by Stephen Dafoe
The Government of Alberta is starting consultations to design what it calls a “made-in-Alberta solution” to plastic, packaging, and hazardous household waste, taking a circular economy approach and creating an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program to reduce landfill volumes.
Alberta is one of a few provinces without an EPR program, an approach that would see a shift in cost and management of recycling from municipalities and municipal taxpayers to those producing and consuming goods.
Government data shows Albertans create 1,034 kilograms of landfill waste per person annually, and that packaging and printed material account for 15 to 20 per cent of waste.
“Furthering our recycling goals as a province is a win-win-win for the environment, local economies and municipalities, some of whom are sitting on backlogs of potentially recyclable materials,” said Minister of Environment and Parks Jason Nixon said in a media release Wednesday. “Changes to how we manage recycling in Alberta have been a long time coming and I am proud that our government is working to make the province a global leader in addressing plastic waste.”
The government says it will consult with municipalities, industry experts, and Indigenous communities through stakeholder meetings, and with the public through an online survey. The public online survey is open until April 30.
Nixon made the announcement Wednesday at the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) spring conference.
RMA President Paul McLauchlin said the RMA was pleased to hear that the Government of Alberta is taking action on plastic waste. “The RMA recognizes the value of recycling management and is a strong advocate that municipalities play an important role in waste reduction and waste management,” he said. “We are looking forward to engaging with Alberta Environment and Parks and other stakeholders to design a made-in-Alberta solution to plastic waste that works for all.”
Recycling in Alberta currently supports 7,500 jobs, and the sector contributes about $132 million a year to provincial gross domestic product, according to government figures. The shift to EPR is expected to increase provincial GDP share to more than $148 million and cut emissions by approximately 72,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.
The UCP believes moving to a province-wide extended producer responsibility approach would provide greater efficiency and economy of scale for recycling.
Although EPR costs are often passed on to consumers, Albertans are already paying some of those costs as product pricing is done nationally.