In Alberta, the cost of recycling waste will soon fall on manufacturers
Alberta municipalities collect 197,600 tonnes of recyclable packaging and paper products annually.
The province has begun a regulatory process that will transfer recycling costs from municipalities to manufacturers who produce products for recycling such as plastic packaging. The new extended producer responsibility regulations will come into force on November 30.
After a transition period, which will allow producers to prepare for these provisions, the regulations will be imposed from October 2026. The provincial government announced this plan last month.
Alberta has been slow to set the table, but we are very happy to finally have a provincial legal framework to implement the principle of extended producer responsibility, says Christina Seidel, executive director of the Recycling Council of the Alberta.
For decades, Alberta municipalities that have launched a recycling program have had to siphon off tax revenues to fund it. But since these revenues differ from one municipality to another, access to recycling is not equitable in the province.
With the new regulations, costs will be imposed directly on manufacturers, importers and retailers.
The regulations, however, provide exemptions for charities and small businesses with sales below a certain threshold, which the province has yet to determine.
Current recycling programs cost municipalities about $107 million a year, according to a report by the Alberta Recycling Management Authority.
These changes will standardize the list of recyclables in Alberta, since recycling depots across the province do not all have the same list.
We try to make recycling easier for Albertans. I think it's essential, says Cathy Heron, president of the Alberta Association of Municipalities and mayor of St. Albert.
“It will be easier and more intelligible.
—Christina Seidel, Executive Director of the Recycling Council of Alberta
The Alberta Recycling Management Authority, the entity that will manage the recycling program defined by the new regulations, will be able to impose fees and impose fines. It will also be able to collect data and publish audit reports.
The new regulations also impose recycling targets per product and per year between 2027 and 2033.
< p class="e-p">By 2027, 80% of paper products used in Alberta homes must be recyclable, and 95% must be by 2033. For rigid plastic, the target is 50% by 2027 , and 65% in 2033.
Christina Seidel believes that as the annual increase in targets will lead the industry to better practices, this approach is positive.
However, this regulation does not please to everybody. News Media Canada, which represents print media, is calling on the provincial government to exempt newspapers, as Ontario did this year.
Newspapers are not packaging,” says Paul Deegan, the organization's president and CEO. He adds that the costs of recycling programs will add to the financial difficulties the press is already experiencing.
Manufacturers have until April 1, 2024 to submit a recycling plan for their products. From April 2025, they will have to collect recycling from homes where municipalities already collect it, and by October 2026, they will collect recycling free of charge from individuals who do not yet have access to recycling services.
With information from Michelle Bellefontaine