Province launches consultations to reduce plastic waste, recycling costs

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The Alberta government is launching consultations with municipalities and industry leaders to develop a program aimed at reducing plastic waste and recycling costs.

It plans to have a framework in place by the fall, including any necessary legislative changes.

The extended producer responsibility (EPR) program will “reduce volume in our landfills and diversify the economy,” according to the province. The approach will entail shifting the cost and management of recycling from municipalities and Alberta residents to companies which directly produce and consume those goods.

It will encourage companies to produce less waste and packaging by coming up with innovative ways to recycle more materials.

“This approach will help transition Alberta to a more circular economy by assuring that materials such as plastics are re-used, recycled and re-manufactured,” said Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon, speaking Wednesday morning at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta spring convention.

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“As many of you have told me repeatedly, this is good for both the environment and the economy. It will also help meet market demand for recycled plastic that can be used to manufacture new products.”

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  3. As Alberta seeks to become a recycling hub, experts say it needs to hold plastics producers accountable

Nixon said the province needs “significant input” from municipal leaders as it develops its framework, which will also target printed paper and household hazardous waste.

Consultations will run until the end of April and will include sector-specific engagement sessions. It will also gather input from Albertans through an online public survey.

“We want to hear from municipalities, from industry, from experts in other communities on the best design for our approach,” Nixon said.

“While we all agree the EPR program is good for Alberta, there are numerous design elements that need practical advice from municipal leaders and others. Many jurisdictions have already made this shift and Alberta will learn from their experiences.”

Alberta’s recycling industry supports around 7,500 jobs and contributes about $132 million per year to the provincial economy.

The government anticipates its EPR program will increase the provincial GDP share to more than $148 million, also helping to cut emissions by an estimated 72,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent annually, or the equivalent of taking 120,300 passenger cars off the road each year.

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Last fall, Canada’s Environment Minister Jonathan Wilkinson announced a list of six single-use plastic items that will be banned because they are both harmful to the environment and difficult to recycle.

The move means plastic straws, stir sticks, cutlery, six-pack rings, carry-out bags and Styrofoam plates and takeout containers won’t be allowed to be sold in Canada once the ban takes effect.

Industry groups criticized the federal government’s plan to ban those items by labelling them “toxic,” calling it defamatory and harmful to the companies that produce them.

Nixon said Wednesday that Alberta will take a different direction than Ottawa.

“Our counterparts in Ottawa’s focus on this issue is on banning plastics from the market altogether,” he said.

“I would say that’s problematic for several different products, but particularly what we’ve seen during COVID-19 is we need plastics within a modern society. Our focus as a province continues to be — it will continue to be — on making it clear we have a waste problem, not a product problem.”

shudes@postmedia.com
Twitter: @SammyHudes

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