Return-It Blog

Plastic beverage containers: where do they end up?

We all understand the importance of protecting our oceans and waterways by ensuring plastic and other materials do not end up in our natural environment.

Plastic beverage containers can be easily collected through any of the 170 + Return-It facilities in BC for the deposit refund or placed in curbside blue bins and/or public street bins for collection – but what happens after that? Where do plastic beverage containers like plastic water, soda, and juice bottles end up after collection?

The short answer is they all get recycled! In Canada, over 79% of plastic beverage containers get recycled through provincial beverage container management programs. These beverage containers then get recycled into new materials – as long as consumers keep recycling them.

There have been many questions about what happens to the plastic beverage containers Return-It collects and if they get recycled. To help answer all those questions, we made a short video. Our new video “The Secret Lives of a Plastic Beverage Container” highlights every step in the plastic bottle recycling process:

Here are our top 4 facts shared in “The Secret Lives of a Plastic Beverage Container”:

1) Plastic bottles are made of polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

That’s what makes them so easy to recycle! PET is a type of plastic that can be re-melted and re-shaped over and over again, which is why it’s used to make plastic beverage containers. You can tell a container is made of PET because the recycling symbol number 1 is on all PET containers.

2) Our plastic beverage containers get recycled right here in Canada

And that’s been the case for more than 25 years! In BC, when you recycle your plastic beverage containers, they go to facilities in BC and Alberta for processing.

3) British Columbians recycled over 380 million plastic beverage containers in 2019

In 2019, Return-It recycled over 10,500 tonnes of plastic bottles in BC, or over 74% of all plastic bottles sold. British Columbians are great recyclers, and the more plastic bottles we recycle, the more we divert from our beautiful BC waterways, ensuring they are instead re-made into new containers.

4) The plastic bottle recycling process creates a circular economy

In Canada, plastic bottles are recycled and re-made using a circular model that eliminates waste. Instead of a linear economy where the supply chain ends with the consumer (and ultimately with trashing used products), the circular economy relies on consumers to recycle their bottles so they can be recycled back into the supply chain over and over again.

Great, but how can I be sure this is actually happening?

It is important to note that in Canada, recycling is regulated by provincial governments. In BC, Return-It is the product stewardship agency appointed by the provincial government to manage BC’s beverage container recycling and deposit system. That means we are held to high standards of accountability and transparency through all the recycling we do! We audit every component of the Return-It system frequently and report the results every year in our Annual Report.

You can read Return-It Annual Reports dating back to 2001 (!) by clicking here.

Questions about this blog post? Please contact us at customerservice@returnit.ca or 1-855-350-2345 for more information.