Consumers getting short-changed on deposit refunds at some recycling locations
VANCOUVER -- There's a bit of a battle brewing between beer makers and consumers over recycling in British Columbia. Consumers have complained they've been getting short-changed when they return their empties at some recycling depots.
You should get 10 cents for every beer can and bottle, but only select recycling locations, licensed by the brewers, give a full refund. Other depots that accept empties don't get paid to recycle them, so they've been keeping some of the deposit money and giving back as little as five cents per item at some locations.
Janette Kryzanowski recently recycled some beer cans at the Kensington Return-It depot in Vancouver and was not happy to be getting only five cents back.
"If you’re going to charge a deposit, then that means you get that money back. It shouldn’t vary on location,” she said.
Return-It, which handles most of the recycling for beverage containers in the province, has launched a pilot program at some of its locations to address the problem.
"We’re tired of dealing with the complaints so we’re going to run this pilot to show that this is the way it should be done," said Allen Langdon, president and CEO of Return-It. "We’ve had a growing number of complaints over the past few months about consumers not getting their full refund back when they go to the depot."
Doug Abrahams is a regular at the Brentwood Return-It location in Burnaby, and certainly sees the value of getting the full deposit back.
"This is all going towards my daughter's hockey team," he told CTV News Vancouver.
In addition to absorbing the cost of recycling beer bottles and alcohol cans, Return-It will no longer make consumers separate cans from bottles. You can now mix them up in the bags you drop off at some select locations.
This will come as a great relief to those who need the extra cash and can’t afford to give up money on the cans and bottles that they collect.
"Having all the aluminum containers in one stream actually makes it way easier for the binners,” Langdon said.
The pilot program will only last six months, but Return-It hopes that it will result in permanent changes.
The company is now pitching the provincial government to take over recycling from the breweries to make it simpler and less confusing for consumers.
CTV News reached out to the Brewers Distributors Ltd., which works with the BC Brewers’ Recycled Container Collection Council, for comment, but as of this publication has not received a response.
B.C.’s Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said in an emailed statement that the choice is up to producers.
"The Ministry regulates the producers, who ultimately choose which stewardship agency they wish to execute their regulatory obligations and in the manner they prefer e.g. charge and eco fee or not, one return system over another, etc.," the statement says.
While Return-It will drop the pilot program to give full refunds and accept mixed bottles and cans in six months, other changes being made will not go away.
In an effort to reduce line-ups and touch points during COVID-19, Return-It is introducing reverse vending machines. You just pop in your empties, they're automatically sorted and you get paid on the spot.
Abrahams hopes all the changes will stay in place, including full refunds no matter where you go.
"It's way, way better," he said.
Last fall, Return-It also introduced a uniform deposit on all beverage containers of 10 cents, except on containers over one litre. Beginning this fall, the 10 cent deposit will be on all containers, regardless of the size.