Jade Janzen of Lives with Less Plastic is applauding the Alberta government for launching a formal consultation to design a made-in-Alberta solution to help reduce plastic, packaging, and hazardous household waste.

This week, Environment and Parks minister Jason Nixon announced the province is seeking ways to better manage this waste through a circular economy approach. It incorporates an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program that aims to reduce landfill volumes while diversifying our economy.

Under this approach, the cost and management of recycling shifts from municipalities and municipal taxpayers to those directly producing and consuming goods, encouraging companies to produce less waste and packaging and come up with innovative ways to recycle more materials.

Janzen calls it a good first step.

"This way, the company that produces it is responsible for it after the consumer is done with it, so it places the waste problem on the company. They are creating it, and they have to deal with it."

"They won't want to spend so much money on it, so they're going to change the way they manufacture their products."

She believes the change is crucial to order to reduce worldwide waste.

"The worldwide recycling rate is nine per cent, so we have all this garbage being produced, and what do we do it with? We don't have the means to depose of it.

"We shouldn't stop there, but it's a good step in the right direction."

The government is seeking input on:

  • shifting recycling and disposal costs to manufacturers;
  • strategy design of the program, materials to be included in the program, including blue box recycling materials and household hazardous waste;
  • potential fees at point of purchase; and
  • barriers, challenges, and opportunities.

Similar approaches have been adopted in other jurisdictions in Canada.

EPR doesn't always mean extra costs for consumers. Industry funds the programs and decides whether or not to charge consumers.

In other jurisdictions, there have been no additional consumer fees for packaging materials and Alberta consumers may already benefit from EPR programs because product pricing is done nationally.

Currently, Albertans send 1,034 kilograms per person of waste to landfills annually. Packaging and printed paper make up 15 to 20 per cent of waste.

The government believes this represents a lost opportunity to keep material of value in the economy and out of landfills. Currently, Alberta’s recycling activities support a total of 7,500 jobs while the sector contributes about $132 million a year to provincial gross domestic product (GDP). The government believes the shift will increase that GDP by another $148 million.

It also believes the change will 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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