Thursday, 13 April 2017 04:15

SARCAN depots accepting milk containers after provincial change to beverage deposit program

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The efforts to reduce the amount of recyclable material going into landfills across Saskatchewan received a boost with a recent change to the provincial beverage recycling program.


Since April 1, the 72 SARCAN depots across the province are accepting milk containers for deposit refunds and as an added incentive for Saskatchewan residents to recycle the refundable deposit on most containers have been increased.
SARCAN Recycling Senior Communications Officer Sydney Smith said the change to the provincial beverage recycling program was a budget item for the Saskatchewan Ministry of Environment and it was announced as part of the presentation of the 2017-18 provincial budget.
“Actually the deposit program is legislation in Saskatchewan,” she said. “So they had to change the legislation to get milk containers put on. That’s how it came to be a budget item. They announced it March 22 and the changes were effective April 1. So it was a really quick turnaround time.”
The implementation period for these changes to the Environmental Management and Protection Act regulations was kept short to avoid a situation where consumers are stockpiling lower or no deposit containers. SARCAN will only accept milk containers with best before dates after April 1 to ensure that refunds are issued for deposit-paid containers.
The change to add milk containers to the deposit system will reduce the uncertainty amongst consumers over the type of beverage containers that can be recycled. SARCAN started a voluntary program for the return of milk containers about five years ago, but there was no refundable deposit.
“It was a really good program in terms of having at least somewhere to recycle milk containers, but it wasn’t really successful because there wasn’t much value to the containers,” she explained. “The return rates hovered at around 50 per cent for milk containers. Aluminum cans and plastic bottles and our other stuff were all about 90 per cent, so a big contrast between the two.”
SARCAN had to stop accepting dairy containers on July 1, 2016 as a result of the implementation of the provincial Multi-Material Recycling Program, which meant that residents had to place milk containers in curbside bins.
According to Smith, that change left a gap in service for people in smaller communities and in rural areas where there are no curbside household recycling program.
“So there was just nowhere for people to recycle milk jugs,” she said. “That was when SARCAN approached government about going through the process of getting the milk containers put on deposit.  ...  It’s just an incentive to get people to recycle. So we’re really happy that it went through.”
Since April 1, people had to take their milk beverage containers directly to SARCAN depots if they wanted to receive the refundable deposit. Milk containers that are now placed in municipal blue bins will eventually be delivered to SARCAN by municipal contractors, but people will forfeit their deposit.
The decision by the provincial government to add milk containers to the deposit return program is seen as a significant change by SARCAN.
“It was hugely important for us, mostly because one of the things that we pride ourselves on is we’re provincial,” she said. “We’re 72 locations throughout the province and so many of the communities we serve are rural. So for us to see this breakdown in service where there was no way to recycle these containers was really difficult ...  because at SARCAN we really strive to be able to provide as much service to as many people as possible, and having to deny people the opportunity to recycle was not good. So we're really happy it changed.”
The addition of milk containers to the beverage container recycling program will not present any difficulties to SARCAN to implement. A more significant task will be to ensure that Saskatchewan residents are now aware of the change and that they can bring their milk containers to SARCAN depots for a refundable deposit.
“It’s something that I do feel kind of bad for our customers because it’s really too bad that there was that nine-month gap from July 2016 to April 1, 2017 when we just couldn’t take the containers,” she said. “So I think the biggest challenge for our staff is just going to be re-educating the public and our customers just because we took them and then we didn’t take them and now we take them again.”
The milk beverage containers that are now accepted at SARCAN depots are those for milk, buttermilk, cream, fluid coffee creamers, lactose-free milk products, and drinkable yogurt. The non-accepted containers are for concentrates, infant formula, meal replacements, yogurt and yogurt tubes, non-fluid coffee additives, pre-whipped whipping cream, baking ingredients such as evaporated or condensed milk, single portion cream containers with a volume less than 30 ml and industrial milk bladders.
The SARCAN depot in Swift Current is currently recycling about 11 million containers per year and she is confident the addition of milk beverage containers will help to keep even more recyclable material out of the local landfill.
“We’re really lucky that the depot in Swift Current is managed by the Saskatchewan Abilities Council,” she said. “We’re just so happy to partner with the local agency to run the depot because it's such a great partnership. It means that the Abilities Council is able to have a business in the community and it also means that SARCAN has someone to manage the program. In different communities in the province different agencies that support people with disabilities operate the SARCAN depots, which is great. It means job opportunities and a way for those agencies to diversify a bit of their funding.”
Earth Day will take place April 22 and the SARCAN depot in Swift Current will celebrate the day with a customer appreciation event.
“It’s just a nice way to celebrate all the environmental things that we do,” she said. “Our customers are the most important people. We wouldn’t have SARCAN without our wonderful customers. So we like to do a customer appreciation every Earth Day where we serve refreshments and we have door prizes and things like that, just to remind people of the importance of recycling and to celebrate the good work that people are already doing.”
For more information about the various items that can be recycled and the location of SARCAN depots, visit the SARCAN Recycling website at www.sarcan.ca

Read 991 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 April 2017 06:13
Matthew Liebenberg

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