Quebec to hike deposits on drink containers

Quebec is doubling the deposit on aluminum, glass and plastic soft drink and beer cans from 5 cents to 10 cents, as of Jan. 2013

Soft drink bottlers upset they weren't consulted

Quebec is doubling the deposit on aluminum, glass and plastic soft drink and beer cans from 5 cents to 10 cents, as of Jan. 2013.

It's the first increase since the province adopted its bottle deposit legislation in 1984.

The new 10-cent fee will apply to soft drink and energy drink containers, as well as small beer cans and bottles.  Beer cans and bottles larger than 450 mls are already subject to a 20-cent deposit.

The increase will allow the government to free up more money to support retailers which collect the returned containers, the government agency Recyc-Québec said in a news release.

Right now, retailers get a two-cent handling fee, paid from unredeemed deposits.

Quebec's Association of Independent Retailers is hoping the government will also double the retailers' share, to four cents per container.

'Green, clean Quebec' the goal, minister says

"By updating the deposit system, we will improve the recovery rate of containers, and pursue efforts for a greener, cleaner and more sustainable Quebec," Minister for Sustainable Development, Environment and Parks Pierre Arcand said in the statement.

"Countries and progressive states such as Sweden, Australia, California and New York have already gone in this direction," Arcand added.

Deposit hike overdue, Équiterre says

Environmental organizations support the move, calling it long overdue.

"In other provinces, they are even increasing the cost of deposit to 20 cents for certain containers, so the fact that we're only at 10 cents — it's not placing Quebec at the forefront," said cofounder and deputy executive-director of Équiterre Steven Guilbeault.

However, the Retail Council of Canada said the deposit hike will only drive up costs for retailers, without doing much to help the environment.

"You don't always bring back the bottles, because you have the blue box at home," said Quebec vice-president Nathalie St-Pierre.  "It's a lot more convenient and effective for you to put your bottles, your soft drinks or whatever in the blue box, as opposed to bringing it back to the store."

The industry group representing soft drink bottlers — l'Association des embourteilleurs de boissons gazeuses du Québec — is also upset and surprised by news of the increase.

"This unexpected announcement is not in the best interest of consumers, the industry nor the environment, and runs counter to the government policy on waste management unveiled last year," president Marc Coulombe said in a news release.

The association said nearly 74 per cent of beverage containers is now being recovered, higher than the government's target of 70 per cent.

It wants a consultation process, and it is calling on the government to look at options other than a deposit increase.

$20M in deposits foregone each year

According to Boissons Gazeuses Environnement, a non-profit organization created by the Quebec soft drink industry, in 2010 the province recovered 708 million aluminum containers, 215 million plastic bottles and 5 million glass bottles for a total of  approximately 22,290 metric tons — or the equivalent of 54 Boeing 747s that were not directed to landfill sites.

However, the same group observes that 400 million deposit containers are still being thrown away in garbage in Quebec each year, and Quebecers forego $20 million in unredeemed deposits annually.