Return-It Blog

The positive environmental impact from recycling your beverage containers

You’ve probably heard of Return-It, the extended producer responsibility program run by Encorp Pacific that manages the collection and recycling of beverage containers in BC. What you might not know is what happens after they’re collected, and just how much this helps the environment. With over a billion containers collected each year, a lot happens. Let’s start at the beginning.

When you return your refundable beverage containers to a Return-It Depot, they’re separated into different categories of materials, like aluminum, plastic, and glass. The containers are then shipped to local processing plants mostly right here in BC, where the containers are processed into materials that can be used to make new products. Most of the time, they’re made into new beverage containers. This saves more energy compared with making products from raw virgin material, as it removes the need to mine them.

Take plastic bottles, for example. Using recycled plastic provides an 86% savings in energy compared to creating new plastic. Likewise, it takes 5% of the energy to make a can from recycled aluminum than it does to mine the material and manufacture new cans. As long as you keep recycling your drink containers, these huge energy savings will alleviate pressure on the environment.

Recycling might seem like a small action, but it adds up to something much, much bigger: in 2016 alone, British Columbians recycled 92,910 tonnes of used beverage containers through the Return-It program. This is comparable to reducing 101,915 tonnes of CO2 equivalent from being released into the atmosphere. That’s like taking 29,000 cars off BC roads for a year!

Preserving BC’s natural beauty is important, and one container recycled is one less container in a landfill. But it’s more than just that. For every tonne of paper-based beverage containers that are recycled, like drink boxes and cartons, approximately 17 trees are saved. Plus, the amount of beverage containers recycled annually (over a billion) saves enough energy to power 42,000 homes for an entire year. That’s why when you recycle, you’re not just saving reusable raw materials. You’re saving energy, trees, and clean air.

Of course, the recycling process itself requires energy, so there are greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with it. Every year, Encorp carefully calculates its environmental impact by benchmarking measurements, standardizing tools and comparing energy and emissions results year over year. Overall, the GHG equivalent avoided far exceed the emissions being produced directly and indirectly. If you’re interested, the results of Encorp’s research findings are made public in our annual reports, which can be found at www.returnit.ca/ar2016.

Though it’s a simple thing to remember, always recycling your empty beverage containers does make an enormous difference in the state of the environment. And with your help, Return-It saves more containers from the landfill every year. Together, by recycling, we can help keep our province beautiful.