Ontario

Name of Program Bag It Back, or Ontario Deposit Return Program
Date implemented February 5, 2007
Beverages covered All alcoholic beverages
Containers covered All alcoholic beverage containers
Amount of deposit Glass bottles, plastic bottles (PET), Tetra Pak containers, bag-in-box:
Up to 630mL: 10¢
Over 630 mL: 20¢
Aluminum and steel containers
up to 1L: 10¢
Over 1L: 20¢
Handling fees proprietary
Other fees ~
Reclamation System Return to Beer Store only, LCBO does not take empties.
Unredeemed Deposits Retained by beer distributor/ bottler
Complementary Recycling Programs 95% of households  have access to curbside and depot recycling.
Program Success  Recovery rates  2016  (Jan 1, 2016-December 31, 2016):[8]
  • Beer
    •  96.8% ( 97.5% in 2015) for refillable bottles;
    •  89.0% ( 91.6% in 2015) for nonrefillable glass bottles;
    •  95.4% overall ( 96.5% in 2015)
  • Other Alcohols
    • Glass: 82% (82% in 2015)
    • PET: 53% (53% in 2015)
    • Aseptic/Bag-in-box: 25% (26% in 2015)
    • Aluminum: 79% (82% in 2015)
Overall: 78.4% ( 78.5% in 2015)

Details

Ontario relies on a joint municipally and industry funded curbside recycling system for all  residential beverage containers.  Beverage alcohol containers (e.g. for wine, beer and spirits) can also be returned for reuse/recycling through  a deposit-return system.

There has been an ongoing battle over deposits in Ontario, with soft drink producers and grocery retailing companies resisting deposits. The Beer Store, the primary distribution channel for beer in the province, has operated a deposit-return system on its containers since 1927,1 but on February 5, 2007, Ontario government began collecting and refunding deposits on all beverage alcohol containers, not just beer. All container deposits are fully refundable.

Alcoholic Beverage System

The Beer Store

Beer is sold out of two major channels, the Beer Store, run by the Brewers, and the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) run by the government, which also sells other alcoholic beverages and imported beers. In addition, in some rural areas alcohol is sold through LCBO Combination Stores and privately owned Agency Stores. Combination stores are owned by the LCBO but have a more even split between Wine/Spirits and Beer on their shelves. Agency stores are licensed to distribute alcohol in remote communities where a full Beer Store is not justified. Domestic and Imported beer is sold through all locations, however not all imported beer is returnable for a refund.

Refillable containers comprise  85% of the total beer containers sold in Ontario and are reused 15 times.5 All costs, such as handling and transportation, are internalized through the Beer Store system. The Beer Store augments its recovery infrastructure through the use of authorized empty bottle dealers to collect used containers in rural markets serviced by LCBO Combination and Agency stores.

The beer industry has taken producer responsibility one step further in Ontario with its "100% packaging take-back commitment." The industry has committed to continuing efforts to recover, through its retail channels, all of its packaging wastes: corrugate, boxboard, paper bags, plastic bags, plastic six pack rings and even bottle caps. The industry claims an audited result of  88.1% total recovery of its whole suite of packaging materials, a figure it intends to improve upon. 

The Beer Store requires its brewers to pay it a handling fee that is not publicly available. Industry-standard refillable bottles have the lowest fee, while non-standard and non-refillable bottles have higher fees.6

Other alcoholic beverages

In 2007, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario instituted its Deposit Return program, also known as "Bag It Back," and began collecting 10- and 20-cent deposits on all alcoholic beverage containers, including those sold through avenues other than The Beer Store. Regardless of where they were purchased, these containers must be returned to The Beer Store for the refund.

Graphic displaying the flow of containers and money in the Ontario Deposit-Return system
Image source: R3 Consulting Group and Clarissa Morawski. "Section 7. Ontario" Figure 1. Evaluating End-of-Life Beverage Container Management Systems for California. 2009.

