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Containers containing cannabis products are shown at a packaging and extraction facility in Vaughan, Ont., on Dec. 19, 2018.The Canadian Press

The group that oversees bottle depots in Alberta says people should be allowed to drop off cannabis containers and get a small refund just as they do for bottles and cans.

The Alberta Bottle Depot Association says paying a deposit on the containers and having it returned at dropoff would help divert plastic from landfills and stabilize declines in depot income.

Association spokesman Jerry Roczkowsky says depots are ready to accept cannabis containers and it’s a matter of working with manufacturers to get a system in place.

The federal Cannabis Act specifies certain criteria for cannabis packaging, such as using opaque or semi-transparent child-resistant material.

That can make it hard for producers to use materials that fulfil recycling program mandates.

The bottle-depot group suggests an amendment to Alberta’s Beverage Container Recycling Regulation could make cannabis producers responsible for managing their packaging material to make it more recyclable.

“Consumers are so concerned today about single-use plastics, and they want to see plastics recycled. Plastic forms a significant amount of the package that cannabis comes in,” Mr. Roczkowsky said.

Albertans have one of the highest rates of beverage container recycling, says Mr. Roczkowsky’s association. Two billion containers were returned to depots in 2019 — accounting for just over 85 per cent of all containers purchased.

Using information from Statistics Canada, the association estimates that about 9.8 million cannabis containers needed to be disposed of in Alberta in the first year of legalization.

“Industry analyst Ibis World forecasts cannabis sales to grow at an annual rate of 53.6 per cent over the next five years. If this holds true, Albertans will need to dispose of approximately 84 million cannabis containers in 2023,” the group says.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis agency says it has been in talks with producers across Canada about recycling programs for packaging.

It also says some private recycling companies have been working with licensed producers to install bins at retail store locations, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has put some programs on hold.

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