Collaborative study makes a strong case for EPR in Alberta

A study released today shows a compelling vision for extended producer responsibility (EPR) for residential packaging and paper products (PPP) with a made-in-Alberta solution. Over the past nine months, the Recycling Council of Alberta has participated with the Alberta Collaborative Extended Producer Responsibility (ACES) Group, including municipal and producer representatives, to provide guidance and oversight on the report, the Extended Producer Responsibility for Residential Packaging and Paper Products: Alberta Collaborative Extended Producer Responsibility Study.

The study shows that with EPR Albertans will see cost savings, new jobs, better access to recycling opportunities, and better environmental outcomes. Producers will be empowered to design packaging and paper products that are efficient to collect and manage the costs and systems to recycle them.

The RCA has advocated for EPR as an improvement from the current system with many benefits associated in shifting the costs and operational responsibilities for managing recycling systems and finding markets from local governments to producers. EPR is one type of policy approach that can facilitate Alberta’s transition to a circular economy – where waste and pollution are designed out of the system, materials and products are used as long as possible and are recirculated into the economy through recycling, refurbishing, or repurposing, and natural systems are regenerated. More on the RCA’s position on EPR can be found on our website.

For the full announcement visit: https://auma.ca/news/news-release-new-study-makes-strong-case-packaging-and-paper-extended-producer-responsibility-alberta. For the full report visit: https://recycle.ab.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/ACES-Summary-Report-Final-For-release-March-10-2020.pdf

An announcement released today included the following details:

EDMONTON, AB (March 10, 2020) – A new study outlining a compelling vision for extended producer responsibility (EPR) for residential packaging and paper products (PPP) shows that a made-in-Alberta solution would bring substantial benefits to Albertans.

The Extended Producer Responsibility for Residential Packaging and Paper Products: Alberta Collaborative Extended Producer Responsibility Study was commissioned by Alberta municipalities and producer representatives, which both believe that EPR for residential PPP is the answer for Alberta.

“EPR for PPP is already at work for and benefiting more than 80 per cent of Canadians, and that’s because it works, it empowers companies to do what they do best, and it saves municipalities and their ratepayers millions of dollars in recycling collection fees every year,” explains Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA) Vice President, Peter Demong.

The study’s proposed made-in-Alberta vision for EPR for residential PPP would see producers that distribute packaging and paper products in Alberta manage both the financial and operational obligations of collecting their products and finding markets to recycle them, relieving municipalities of their current obligations to do both.

If Alberta were to adopt this vision, the study results indicate that it would:

  • Reduce the recycling collection services costs that municipalities charge their residents each year by up to $105 million; this is Albertans’ money and it can be provided as a cost savings to municipal residents or reinvested in other municipal services
  • Add $16 million to the Alberta economy every year
  • Gain approximately 220 new jobs in Alberta’s recycling industry
  • Recycle an additional 21,000 tonnes of PPP recycling each year
  • Reduce CO2 emissions by 72,000 tonnes each year – the equivalent of removing 15,000 cars from the road annually
  • Increase recycling opportunities for rural Alberta and people who live in multi-dwelling residences
  • Make recycling more convenient for Albertans by collecting the same materials province-wide

Based on the results in other jurisdictions in Canada and elsewhere, it would also motivate producers to design packaging and paper products that are more efficient to collect and recycle and therefore encourage greater innovation and investment in infrastructure to see their materials recycled into valuable new commodities.

“Every year that Alberta foregoes EPR for PPP is a missed opportunity to deliver Albertans and Alberta municipalities much-needed financial relief together with the associated economic and environmental gains,” shares John Coyne, Executive Chair of Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance. “The five provinces benefiting from some form of EPR for PPP received a combined $385 million in funding from producers in 2019. This is a substantial opportunity for Albertans which will significantly improve their recycling experience”.

In addition to presenting the many benefits of made-in-Alberta EPR for PPP, the study also considers potential risks and opportunities to overcome them. For example, it notes that small businesses below a certain revenue threshold would be exempt from sharing in the costs of the recycling program and that municipalities may choose to continue to collect residential PPP through service agreements with producers.

About the Alberta Collaborative Extended Producer Responsibility Study

In 2019, funding partners, the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association (AUMA), Canadian Stewardship Services Alliance (CSSA), City of Edmonton, and City of Calgary, commissioned Eunomia Research & Consulting, a globally-recognized environmental consulting firm, to outline a vision for extended producer responsibility (EPR) for packaging and paper products (PPP) in Alberta and an understanding of the impacts of transitioning to an EPR future and how to benefit from or manage them.

With growing interest in EPR across Alberta, the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA), Recycling Council of Alberta (RCA), City of St. Albert, and Town of Whitecourt joined the group working on the study as project partners and more than 35 municipalities have formally expressed their support EPR for PPP in Alberta. The Government of Alberta participated in the study development as an observer.

Why transition to an EPR future for PPP in Alberta

EPR is one type of policy approach that can facilitate Alberta’s transition to a circular economy – where materials and products are used as long as possible and are recirculated into the economy through recycling, refurbishing, or repurposing.

In Canada, five provinces representing more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population have said yes to EPR for PPP:

  • British Columbia
  • Saskatchewan
  • Manitoba
  • Ontario
  • Quebec

New Brunswick is the first eastern province to announce plans to make producers responsible for a residential PPP recycling program.

Albertans contribute more PPP for recycling per capita than people in any other province in Canada and, accordingly, stand to benefit the most from EPR.

The role of the Government of Alberta

One of the key elements of EPR is that it assigns responsibility to producers – companies that distribute PPP in Alberta – to collect and recycle their products. For this to happen, the Government of Alberta has to make regulatory changes that obligate producers to play this role. There are also other regulatory changes that can help Albertans realize the full benefits of EPR, such as ensuring that EPR for PPP doesn’t create an unnecessary burden on small businesses or remove the right of municipalities to offer their citizens recycling collection services in an EPR system.