Beverage Container Stewardship Program (Litter Act)
|Date Implemented||1970, current version implemented in 2004|
All ready-to-drink beverages except milk and milk substitutes.
Milk, milk substitutes, infant formula, meal replacements and dietary supplements to be included starting February 1, 2022. 
|Containers Covered||All container types|
|Amount of Deposit||10¢ for all beverage containers, regardless of size (starting Fall 2020) |
|Reclamation System||Return to retail or depots|
|Handling Fee||CAD$0.027 to CAD$0.1127 paid by Encorp Pacific (Canada) and Brewers Distributors Ltd. (BDL) to authorized depots and contracted retailers. Bottle depots independently negotiate HFs directly with the beer industry. HFs fluctuate depending on the cost to collect and process each type of container.|
Encorp Container Recycling Fee (CRF), pays for net cost of recycling a container:
CAD$0.00 to CAD$0.18 as of February 1, 2020. (Container Recycling Fees are calculated on an annual basis and based on net cost of collection and recycling of specific containers.)
|Unredeemed Deposits||Retained by producer/distributor/importer, to cover program management including collection, recycling, and consumer awareness.|
Encorp 2018 Return Rates 
Aluminum cans: 80.6%
BRCCC 2018 Return Rates 
Total Return Rate: 89.2%
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%.
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.
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) is the service provider for British Columbia Recycled Container Collection Council (BRCCC), which serves as the 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.
A portion of 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."
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 encroach on each other's territory.
Redemption centers must refund the beverage container by cash only where the customer makes that request. Refunds may be now made in other forms including store credits, to credit or debit cards or in another format agreeable to the customer and the entity refunding the deposit. Also, unstaffed facilities are no longer required to provide cash refunds which enables Encorp to provide automated returns where the deposit is refunded to a customer’s account.
Since May 19, 2014, the collection and recycling of all milk containers has been transferred to a program operated by Recycle BC. Effective February 1, 2022, used beverage containers for milk, milk substitutes, rice milk, soy milk, flavoured milk, infant formulas, meal replacements or dietary supplements will be included in the DRS operated by Encorp Pacific. They are currently collected as part of the province's multi-material residential recycling system (Multi Materials BC), which is funded by producers.
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. 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/.
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 containers.
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 sometimes 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.
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. Milk, milk substitutes, and meal replacements were included in the deposit-return system(announced in 2020), to be collected starting February 2022. Under the regulation, all beverage containers must be refillable or recyclable, and no containers recovered by the system can be landfilled or incinerated .
Encorp, the not-for-profit body responsible for administering the recycling program in BC, charges a “container 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.
In July 2020, Encorp Pacific launched a six-month pilot program at several depots that will allow customers to return all aluminum beverage containers without having to sort them. Currently, customers have to separate their alcohol and non-alcohol cans because the material is managed by two different agencies.
1. "BC amends recycling regulation changing product stewardship for packaging." Retail Council of Canada. 29 June 2020. CM Consulting Incorporated, May 25, 2017.
2. Recycling Regulation, B.C. Reg. 449/2004, ss. 8(2).
4. Source: Clarissa Morawski. "British Columbia." WHO PAYS WHAT: An Analysis of Beverage Container Recovery and Costs in Canada. 2010
6. Source: "BRCCC’s 2019 Annual Report to the Ministry (covers 2018 calendar year)." BC Brewers’ Recycled Container Collection Council (BRCCC), 2018.