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Four-year journey: Coun. Demong thrilled by the first step in Extended Producer Responsibility legislation

Coun. Peter Demong said today feels like he’s walking on a cloud.

Nearly two years ago to the day, LiveWire Calgary originally talked with the Ward 14 councillor about his work on the extended producer responsibility.  At that time, he’d asked the city to start pressing the then-NDP government to begin work on EPR legislation.

Then, a provincial election.

Demong, with the help of the city and through his role as vice-president of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association, kept pressing the issue.

On Wednesday, the Alberta government moved ahead with public engagement on potential EPR legislation.

Extended producer responsibility is policy or legislation that puts the onus on producers for the treatment or disposal of post-consumer products (ie: packaging). It shifts the recycling and disposal costs to the provider. Quite often, the result can be better, more efficient and less wasteful packaging.

“I’m very happy that (the province) is moving forward on the engagements and I have no doubt that this will be the first steps in forming an EPR program in Alberta,” Demong told LiveWire Calgary on Wednesday.

He said there’s been an “inertia” around the EPR because most people don’t know what it can do.

“That’s what I’ve been doing for the last literally four years is speaking to anybody and everybody that listened to me about the benefits of an EPR program,” Demong said.

“And the fact is, I’ve yet to come across a… negative.”

Consultation begins

The public is invited to participate in an online survey that’s open until April 30.

On Wednesday, the province said this was a chance to better manage waste through the circular economy. The province said under this approach, they expect the cost and management of recycling would shift from cities and taxpayers to the producers themselves.

“Furthering our recycling goals as a province is a win-win-win for the environment, local economies and municipalities, some of whom are sitting on backlogs of potentially recyclable materials,” said Jason Nixon, Alberta’s Minister for Environment and Parks.  

“Changes to how we manage recycling in Alberta have been a long time coming and I am proud that our government is working to make the province a global leader in addressing plastic waste.”

The province will be working with cities and towns, industry, Indigenous leaders and the public.

In Alberta, the recycling sector contributes around $132 million annually to provincial coffers. With an EPR, that’s expected to grow to $148 million and cut CO2 equivalent emissions by 72,000 tonnes.

Savings for the Calgary taxpayer

Demong has said the monthly fee paid by Calgarians for recycling pick up is being paid twice.

Citizens pay for the pick up, but producers are also including it in the cost of their packaged goods. In most areas, producers must pay into a pool to cover the cost of collection and handling.

Demong thinks that cost to Calgarians could be eliminated.

“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,” he said in the March 2019 LiveWire Calgary piece.

Demong said today a big step forward. The plan is in the early stages though. It’s difficult to say how long it might be before legislation is drafted, Demong said.

For now, he’s thrilled we’re moving closer to the end goal.

“I’m kind of walking on a cloud right now because it has been a long journey for four years. There’s been a lot of people joining me on this trip and it’s a really nice place to be right now,” he said.