Ontario considers deposit-return for liquor and wine bottles | National Union of Public and General Employees

Ontario considers deposit-return for liquor and wine bottles

Liquor Control Board of Ontario sells 600 million alcohol containers a year


Toronto (10 September 2006) - The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), which sells 600 million alcohol containers a year, is finally ready to consider adopting a deposit-return system for wine and liquor bottles.

Brewers Retail, the privately-operated beer distribution system in Ontario, pays a 10-cent deposit. The return rate is estimated at 98% and bottles get reused 15 to 20 times.

The recycling of alcohol bottles and cans in Ontario is currently handled by a government blue-box system operated by municipalities. The province funds the program and the LCBO contributes to the costs.

However, an estimated one third of LCBO bottles, half of all plastic and aluminum containers and three-quarters of all cartons end up in dumps.

Environmentalists say a meaningful deposit of $1 a bottle or more would have to be offered to make a deposit-return system work at the LCBO. Customers paying $10, $20 or $40 per bottle for wine or spirits would not likely to respond to a 10-cent deposit as they do in the case of beer bottles, experts say.

An LCBO plan has not yet been finalized but Premier Dalton McGuinty says the province has a responsibility to face the issue.

"I think we need to do more when it comes to recycling bottles," he says. "We are looking into exploring various opportunities for us to divert waste from landfill sites."

Ontario and Manitoba are the only two provinces in Canada currently without a deposit-return system at liquor stores.

LCBO must run any new system

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) says the idea is long overdue in Ontario but will be useless environmentally if it is not set up properly.

“From the point of view of eliminating solid waste and conserving energy, the only sensible option is to create a deposit-return system that encourages re-use,” says OPSEU president Leah Casselman.

“While any move to divert packaging from landfills is a step forward, it makes little sense environmentally to smash bottles, use nuclear power to melt them down and manufacture new bottles when we have millions of perfectly good bottles already.”

Casselman said the suggestion that beer stores expand collection operations to include Ontario liquor bottles is not the answer. In fact, this approach would "only serve to guarantee that liquor bottles will never be re-used in Ontario, now or in the future," she 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,” she argues.

“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.”

An LCBO-run deposit/return system would also be more convenient for customers, which would increase the environmental effectiveness of the program, Casselman adds.

“The LCBO is an alcohol super-power, and as such it has not only the obligation but also the ability to be a global leader in environmentally-friendly packaging," she says.

"The McGuinty plan has been thrown together hastily and without public consultation. He needs to think about alcohol packaging in much broader terms.” NUPGE

Occupational Groups: