ministry of EnvironmentEnvironmental Management Analyst. e-mail communication. August 9, 2011

4. Source: Beverage Container Product Category: Regulatory History. British Columbia Ministry of Environment. http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/recycling/bev/history.htm. Accessed November 6, 2008.

5. Source: Clarissa Morawski. "British Columbia." WHO PAYS WHAT: An Analysis of Beverage Container Recovery and Costs in Canada. 2010

Updated December 18, 2011

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