Ontario has a problem: Recycling

MaxPower December 1st, 2006

Growing up in Alberta I never thought twice about recycling. Bringing back my empty pop and beer cans, wine bottles and 2 litre plastic bottles was a natural quarterly event. I always felt like I was “getting” money for bringing the cans/bottles back even though I had paid for it as a “deposit” when I initially bought the product. Nevertheless I likened it to free money. As a kid, my parents would get me to sort through the empties putting everything into different garbage bags and then would drive me over to the private recycling centre where I would efficiently sort the cans and bottles into trays which would be counted and I’d get to keep the money. Sometimes good money could be made.

First I moved to England. No recycling there. For all the Euro-angst about the environment, they have a pathetic recycling system. Guilt based and pretty inefficient. No deposits on bottles/cans there, so no reason for the average person to recycle. Then I moved to Ontario. Crappy recycling here. And thus the present mess the government of Ontario is in. For those of you who don’t want to read the link – the jist of the article is that after introducing beer bottle deposits a while back the government is introducing deposits on wine and glass liquor bottles (10 and 20 cents respectively).

Huzzah, cry the enviromentalists! But wait. What’s this? In typical fashion, Ontario could never take the lead from Alberta and recognize they have a superior recycling system. Nooo. So when you return beer bottles in Ontario you have to take your empties to a “Beer Store” which is the government’s monopoly destination for beer (owned by a cartel of brewers). So you return your empties to the same place you buy your beer. This is problematic. 99% (I’m assuming here) of the people who return their empties for cash, take that cash and buy more beer without even having to leave the store, which is a GREAT idea for a system which tries to “discourage” drinking by controlling its distribution (which is essentially the only argument for keeping the LCBO).

NOW, the government is saying – ok now all wine and liquor bottles need to be taken back to the Beer Store for recycling as well. This is problematic for 3 main reasons.

1) The Beer Store (where you buy beer) and the LCBO (where you buy mainly non-beer liquor – GOD this is a stupid system) are not in the same place. So you’re going to get people driving a long way out of their way to return things – which implies they won’t do it.

2) The Beer Store recyling place is essentially the front desk where people pay for their beer. So the nasty empties sit on the same counter as the beer I am buying, AND I have to wait in line for people to return their bottles before I can pay for mine. Now there are going to be huge lines of people with garbage bags full of empties as the Beer Store becomes an ad hoc recycling centre (and those are always so pleasant to visit). Of course the Beer Stores are retail stores and not made for holding large amounts of recycled material. Where will this be stored?

And finally 3) the government is proposing the Beer Store be paid $0.10 per unit recycled. Who owns the Beer Store? Labatts, Molson/Coors etc. So I pay a 20 cent deposit on a bottle and return it and get 20 cents back. The government then PAYS the Beer Store 10 cents in my honour for them to recycle it. Who is paying for the 10 cents? ME! The taxpayer. So what this new system is, is basically a stealth tax on recycling. I’m now paying 10 cents per bottle to recycle it.

Compare this crazy inefficient system with a system in Alberta where there are centralized private recycling depots. They give me my money back from the deposit and then take the bottles and recycle it and keep the cash they get from that. No stealth taxes, just good recycling action.

  • D4V

    Wow.. That’s an impresively bad solution.

    That’ll be interesting when a bunch of stinky street people start littering the beer stores with their shopping carts full of empties.

    I can’t even imagine going to a recyling center to BUY… well anything!


  • Re: Shoe

    The only argument for keeping the LCBO is that it is a massive cash cow for the Ontario government. Did you know the LCBO is the world’s largest single buyer of liquor and wine? That’s some market clout right there.

    That being said, I still hate the LCBO / Beer Store monopoly.

    As for recycling, if it’s too much of a hassle to bring your wine bottles to the Beer Store you can still recycle them by just tossing them in your blue bin and kicking it to the curb every other week. If you live downtown, some entrepreneurial type will no doubt pluck it out of your bin and walk it to the store for you (10 empty wine bottles @ 0.20/bottle = 1 tall boy of Max Ice).

    Last time I checked, Calgary didn’t even have a curbside recycling program. Meanwhile, a lot of GTA municipalities not only have the blue bin, but the grey bin, the green bin, the brown paper bag for yard waste, and (my personal fav) the giant leaf vacuum.