Non-Alcoholic System

Name of program

Blue Box Program

Collection rates

BLUE BOX PROGRAM: 63.5%; 3

Handling Fees

Under the Blue Box Program, companies that introduce packaging and printed paper into Ontario’s consumer marketplace share in paying 50% of the funding of Ontario's municipal Blue Box programs.

Ontario's municipal Blue Box programs (and other producer responsibility programs in the province) are overseen by the Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority, a nonprofit organization.

There used to be a refundable deposit system in Ontario when beverages were all sold in refillable glass. In the mid- to late-70s, the soft drink industry began a strategy of consolidating its bottling production to reduce costs. The industry also began to increase the number of cans and PET plastic containers in the market.  In the early 80s refillable glass had dropped steadily as a percentage of beverage sales and efforts were made by government to preserve refillables. The soft drink industry was able to negotiate a reduction in what was a formal refillable quota from 75% to 30% by agreeing to contribute $20 million over five years to expand the Blue Box system.

Under Ontario's Blue Box Program  companies that introduce packaging and printed paper into Ontario’s consumer marketplace ("Stewards") to share in paying 50% of the funding of Ontario's municipal Blue Box programs. These companies are referred to as "stewards."

To help them meet this obligation at the lowest possible cost, Stewardship Ontario, the Industry Funding Organization that operates the Blue Box Program (as well as the Orange Drop Program for hazardous or special waste) was founded. As shown in the figure below, Stewardship Ontario collects the funds required of Blue Box stewards (brand owners and/or first importers) , and distributes them to municipalities.

Flowchart showing how Ontario's Blue Box program works and how it is funded.
Image source: R3 Consulting Group and Clarissa Morawski. "Section 8. Ontario" Figure 8-1. Evaluating End-of-Life Beverage Container Management Systems for California. 2009.

The Blue Box program has a recovery rate goal of 60% by 2008, which was exceeded in 2006  when recovery rate reached 63.5%.7

On November 30, 2016, the Ontario Government proclaimed the Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 (RRCEA) and the Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 (WDTA), both of which were enacted by the Waste-Free Ontario Act, 2016

The Resource Recovery and Circular Economy Act, 2016 establishes an outcomes-based producer responsibility regime that holds producers accountable for recovering resources and reducing waste associated with their products and packaging. Producers and anyone else involved with reducing, reusing and recycling waste will need to register, report, meet regulated requirements and promote and encourage public participation in recycling activities.

The Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016 provides for the transition of the four existing waste diversion programs (Blue Box, Used Tires, Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment, Municipal Hazardous or Special Waste) and it facilitates the wind-up of Industry Funding Organizations operating those programs.  It replaces the Waste Diversion Act, 2002, grants new powers to the new Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority to oversee and enforce the transition of these programs, and permits an increase in funding to municipalities for the operation of the Blue Box Waste Diversion Program from 50%.

Ontario’s Ministry of the Environment and Climate change has also released Ontario’s  “Strategy for a Waste-Free Ontario: Building the Circular Economy” to outline a vision for a circular economy, goals for zero waste and zero greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions from the waste sector, and actions to move towards the vision.

Footnotes

1. Source: R3 Consulting Group and Clarissa Morawski. "Section 7. Ontario" Section 7-1. Evaluating End-of-Life Beverage Container Management Systems for California. 2009.

2. S.O. 2002, c. 6. See especially subsection 25(2).

3.Source: Resource Productivity and Recovery Authority 2016 Annual Report,

4.See Waste Diversion Transition Act, 2016,  Subsection  11(2).

5.Source: The Beer Store Responsible Stewardship 2016.

6. Source: R3 Consulting Group and Clarissa Morawski. "Section 7. Ontario" Section 7-6. Evaluating End-of-Life Beverage Container Management Systems for California. 2009.

7.Sources: ”Ontario’s 60% Waste Diversion Goal – A Discussion Paper”, Ministry of the Environment, June 10, 2004; and Stewardship Ontario 2007 Annual Report, p. iii.

8.Source: The Beer Store Responsible Stewardship 2016 Updated  August 9, 2017

Updated September 14, 2017

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