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HIGHLIGHTS
  1. Alberta Bottle Depot Association wants permit deposits on cannabis packages to increase recycling
  2. Deposit system helps Alberta recycle 86 per cent of beverage containers
  3. Cannabis package deposit would give economic incentive to recycle at depot -ABDA

A group in Alberta is lobbying the provincial government to permit a deposit refund system on cannabis packaging to increase the amount that gets recycled.

Much of this packaging, which has come under public scrutiny for using what many see as excess plastic due to federal requirements, is thrown away after items dropped in curbside bins are often missed by sorters due to colour and small size.

This effort to increase cannabis package recycling comes amid increased scrutiny of single-use plastics. The Canadian government has laid out plans to regulate plastic waste to reduce the amount of hard-to-recycle consumer packaging as it pushes provinces and manufacturers to overhaul recycling and waste-reduction efforts.

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But the legalization of recreational cannabis nearly a year ago in Canada means that “a massive amount” of small plastic containers – technically recyclable but too small or dark to be caught by sorters at municipal recycling facilities – ends up being thrown out, the Alberta Bottle Depot Association said in a lobbyist registration form.

Alberta is currently the Canadian province with the most legal pot shops and, consequently, has the biggest need to recycle the plastic containers the product is sold in.

Although many people place cannabis containers in residential recycling bins, these curbside pick-ups are then sorted by machinery that often does not recognize the items. These containers are often missed by optical sorters because they are black, the same colour of the conveyor belt they are on. Additionally equipment often cannot determine the identity of small packages, like those in which cannabis is sold.

Alberta has the highest level of beverage-container recycling in the country, with 86 per cent of its bottles and cans returned for the deposits that are added to the cost of purchase. The Alberta Bottle Depot Association wants this same system added to legal pot purchases to encourage people to return those small packages as well.

“We were thinking that it wouldn’t be a huge challenge to put a deposit like we do on beverage containers on cannabis packaging. It gives consumers an economic incentive to recycle,” said Jerry Roczkowsky, president of the Alberta Bottle Depot Association.

“The deposit really acts as an economic incentive to get it to the depot.”

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Licensed producers (LPs), who would ultimately need to state the deposits on their cannabis packaging, have not yet been approached by the group.

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When items with deposits are taken to depots for refunds, on the other hand, they are properly sorted and recycled.

“We recently submitted a white paper to the Environment Minister’s office which they were expecting but we have not received a response,” said Mr. Roczkowsky, referring to the Alberta government.

Mr. Roczkowsky also plans to meet with at least one LP this month.

“If we can show the value of a deposit system to licensed producers, I think their customers would really like the transparency that happens around packaging,” he said.

“A serious consideration for producers is they would much prefer to see a single recycling program across the country rather than something that’s unique to a single province.”

Legal adult-use cannabis packaging has been widely criticised for being bigger than necessary, and therefore using up more plastic than required. This is due to federal regulations that require packaging to be significantly larger than the product inside in order for labelling to include mandatory warnings as well as child-safe features.

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