Return-It Blog

What happens to beverage containers collected by Return-It?

For the past 25 years, Return-It has managed BC’s beverage container recycling and deposit system, with over 20 billion containers recovered since its inception. As we approach Waste Reduction Week 2019, which kicks-off worldwide on October 21st, let’s take a look at what happens to your beverage containers once you drop them off at a Return-It depot.

Return-It strives to continually improve the circular economy of beverage containers purchased in BC. Many recycled BC beverage containers are processed so their materials can be turned back into the same product over and over again in a closed-loop system.

Did you know Return-It publicly releases an annual report that outlines its activities and financial information for the previous year? The report contains an annual Container Recycling End Fate Report, which details where specific container types are taken to be recycled and what the recycled materials are used for.  Here are some fast facts from the 2018 report:

Plastic Beverage Containers

Number of containers recovered: 386.3 million

End fate: Plastic containers were sold to end markets in British Columbia and shipped to their two separate facilities in BC and AB to be cleaned and pelletized to become new raw material for manufacturers of various plastic products including into new plastic bottles, buckets, strapping or packaging materials, but the majority of the plastic stays in a closed-loop system that creates plastic bottles over and over again - as long as people keep recycling them.

Aluminum Beverage Containers

Number of containers recovered: 382.4 million

End fate: Aluminum cans collected were sold and shipped to a re-melt facility in the USA and turned back into sheet stock for new cans. Aluminum cans that go through the Return-It system are recycled, refilled, and put back on the shelf for resale in about 6 weeks.

Glass Beverage Containers

Number of containers recovered: 206.5 million

End fate: Glass containers were processed in British Columbia and shipped to a manufacturing plant that produces fiberglass insulation in Alberta; a facility that produces new glass bottles in Seattle, USA; a facility that manufactures sandblasting materials in Quesnel, BC; and municipal sites that use crushed glass as construction aggregates.

You can learn more about our 2018 recovery and end fate results for all types of beverage containers in Return-It’s online Annual Report here.