Effective waste management and recycling programs can be costly for business and taxpayers alike. Innovative solutions are needed to enable business to deliver sustainable prosperity
British Columbia (BC), Canada, is helping to protect our environment and human health by diverting recyclable materials from landfills and encouraging safe disposal of potentially hazardous products.
The British Columbia government’s approach to industry-led product stewardship enables producers and consumers to assume life-cycle responsibility for a diverse range of products and packaging. Producers and consumers assume this responsibility within a results-based framework characterized by user pay, a level playing field for business, transparency and accountability, stakeholder engagement and a focus on results rather than process.
The results-based structure of the provincial Recycling Regulation empowers business to focus on developing return-collection and management/recycling systems that maximize efficiencies, while respecting a pollution prevention hierarchy.
At present there are industry stewardship programs under the BC Recycling Regulation for electronics, paint, lubricating oil, beverage containers, tires, pharmaceuticals, domestic pesticides, gasoline, solvents and flammable liquids. BC is also considering a new industry product stewardship program for packaging and printed materials. Producers of prescribed products are required to either have an approved product stewardship plan or, as an alternative, comply with prescriptive regulatory requirements. A product stewardship plan defines how producers will collect and manage their products, and should include program objectives, targets and meaningful performance measures.
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The Recycling Regulation defines core requirements for all programs. To ensure accountability for results, producers, or their appointed agency, are required to submit an annual report on the performance of stewardship programs to the Ministry of Environment, and to post their annual reports on the internet
The BC Recycling Regulation facilitates management of over 120,000 tonnes of solid materials annually with glass, tires and plastic accounting for about 90% of this material. Further, each year over 50 million litres of used oil, solvents, flammables, pesticides and gasoline are collected and responsibly managed under the regulation.
Applying the US EPA ‘Waste Reduction Mode l’ (WARM), industry product stewardship programs operating under the BC Recycling Regulation result in an annual reduction of some 267,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTCO2E) and 5.3 million gigajoules of energy relative to land filling. Aluminum cans and tires account for about 82% of these reductions.
Economic and Employment Impacts
A 2008 study by Gardner Pinfold Consulting Economists evaluated economic aspects of eight Recycling Regulation product stewardship programs. Employment generated directly by industry by meeting its stewardship responsibilities is estimated at 1,600 positions in direct employment and a further 500 created indirectly for a combined total of some 2,100 full time equivalent jobs.
The province’s beverage container deposit-refund system accounts for almost three quarters of employment with the stewardship programs for tires, electronics and used oil making up the other main contributors to employment.
More information on the BC Recycling Regulation and the province’s industry products stewardship programs is available online, visit http://www.recycling.gov.bc.ca