Talking plastics: UCP wants to put producers in charge of recycling costs

By Catherine Griwkowsky March 18, 2021

Environment Minister Jason Nixon launched consultations on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a system where manufacturers pay for the cost of recycling their products.

That could include consumers paying extra fees when they purchase certain products, per the consultation paper, which may shake out like the new electronics recycling fee that rolled out in Ontario this year.

Nixon said EPR is being considered at the request of municipalities — which currently cover recycling costs — as well as industry and environmentalists alike. He spoke of the UCP’s plan for a circular economy, which includes boosting the production of plastics made from petrochemicals and looking toward advanced chemical recycling opportunities.

With plastics recycling experiencing increased global demand, the government has said its goal is to position Alberta as the “Western North America centre of excellence for plastics diversion and recycling” by 2030.

However, Nixon warned Ottawa’s incoming ban on single-use plastics could get in the way. “We have a waste problem, not a product problem,” Nixon said.

The recycling sector currently employs about 7,500 people in Alberta and contributes $132 million to provincial GDP. EPR could increase that to $148 million while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 75,000 tonnes, according to Nixon.

Paul McLaughlin, RMA president, said his members are working with the ministry and other stakeholders to ”design a made-in-Alberta solution to plastic waste.”

New EPR rules would apply to standard blue box materials as well as hazardous household waste. Consultations are open until April 30.