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Calgary councillor pushes recycling framework into Alberta election

Imagine if there was a way to put nearly $10 a month back in the pockets of Calgarians.

Ward 14 Calgary city councillor Peter Demong says there is and he’s pushing to make Extended Producer Responsibility framework (EPR) a provincial election issue.

Demong first introduced the plan to Calgary city council back in early February, when he asked the city to pressure the province into looking at EPR legislation. In his time working with the city’s waste and recycling department, Demong said with the amount of money that goes into it, he just started asking himself if there are better, simpler more cost effective ways of doing things.

He says Alberta is one of the only provinces without some form of framework that puts the responsibility for payment back on the producer.

“Simply put, an EPR shifts the costs of recycling back to the producer,” Demong said.

“The consumer does pay for it in the cost of the material on the shelf. That’s a much better way than charging them a fee to take it away, which is what we do now.”

Right now, Calgarians pay $8.80 monthly to cover the cost of weekly blue bin pick up.

He said it’s a fee we’re paying twice. Most producers already include the cost in the price of their packaged goods because in most other jurisdictions they have to pay into a pool fund and that money is then used to cover the cost of collection and handling.

According to Demong, more than $367 million was pooled by producers in 2016 to fund recycling for paper and packaging across Canada. Alberta received none of that funding, Demong said, though it could recoup as much as $63 million annually for Alberta communities.

He points to BC, where they have more than 20 EPR related programs, and ratepayers don’t bear the cost of recycling services.

Twelve municipalities have already signed on to push the province to adopt an EPR. More have a motion to do it in the offing. The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association also took up the cause at their recent convention. Only the province has jurisdiction over the implementation of an EPR.

Alberta municipalities pushing for Extended Producer Responsibility framework. SCREENSHOT

LiveWire Calgary reached out to the province prior to an election being called, to see if any progress had been made. They provided an emailed statement.

“We know there are challenges with the current recycling system. This is an issue that is important to our government,” read a statement from Matt Dykstra, press secretary for the Minister of Environment and Parks.

“We have just completed the process of amalgamating the Alberta Recycling Management Authority and The Alberta Used Oil Management Association, and appointed a new chair who will begin work soon to address these long standing issues. We are working with municipalities and industry to determine the best way forward that protects consumers and the environment.

“Any changes to recycling in Alberta will only be done after full engagement with Albertans. Engagement is planned for an extended producer responsibility (EPR) framework, and regulated EPR programs for agricultural plastics, packaging and printed paper.”

LiveWire Calgary also reached out last week to the Alberta Party and the United Conservative Party for their stance on EPR, but specific responses haven’t yet been provided. The UCP did say they’d like more time to provide a response.

Demong is hoping it becomes an election issue and is asking voters to prod their MLA candidates about EPR.

“In Calgary, (taxpayers are) paying the equivalent of $40 million to the city to dispose of recycling, and they’re paying for it already at the shelves,” he said.

“It’s a double whammy for them. My goal is to make it so no homeowner pays a bill for the blue bin anymore. I want to save them that $110 per year.”

Aside from the taxpayer savings, Demong said it prompts producers to start examining their packaging to make improvements so there’s less waste sent off to landfills.

“If we empower them to find a better way, they’re going to,” he said.