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Canada’s recycling industry is on life-support. Here’s how to fix it

May 1, 2019

At the Merlin Plastics plant in Delta, B.C., beads of reflective, grey plastic bounce along a processing line. What was once a detergent bottle has been washed, ground down and reduced to pellets so that it can be sold to create new bottles. This is the future of recycling

Not because of what’s happening here — but because of who is doing it.

Anyone in B.C. who makes a product, sells a product or imports a product that’s collected in a blue bin has to pay to recycle its packaging. The province is the only jurisdiction in North America that is both funding and managing its entire recycling system — instead of leaving that responsibility to municipalities and their taxpayers.

The model is called “extended producer responsibility,” or EPR, and it’s regulated under a provincial law that came into force in B.C. in 2014.

“You chose the raw materials to use in your product or packaging … Now, we want you to take the responsibility that once the consumer’s done with that soft drink bottle or that potato chip bag, that you set up a system to take responsibility to pull that stuff back from consumers… So you might then take that material yourself and put it back into the next cycle of soft drink bottles or potato chip bags,” Valiante said.

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