New provincial rules to make companies pay for plastics and cardboard recycling, instead of municipalities, should ideally reduce utility bills for ratepayers, says a City of Red Deer official.
Discussions are still very “high level,” and no details of how this new program will work are yet known, but “it’s a big first step in the right direction,” said Janet Whitesell, the city’s waste management superintendent.
She noted the change-over wouldn’t likely take place until 2025-2026 — which means Alberta is the last province off the mark to introduce some producer responsibility for recycling costs.
“Every other province has some structure that gives producers some level of responsibility, so Alberta is a little late… but it’s really exciting that this type of regulation is finally happening,” said Whitesell.
Consumer affairs critics have long argued that since product prices are often set nationally and already include a slight increase to cover recycling costs, as is required in other provinces — Albertans were essentially paying for this twice: When buying the product as well as on their utility bills.
The new Alberta framework that shifts the cost of recycling to producers of single-use plastics, packaging and paper products, as well as hazardous materials, such as batteries and pesticides becomes regulation on Nov. 30.
Companies are tasked with figuring out how to make this happen by 2025 to 2026.
Whitesell said Red Deerians will still use their blue boxes and bins for recyclables, but the cost of collecting and recycling these materials will no longer fall on municipalities and residents but on producers.
However, the amended act gives the province legal ability to exempt certain companies, such as small businesses and charities so they don’t face an unmanageable regulatory burden. The new regulations will set targets and recovery requirements, ensuring that producer-run collection programs can meeting performance expectations.
Whitesell hopes that paying for recycling will motivate companies to re-examine their packaging methods so they can boost sustainability while reducing their recycling costs.
This change has been underway for some time. The Alberta government launched public consultations in 2021 to design a program to move financial responsibility for recycling onto the companies that produce these products.