Of the six provinces this column has reviewed to date, Quebec’s approach to beverage container recovery is the most unique. Unlike other Canadian deposit-refund jurisdictions, Quebec’s system for soft drink and beer containers is exclusively return-to-retail. Other beverage containers are recycled through the curbside collection system.
Beer and soft-drink containers account for 75 per cent of all beverage containers sold in Quebec. Distributors are regulated under Law 87, the title of which translates literally as the “law on selling and distributing beer and soft-drinks in one-way packaging.” While the provisions only cover non-refillables, refillable beer containers are also recovered through a voluntary deposit-return system that uses the same infrastructure as the non-refillable containers.
Founded in 1990, Quebec’s Society for Recovery and Recycling (or “Recyc-Quebec”) enforces Law 87 and monitors transactions between distributors, retailers and recyclers. Recyc-Quebec’s administrators also generally promote the 3Rs for packaging. Programs include the depositreturn system, research and market development, a tire stewardship program and environmental promotion and education.
Over 40,000 grocers, service stations, pharmacies and bars are charged a deposit on non-refillable beer and soft-drink containers. Of these, about 10,000 licensed grocers redeem containers. Licensed establishments redeem their deposits when distributors deliver full product and pick up the empties. The deposit schedule is 5 cents for non-refillable soft-drink and beer containers with volumes under 450ml, 10 cents for refillable beer bottles and 20 cents for non-refillable beer containers with volumes greater than 450ml.