Have you ever wondered what happens to those beverage containers after you drop them off at an Alberta Bottle Depot?
The Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC) is re-introducing itself in a campaign in response to upcoming changes to the province’s recycling legislation.
The organization is embarking on this awareness campaign to step out from behind the scenes and ensure consumers understand the important role it plays in keeping Alberta beautiful.
“We could not be more excited to be sharing our story with Albertans,” says Guy West, president and CEO of ABCRC.
First established in 1995, when the Canadian government mandated that beverage manufacturers must appoint an outside agency to recover waste, ABCRC has made a large impact on recycling in the province ever since.
ABCRC diverted over two billion beverage containers from Albertan landfills last year, and plans on having similar success this year.
Stepping out from behind the scenes
However, with potential changes coming to the province, such as the Extended Producer Responsibility Model (EPR), the organization feels the need to shine a light on the work it continues to do.
The EPR model is a policy that places the responsibility for ensuring proper disposal of products on the producers of products instead of recycling corporations.
“(It) does not impact beverage containers at this point, but as far as the blue box program [is concerned], the responsibility is going to be transferred to the manufactures,” West says.
“Those who sell the products into the province [will] have to ensure that the packaging is recovered and recycled.”
The pressure is on
With this change coming to Alberta, ABCRC and other beverage recycling corporations are feeling the pressure to stand out.
“We’re trying to say ‘hey, [recycling corporations] have been doing this a very long time, they have taken responsibility for ensuring containers are kept out of the landfill,’” West adds.
The concern is that ABCRC and other corporations will not be able to use bottle depots to keep beverage containers out of the landfill once specific brands are required to do their own recycling through the EPR model.
“We work closely with the bottle depots to increase the number of containers diverted from the landfill [and] provide municipal and not-for-profits with funding to establish collection infrastructure.”
The blue bin impact
ABCRC supplies blue bins to municipalities and not-for-profits across Alberta for public use in parks and other public areas. Each one is a reflection of the impact ABCRC has on the province.
“Recycling is important because it contributes to a circular economy…[and] it provides employment,” West says. “Beverage containers are one of the most recycled products in Alberta.”
When beverage containers are recycled into residential blue bins, or bins provided around the city, each container goes through a specific process, which contributes to the province’s economic benefit and environmental preservation.
“We collect them and bring them to our plant either in Calgary or St. Albert where the glass is crushed and all other products are [sorted] by material type, and then we sell those into the recycling market,” West explains.
A use for everything
Every container that is recycled is reused and put back into the market through retailers. For instance, glass that is recycled is ground up into powder to be used for fiberglass insulation, West says.
“Aluminum cans are continuously recycled back into aluminum cans,” West adds. “Basically, once you’ve taken an aluminum can to a bottle depot, within eight weeks it is back as an aluminum can on some store shelf in North America.”
While the focus on returning products onto shelves and benefiting the circular economy is of utmost importance to ABCRC, so is its environmental footprint.
“ABCRC takes its role with stewardship seriously…[for instance], we use a lot of backhaul carriers,” West says.
By using backhaul carriers, ABCRC is able to maximize the efficiency of truck routes to reduce their ecological footprint.
Education is key
In order to promote and sustain recycling habits within Alberta, education within schools and throughout the community is important.
“Education plays a big role,” West says. “We need to inform consumers on what can be recycled and what can be returned to a bottle depot to maximize our recovery rate.”
While ABCRC contributes largely to waste reduction and diverting beverage containers from Albertan landfills, it is also up to individuals to do their part.
“Consumers always have the personal choice as to what they want to do and we believe most of them want to do the right thing,” West says.
“If you’re out and about and there isn’t a recycle bin, can you hang on to it and take it back to your vehicle? Don’t take the easy way out… take the time and do the right thing.”
ABCRC is the largest deposit program in Canada and plans to maintain its 2021 record of 2.1 billion beverage containers diverted from landfills.
“I think a lot of the other [beverage manufacturers] have learned from us and we’ve learned from them as well, but being one of the oldest, I think we’ve led the way,” West says.
“We’re always striving to improve what we did yesterday, [and] we should be able to do better today and better tomorrow.”
To learn more about ABCRC, visit its website.
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