PEI`s new beverage container deposit system

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It's said that change is inevitable in everything, except vending machines.

Change has come to Prince Edward Island's long-standing ban on the sale of carbonated beverages sold in non-refillable containers. Fans of refilling -- the most environmentally sustainable beverage container system -- will be sad that this lone hold-out is becoming more like every other jurisdiction. However, they can take comfort in that PEI's Department of Environment, Energy and Forestry is implementing a deposit-refund program for all beverage containers (except dairy containers) sold at Island retailers.

'There has been a strong consumer demand over the years for beverages sold in a variety of types of container -- metal, plastic, glass or carton. This system allows those containers to be available while giving the consumer an incentive to bring the container back for recycling,' said Environment Minister George Webster in a government news release.

'This province already has Canada's best recycling system and great cooperation from Islanders in making sure recyclables are dealt with responsibly. That allows Prince Edward Island to handle a greater variety of containers without a negative environmental impact.'

With the introduction of the Beverage Container Act in the legislature, the government has lifted restrictions on the types of beverage containers sold in PEI. Grocers and beverage distributors have indicated they expect to have the new products widely available. (It's no secret that Islanders were buying soft drinks in cans and recyclable bottles on the mainland anyway.) Refillables are still allowed and it's expected that some refillables -- notably glass beer bottles -- will remain available over the long term, while others may be phased out. The decision lies with the bottlers and distributors.

Under the new system -a half-back system that came into effect May 3 -- consumers will pay a 10 cent deposit on each beverage container they purchase and receive a five cent refund when it's returned to one of ten licensed recycling depots across the province. For alcoholic beverage containers larger than 500 millilitres, there will be a 20 cent deposit and 10 cent refund. Government liquor and retail stores no longer accept returned beverage containers or pay refunds.

Two and a half cents from each container will be used to fund environmental work carried out by the environment ministry. The remaining 2.5 cents will pay for system administration. The government estimates that the average Islander will spend $1.50 a month on this system, after paying out $3.00 in deposits and getting back $1.50 in returns. Of the remaining money, 75 cents goes to system costs and 75 cents goes to an environment fund.

The system is modeled on existing deposit programs in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Harmonization is important to prevent crossRECYCLING border shipment of empty containers to get a refund when no deposit was paid. Tetra Pak containers are difficult to recycle and must currently be shipped to Korea for recycling. The cost of this deposit would be 25 cents per week for a child drinking a juice box each day, provided containers are returned for refund.

A number of private companies are under contract handle the containers. Encorp PEI will be system administrator, Label Construction and Sanitation will be the system operator and ten container recycling depots will be in charge of receiving and sorting returned containers.

The government estimates that its new system will process approximately 50 million recyclable containers and 18 million refillable containers each year.

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