Ontario launches wine and liquor bottle return system

Diverting 80 million alcohol containers a year from landfills

Toronto (6 Feb. 2007) - As of this week Ontario drinkers will pay 10 cents or 20 cents more for each container of alcohol when they visit a Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) outlet or Beer Store and get the same amount refunded when they bring back their returns.

All returns must go to Beer Stores, which already have a long-established system for handling bottle returns. LCBO outlets have never had a bottle return system.

The aim of the new program is to keep as many as 80 million bottles and containers a year out of landfills, where many eventually end up despite the province's blue box recycling program.

Even if many householders continue to dispose of wine and liquor bottles in blue boxes, the province expects enterprising scavengers to take up a lot of the slack.

Not as green as it seems, says OPSEU

However, the program has been criticized by the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) for being far less green than the government wants consumers to think.

OPSEU, which represents LCBO workers, says the real environmental benefits will be marginal because it guarantees that no liquor bottles will be used more than once.

Instead, all bottles will be smashed and melted down, in some cases using nuclear energy, to make new bottles, which will again be used just once before being smashed and melted down again, OPSEU says.

“The only way to create a system that encourages re-use of liquor bottles is through close co-operation between the retailer – the LCBO – and the wineries and distilleries,” OPSEU president Leah Casselman says.

"The LCBO has a close business relationship and logistical links with its suppliers, and as the largest buyer of alcohol in the world, it also has considerable influence with them. In contrast, the Beer Store has no connection of any kind with Ontario wine and liquor producers.”

Here are the basics of the new program:

Which containers require a deposit?

All types - glass bottles, plastic bottles, Tetra Pak and bag-in-box containers, plus aluminum and steel cans of more than a litre.

What does a deposit cost?

Ten cents on cans of one litre or less and other containers of 630 mL or less; 20 cents on cans of more than one litre and other containers of more than 630 mL. (Deposits are already charged on smaller beer bottles and cans.)

What about rinsing containers and removing labels?

Yes, the province would like you to do that.

Where do I take the empties?

To Beer Store outlets. LCBO outlets won't accept them.

What if I continue to put them in my blue box?

It's not as environmental, and even worse if you throw them straight into the trash, where they go automatically to the landfill. If you put them in the blue box neighbourhood scavengers may pick them up and return them for you. NUPGE

More information:• Ontario wants consumers to return liquor bottles to beer storesLCBO's deposit return program

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