  • I think Calgary has curbside recycling does it not? Not sure of the details, but I know I’ve seen them sitting out on the street. Edmonton has had a city sponsored one since the late 80s.

    The cash cow argument is usually overstated – 100% of the profit that the LCBO gives the government is from the taxes it imposes on the sale of the booze to consumers. The LCBO as an organization (i.e. the actual retail selling of alcohol) loses money. If the Ontario government “privatized” the retail-arm of the LCBO and modeled it after Alberta and kept the backend (purchase of liquor from global wholesalers) as owned by the government, they could charge a flat fee to the private retailers to buy the booze and re-sell it to consumers. That way the gov’t gets the tax on the sale and doesn’t have to lose money selling the booze (and creating those fancy brochures people get here).

    The figure the unions trot out of $1B+ in revenue/year that the LCBO gives the government which would be lost isn’t accurate – the government would still get that cash from private retailers, along with tax on those company’s earnings, so net the gov’t come out ahead.

    The Toronto Star today in their editorial said the extra recycling measure should be applauded just because Ontario is so behind the other provinces with respect to recycling bottles. “True, Ontario is glaringly late to this party. Most provinces already have deposit-return systems for liquor and wine containers. Some even collect deposits on soft-drink containers and water bottles.”

    Also I don’t know what the stats are in other provinces but about 50% of what is put in blue boxes in Ontario ends up in landfills anyway due to poor sorting technology.

  • MacLeod

    Alberta went private, selection went up, the number of liquor stores went up, the hours at which you could buy booze expanded. I don’t see why provincial governments are so against this just because it’s privatization, therefor evil. Fuck the ideology, it’s just stupid for government to be selling booze. Never mind the fact that they could then stop paying mental wages to employees working in these stores.

    But it seems that anything Alberta does is frowned upon in the rest of Canada, regardless of how much sense it actually makes.

  • D4V

    ..minus Alberta’s minimum wage… :o

  • Peter

    Even more…

    Looks like the bottles won’t change at the LCBO, so what’s stopping someone living in Hull, driving the 30 seconds across the border to Otawa and getting money back for wine purchased without a deposit. Think the Beer Store clerk is going to know which products are not sold in Ontario? And who’s paying the difference….you are.

    Also, can someone under the age of 19 return bottles at a Beer Store? In Quebec it’s done at grocery and corner stores, so you can use the money to buy lottery tickets or milk. so there is no age restrictions. Is the government REALLY forcing enterprising young kids who spend their weekends collecting wine bottles from acorss the city (Trust me, this will start soon) and trying to return them to a store where the only think you can purchase is alcohool? Talk about forcing someone to drink!

    What about products that come in wine bottles? Olive Oil? Salad dressing? Mock Champagne from Loblaws? Shampoo? Tell me a Beer Store clerck will pick these out.

    All that needs to happen is the following and this will die in one week….

    1. High end wine consumers refuse to return bottles and use blue bin.
    2. These customers tend to live in affluent areas of Toronto and Ottawa
    3. Homeless and poor people realize this fact quickly
    4. Streets of Rosedale, Royal York, Bridal Path, Rideau are fille with roaming pack of bottle hunters looking for empties.
    5. Some rich political power player’s wife gets accosted in own driveway for spare change while said individual is hunting for bottles
    6. Poof! One phone call and program is terminated.

  • Crom

    It just shows what i’ve always said….

    Fuck Ontario.

  • Not to beat a dead topic here but interesting article today about a Deloitte report that was put out in 05 and obviously didn’t get any press here in Ontario – some excerpts:


    “more than 50% of the LCBO’s profit is just a monopoly tax, that its labour costs are out of whack, it’s up-market Vintages sections are loss leaders subsidized by sale of down-market wines and spirits.”

    “LCBO pays store employees significantly higher wage rates than private sector Canadian retailers.” No surprise there. One reason is that the board has an inordinate number of full-time workers when full-time workers are not needed. Efficiency among merchandising staff is way below industry norms.”

    “Sales promotions: Even though the LCBO operates a near total monopoly, it uses techniques that are appropriate only for retailers in competitive fields. These include Air Miles points, vendor paybacks and unorthodox pricing methods.”

    Sooo yeah, actually I always thought it was weird that a monopoly would offer loyalty points. In essence tax-payers are paying for trips of those who drink a lot. Sweet.

