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 ~
Other fees ~
Reclamation System Return to Beer Store only, LCBO does not take empties.
Unredeemed Deposits Retained by beer distributor/ bottler
Complementary Recycling Programs 97% of households and 60% of apartment buildings have access to curbside recycling.
Program Success Redemption rates 2012:[9]
  • Beer
    • 99.1% (99.8% in 2011) for refillable bottles; 99.5% (97% in 2011) for nonrefillable glass bottles;
    • 94% overall.
  • Other Alcohols
    • Glass: 85% (81% in 2011)
    • PET: 51% (48% in 2011)
    • Aseptic/Bag-in-box: 32% (23% in 2011)
    • Aluminum: 83% (80% in 2011)
    • Overall: 81% (77.5% in 2011)

Details

Ontario relies on a municipally funded curbside recycling system for most beverage containers and a deposit-return system for alcoholic beverage containers. There has been a major 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 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 72% of the total beer containers sold in Ontario and are reused 12-15 times.6 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 97.5% 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 nonrefillable bottles have higher fees.7

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

Waste Diversion Act2

Collection rates

OVERALL RESIDENTIAL: 65.3% (via blue box);3
BEVERAGE CONTAINERS: 40%[9]

Handling Fees

Ontario's Waste Diversion Act requires all companies that introduce packaging and printed paper into Ontario’s consumer marketplace to share in paying 50% of the funding of Ontario's municipal Blue Box programs.4

Ontario's municipal Blue Box programs (and other stewardship programs in the province) are managed by Waste Diversion Ontario, 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.

Ontario's Waste Diversion Act now requires all 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 waste diversion programs.5 These companies are referred to as "stewards." To help them meet this obligation at the lowest possible cost, Stewardship Ontario was founded. As shown in the figure below, Stewardship Ontario collects the funds required of beverage packagers and retailers, 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.

According to Stewardship Ontario, Ontario has an overall province-wide waste-diversion goal of 60%, and the Blue Box program has a separate recovery rate goal of 60%, which was exceeded in 2007 when recovery reached 64%.8

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: "Diversion Performance." Waste Diversion Ontario 2010 Annual Report p.7 http://www.wdo.ca/files/domain4116/WDO%202010%20Annual%20Report.pdf

4. See S.O. 2002, c. 6; specially subsection 25(2).

5. http://www.stewardshipontario.ca

6. Source: R3 Consulting Group and Clarissa Morawski. "Section 7. Ontario" Section 7-2. Evaluating End-of-Life Beverage Container Management Systems for California. 2009.

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

8. Source: Stewardship Ontario. "Ontario residents exceed recycling targets second consecutive year." 2008 Annual Report: Creating Sustainable Communities through Responsible Environmental Stewardship: Ontario’s Blue Box and Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste Programs. Pg. 9.

9. Source: The Beer Store, "Cheers to 85 Years of Environmental Excellence: Responsible Stewardship 2011-2012"

Updated February 20, 2014

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