Alberta’s Deposit-Refund System
Eighty per cent container recovery at 0.8 cents per unit sold
The net cost of deposit-refund systems for beverage containers is the subject of intense debate. Some suggest that deposit-refund systems operate at extremely high costs that are then passed on to the consumer. Others contend that if administered properly, deposit-refund systems offer a cost efficient means of improving beverage container diversion, with well run systems breaking even or generating a profit. Recent audit data from the Province of Alberta provides some empirical insight into the costs of operating a depot-based deposit-refund system.
The Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC) is a private, not-for-profit organization that collects monies from manufacturers, pays out handling commissions to redemption depots, and markets recovered beverage containers. In 1997, the ABCRC reported a total recovery rate of 80 per cent, representing 593,341,000 containers (42,181 tonnes)—an increase of 15.5 per cent from 1996.
Under Alberta’s new beverage container recycling regulation, all beverage containers—with the exception of milk products—carry a deposit. Non-refillable containers are redeemable at any of the over 200 province-wide depot centres. Retailers may only redeem refillable containers.