Ontario has a problem: Recycling
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.