  • Ed

    So, when I buy an item from Sears, do I return it to the Bay for a refund, NO, then why do I have to make a special trip to the Beer Store to return wine and liquor bottles. WHY, because the owners of the Beer Store(Molsons(Senator Molson), Labatts) both are located in Quebec, need some more money out of the taxpayers pocket.
    Why not just put a big Skid Box at the liquor store and drop the bottles there. This would not give excess money to the BEER people, we would not have to pay the extra $.10 cents to have them taken away, the LCBO can take it out of their massive profits.

  • Jim

    Ed, Labatt’s and Molson/Coors is actually South African/ Belgian/Brazilian owned.
    A “skid box” at the liqour store would fill in an hour and would be a scuzzy smelly insect laden box in a store where people are used to clean overstaffed store. Unlike those poor bastards at the beerstore where there is only one working at a time and you have to wait 1/2 hour to get served. Their stores are used to being smelly, scuzzy and insect laden and I would have a bad attitude if I worked there. The reason I believe is L.C.B.O. is gov’t and Beerstore is private.
    Thats Ontario

  • MaxPower


    “More than half the bottles purchased under Ontario’s “Bag it Back” deposit program are being returned by consumers for a refund, but the employees collecting the extra empties say they’re overworked and facing unsafe work conditions.”

    Who could have guessed it’d cause lineups in the beer store and unsafe conditions?!? I ask you who????

  • Linda

    In Alberta almost every major grocery store has recycle bins (dumpster size) to collect cans, different kinds of paper, plastic bags and plastic beverage jugs. This makes recycling household items easy. Alberta has bottle depots which receives and refund not only wine and beer bottles, plastic beverage container and beverage cartons as well. Money that you have alredy paid a depost for. The depots are not littered and definitely not by the homeless people. I have more respect for the people who rumage garbage cans through the city for discarded bottles than people who sit by the curb asking for money. They work hard for it.

  • Alex

    A stealth tax? Are you kidding?

    Do you realize that it costs about 10 cents per bottle to dispose of a liquor bottle in the blue bin? It is just a shift from a municipal tax to a provincial tax.

  • denise

    I recently moved on HWY 17 East, Warren Ontario and was very surprised that I would have to travel 12 miles to bring my recycling. I’ve always been strong on recycling and encouraged my family and others to recycle. I think we need a better recycling process in this area. We are encouraged to recycle and I think this is not the way to go about it. Neighbors in the area also think it would be wise to better our recycling in this area. It hurts me to see garbage thrown away when it could go to better use. Plastic worries me a lot. Thank you, Denise, a concerned recycler.

  • Justin

    Hm I’m surprised no one has mentioned Saskatchewan in all of this, our recycling program for beverage containers is government ran. I am actually an employee for Sarcan Recycling, I fill the position of Recycling Technician. Everyday I count peoples containers so they can get their refunds, lately we’ve been steadily getting atleast 500 customers a day. Maybe Ontario can take a look at how Saskatchewan handles its recycling and work off of that. From what I’ve seen in the short time I’ve worked here it works pretty well.

  • Leah

    So like… most beer stores are like 10 seconds away from an lcbo (like literally, somewhere around the block)… so lets scratch that off your list of complaints. And are you going to return each bottle individually? Probably not. Like most sane Ontarians, you’ll save them up until you have a respectable amount to return.

    Also, are you drinking your beer right off the counter? I can imagine the sticky dirt empties MAY leave behind (although you are required to have them in the original beer box or recycling bins THEY supply) but I can’t imagine that sticky dirt somehow getting into the beer you are going to take home and drink… so let’s remove that from your rant as well.

    There are also TWO counters on OPPOSITE ends of the store, one for returns and if it gets busy, one purely for buying. How long have you been living in Ontario??

    You privatize liquor, hours go up, sure. So do prices. Selection goes down, so do employee wages. I like the LCBO, I like the Beer Store.

    If you don’t like it, get the hell out of Ontario!

  • Scott

    Just out of curiosity; If I were to save up all my recyclabes from here where I live in Ontario, squish them all down to load up a massive tractor trailer box, and then hauled that tractor trailer all over to bottle depots in saskatchewan and alberta, would I have a problem in doing so?

  • D4V

  • Hussy Mike

    Recycling is a big problem in many states in Canada, and Ontario is one of those states. I hope that they can solve this recycling problem soon and implement a green solution.