New Brunswick

Producers to pay for plastic and paper waste

Companies that produce packaging and printed paper (PPP) waste in New Brunswick are going to have to start paying for its collection and recycling or disposal.

Province moves to boost recycling, reduce waste from packaging

Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr says making packaging and printed paper producers pay for their waste is the right thing to do. (Edwin Hunter/CBC)

Companies that produce packaging and printed paper waste in New Brunswick are going to have to start paying for its collection and recycling or disposal.

"It's the right thing to do," said Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr.

"We see the devastating effects of climate change … and we know that people of all ages are looking to their governments, to their leaders, to all of us to make change happen."

Carr expects a new extended producer responsibility, or EPR, program will boost the portion of packaging and printed paper that's diverted from landfills to 60 per cent.

Currently recycling programs only divert about 30 per cent of that waste.

Margot Cragg, executive director of the Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick, said this is exactly what her group has been asking for. (Edwin Hunter/CBC)

Frank Leblanc of Recycle NB said the new program will help get rid of things such as clamshell plastic packages, which are very difficult to recycle, if not impossible.

"Under the EPR model," said LeBlanc, "industry is responsible for that recycling. They have to collect it and they have to recycle it."

"So if it's costly to do so, there's an incentive for industry to then start getting rid of that packaging and find something that's easier to recycle and that's not as costly."

It will take six to 12 months to set the regulations, said Carr.

Industry players and stakeholders will be consulted to work out the details.

Industries affected by the program will mostly include large national producers such as Proctor and Gamble, Unilever, Walmart, Loblaws and Sobeys, said Erika Jutras, a spokesperson for the Environment Department.

A man in a suit sits in front of a microphone with flags behind him.
Frank Leblanc, CEO of Recycle NB, said the new program will boost recycling and reduce the amount of plastic waste. (Edwin Hunter/CBC)

Large companies already have experience with the program in other provinces, Jutras said in an email.

During a recent presentation to Fredericton city council, Leblanc said the "manufacturers or producers or owners of the packaging that come into the province in New Brunswick would pay for the program."

They would create and fund an organization and collect fees from everyone who brings goods into the province and sells goods in the province.

There are different criteria that could be used to determine which waste producers fall under the program, said Carr, such as a gross revenue of $1 million or $2 million, or the number of storefronts the company has.

Single storefront businesses would likely be exempt, he said, because the burden of red tape would be "way too much" for them.

But "big industry" is "more than happy to be involved," he said.

LeBlanc said he also heard "overwhelming support" for the idea at a two-day workshop that wrapped up Thursday.

It included about 100 people from all over the province, representing industry, municipalities, First Nations and regional service commissions.

They see it as a way to extend the life of landfills, reduce emissions and remove a lot of plastic and paper from the waste stream.

Environment and Local Government Minister Jeff Carr, centre, announces a new extended producer responsibility program is being developed for packaging and printed paper. (Jennifer Sweet/CBC)

The Union of the Municipalities of New Brunswick is pleased by the announcement.

It passed a resolution calling for a program like this back in 2016, said executive director Margot Cragg.

She expects it will save municipalities money on waste collection and disposal.

Once the program is in place, New Brunswickers will be able to recycle more products from their homes, commercial buildings and schools.

EPR programs already exist in the province for tires, paint, oil and glycol products and electronics.

The new one won't directly deal with single-use plastic bags. But Carr said he expects their use will fall off, citing plans by retailers such as NB Liquor and Sobeys to stop using them.

"Plastic bags are just the low-hanging fruit," he said. "We wanted to go further."

"If we see at some point in the not-too-distant future that plastic bags are not being reduced by manufacturers, we will take that on and bring in specific legislation. 

Carr said that would be "a couple years down the road — once we see how this works."

New Brunswick is the first Atlantic province to announce this type of program, but they are already running in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

It's also not clear exactly what materials will be included in the program.

In British Columbia, for example, the extended producer responsibility program includes packaging that contains a product at the point of sale, secondary packaging for grouped products, tertiary packaging for transportation, and service packaging such as carry-out bags, disposable plates and cups and prescription bottles.

It also includes aluminum pie plates, foil, beverage cups and re-sealable plastic bags.

Carr said from what has been seen so far, it does not boost prices of consumer products.