Billed as ‘an important environmental initiative’ the government organized Bag It Back (Ontario Deposit Return Program) system will see a price hike of twenty cents on every bottle of wine sold in the province. Consumers can recoup this extra cost by returning their empty bottles to The Beer Store.
The LCBO, which sells wine and spirit out of a separate retail entity, is trying to increase recovery rates on alcoholic beverage containers, 80 million of which, the Board estimates, end up in Ontario landfills every year. The separate program is designed to ‘free up’ room in our Blue Boxes, thus maximizing recovery of all recyclable materials, not just bottles.
Great! I’m all for enviro-initiatives really. But I do have to scratch my head at the implementation of such an expensive system in the Ontario of 2007.
Ever since I was a child, I can remember bringing in 2-4’s of empty beer cans and bottles that my parents had saved up over the months, for a measly nickel or dime. This initiative was in place well before the Blue Box recycling program hit its full stride, and was a great way to collect recyclable materials before they were shunted off to landfills for lack of a system to prevent it.
With the recycling program now in full force in most cities in Ontario, I find it odd that some 20 years after the beer initiative, the government has seen it necessary to head up a similar system for wine and spirits. Both Michelle and I are avid/rabid recyclers. Anything that even looks like it might be able to go in the box, goes in the box. All wine bottles are tucked in with everything else after I strip the labels off, and they happily truck off to the recycling facility with the rest of our glass items.
We, I’m glad to report, are not an anomaly. Most people around here take full advantage, particularly in this time of growing awareness and concern over the impact of human activity on the environment, of earth-friendly programs to reduce waste. Recycling is neither an inconvenience nor an expense as it is currently set up, leading me to question whether the Bag It Back program will end up being more of a bother than a boon.
We as consumers are now forced to pay more for a product’s container with the intent that the increased cost will act as a motivator to return the empty vessel for some pocket change. It may not sound like a lot, twenty cents, but I’ve got thirty empty bottles of wine waiting to have their labels removed at the moment, amounting to six dollars in deposit refunds. Since I already recycle, I’m just plain paying more, unless I also take on the added responsibility of taking the bottles back to the store. On a slightly ironic note, I do wonder whether the gas burned driving to The Beer Store with these bottles, particular from rural areas into urban centres, won’t offset a great deal of the good intentions shown by the provincial government.
If I’m only one household, imagine the cost to commercial entities such as restaurants, hotels, and yes, wineries, who go through dozens of bottles in tasting rooms and at events. Restaurants and similar venues are able to have LCBO operated trucks pick up the bottles for return during normally scheduled deliveries. Let’s hope deliveries are frequent and that the trucks have lots of extra space. I would imagine that the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto would have a fair amount of glass waste come delivery day. Companies not receiving deliveries? Well I guess it’s up to them to hire their own driver to haul their stash back. It then becomes a weighing of cost-benefit. If transporting the bottles costs more than what would be recouped in returning them, I don’t think there’s any question that the bottles would end up in the normal recycling program (a scenario that nets the provincially controlled LCBO a pretty penny on deposits), or worse, if no such program existed in that area, in the bin.
Wineries certainly aren’t exempt, even though the bottles opened on site never see shelves at LCBO stores. Retail openings for tasting bar stock and event pouring are still subject to the deposit fee, which must be paid to the provincial board by the company. These bottles, which at Creekside do get recycled anyway, must then be properly sorted, and somehow transported to the nearest Beer Store for refund. It’s a bit of a logistical nightmare, frankly, while everyone tries to get their head around it.
Rumour has it that the logistics at the organizational level are spotty at best and if I were The Beer Store employees, I’d be a little frightened by the potential tidalwave in bottle volume headed my way. It could be a rough ride for the next few months, while the bumps are worked out and the potholes are filled. Personally, while I’m glad that pro-environmental policies are coming into play, I can’t help but feel that I’m being penalized for already recycling, and I truly do wonder if car emissions produced in transit offset a large part of the good that the Bag It Back program is trying to accomplish.