Return-It reports results as it completes six-month aluminum can pilot program
On July 6, 2020, we announced a six-month pilot program at select Return-It depots that will enable consumers to return both alcohol and non-alcohol aluminum beverage containers together for recycling — without having to sort — as one stream with one deposit amount.
This pilot was part of a broad suite of innovations to modernize British Columbia’s beverage container recycling system to make it easier and more convenient to recycle — ensuring future generations can enjoy a greener, healthier province. These initiatives reflect feedback from consumers and put a clear focus on enhancing the Return-It recycling system to divert more material from our landfills, oceans and waterways
Since the launch of the pilot in July, participating depot operators have reported positive feedback from customers; a 95% reduction in consumer complaints about the discounting of deposits for aluminum alcohol cans; and over 2,200 signatures have been collected from customers speaking to their positive experience and advocating that the aluminum can pilot become a permanent solution.
Aluminum alcohol containers are not managed through the Return-It system. The BC Brewers Recycled Container Collection Council (BRCCC) are directly responsible for these containers under their Stewardship program. Only those Return-It depots that have a BRCCC license and commercial agreement to manage and be financially compensated for this material provide the consumer with a full 10-cent deposit refund. Over 50% of Return-It depots do not have a license or commercial agreement from BRCCC. However, since consumers still bring and expect to return their aluminum alcohol and non-alcohol cans at the same Return-It depot for recycling, these small business owners will still accept the aluminum alcohol cans but do not have the same financial resources to provide the consumer with a full deposit refund. As a result, consumers may receive a partial deposit refund to cover the depot’s costs for the handling of these containers.
With some consumers receiving only a partial deposit refund, and increased volumes of containers at depots during the COVID-19 pandemic due to limited return options, Return-It saw a sharp increase in customer complaints and even violence directed at Return-It depot staff. Return-It initiated the pilot to support consumers’ receiving their full deposit refund, eliminate the longstanding inequity in the system, address customer dissatisfaction, and maintain British Columbians’ confidence in the recycling system so that recovery rates, both current and future, could be preserved. This pilot program has demonstrated that a streamlined system works, and that British Columbians support the idea of fairness and equity in how alcohol and non-alcohol containers are managed across the province.
While this pilot concluded on December 31, 2020, our efforts to end discounting and address customer dissatisfaction will not. We will continue to advocate that this program become a permanent solution going forward and continue discussions with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy through our Stewardship Plan approval process.