Returns on rise

Confusion is giving way to compliance as people gain a better grasp of Alberta’s revamped drink container return system.

Cosmos bottle depot worker Candace Kowald shows some of the dairy containers now acceptable for refund.

Confusion is giving way to compliance as people gain a better grasp of Alberta’s revamped drink container return system.

As the law in Alberta now stands, drink containers of all types are subject to a refundable deposit.

That includes cartons for goat’s milk, soy milk, whipping cream and buttermilk, says John Bachinski, general manager of the Beverage Container Management Board.

Once caution: Dairy products packaged before June 1 were not included in the program and cannot be returned for a refund.

Most dairy containers, but not all, are clearly marked to indicate that they are refundable, said Bachinski. The reason for the difference is that there are some issues in the manufacturing process that made it difficult to mark the containers, he said.

It was necessary, especially during the transition period after June 1, to mark the jugs and cartons to prevent people from stockpiling old containers and then bringing them in to collect the refund when a deposit had not actually been paid, said Bachinski. Refunding those older containers would have cost the dairy industry millions of dollars, he said.

Aside from looking for the red expiry date or for “AB Deposit” under the pour spout, there are other ways to determine if a carton can go to the bottle depot, said Brent Samson, manager of the Cosmos 1 bottle depot.

If a deposit is noted on the grocery receipt, then that container can be returned for a refund, said Samson.

He and Bachinski both acknowledge that there was wide-ranging confusion after June 1, when dairy jugs, cartons and drinking boxes were first added to the list of returnable beverage containers.

Consumers and even some bottle depot staff were unsure of what containers were included and some were unaware that the red mark stamped on some products was not universal.

There have been other instances in which people have recycled containers rather than bring them in. They were unaware the containers were refundable.

And, in some cases, bottle depot staff have refused items that should have been accepted, said Samson.

Returns of all items are now up overall, because a trip to the bottle depot is worth much more than it would have been at this time last year.

Besides adding dairy products, the BCMB changed its price structure in November 2008, giving a 10-cent refund on all containers of one litre or less and 25 cents on larger containers.

Samson said he cannot reveal his actual numbers, but he has seen a significant rise in the average amount of money being paid to people bringing in their refundables.

Including dairy containers has also made returning bottles more viable than before for large institutions like hospitals, said Bachinski.

Compliance in Alberta has now reached 77 per cent on all returnables, he said. The BCMB hopes to bring that rate to 85 per cent.

Samson asked that people bringing their milk containers in remember to rinse them out and toss the lids. Otherwise, they can really, really stink.

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