For decades, local governments have been stuck with the tasks of collecting and managing the packaging and paper products that businesses supply to consumers. But there’s a major sea change underway as businesses take more responsibility for their materials – and B.C. is leading the charge.
The Plastics Challenge
“As consumers, governments, NGOs and businesses accelerate their actions to address the current plastics pollution crisis, experts are increasingly recognizing a harmonized producer responsibility system as a necessary component for building a circular economy for plastics …
Recognizing the global effort required to effectively reduce plastic waste, we continue to collaborate with international leaders and brand owners through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s New Plastics Economy initiative. In 2018, together with Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance Inc., Recycle BC began participating in the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment to eliminate plastic pollution at its source.”
– John D. Coyne, VP, External Affairs & Sustainability at Unilever Canada and Chair of the Board, Recycle BC.
A Path to Circular Economy for Plastics in B.C.
Today, Recycle BC is the only program in North America that has fully transferred the cost and management of recycling packaging and paper products to producers. And because Recycle BC manages the collection, transportation and processing of recyclable materials province-wide, this has led to economies of scale that create new opportunities.
A harmonized full producer responsibility system, in which producers are responsible for both the operation and financing of the program, is seen as a critical enabler of a Circular Economy for plastics because it helps provide producers with access to post-consumer material that they can then reuse to create new products and packaging.
Since Recycle BC’s program covers virtually all residential plastic packaging collected in the province, along with a wide range of other packaging materials, it can provide a steady stream of high-quality post-consumer material to producers and recycling companies.
Whether you live in the City of Vancouver or on a ranch in the Cariboo, the same materials can go into your residential recycling service. This consistency is a boon for consumers and recycling companies alike because it eliminates potential confusion and reduces contamination, two of the biggest challenges to recycling.
Why Producer Responsibility Works
Given the robust producer responsibility system, it’s not surprising that B.C. has such a strong local recycling industry, where players like Metro Vancouver-based Merlin Plastics allow for the local processing of virtually all the plastics collected in the residential recycling program.
In addition to reduced shipping, this means B.C. doesn’t have to rely on foreign markets for its plastics – an advantage during the ongoing upheaval in the global recycling industry.
In a Circular Economy, producers have incentives to design their products for easier recycling. This creates a closed loop where the value of material supplied to consumers is not lost but kept in productive cycles of use and reuse.
|Total reported by stewards||235,655 tonnes|
|Total recovered||183,983 tonnes (78.1%)|
|Total Plastics||42% recovered|
|Rigid Plastics||54% recovered|
|Flexible Plastics||19% recovered|
Recycle BC – 5 Years Young
Recycle BC is contributing to the thinking and action necessary to build a Circular Economy that keeps plastics off B.C.’s shorelines and out of the natural areas of which B.C. residents are so proud.
– John D. Coyne
This year, Recycle BC marks five successful years of responsibility for providing residential recycling services to residents across the province. In 2019, it surpassed one million tonnes of collected material since it began operating.
“We are in a unique place now as the growing social consciousness and concern about plastics and packaging means more and more people want to do their part. Recycle BC continues to evolve every day, and although we are already leading the pack in many respects, we are constantly looking for ways to improve and to meet modern challenges, one step at a time.”
– David Lefebvre, Director of Public Affairs for Recycle BC
Find out more about the program at www.recyclebc.ca/
John D. Coyne will participate in the CIRCULAR CANADA: Setting a Collective, Canadian Agenda for Action and Collaboration, on Day 2 of #ZWC19.
2019 Zero Waste Conference:
Mobilizing for Success in the Circular Economy
October 30 – 31, 2019
Vancouver Convention Centre (999 Canada Place)
This post is sponsored by Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance Inc.