Explainer: B.C.’s five year recycling expansion plan

The ministry of environment and climate change plans to expand recycling categories

The variety of materials that can be recycled at depot’s such as this one will be expanded. (Nicole Gonzalez Filos)

The ministry of environment and climate change has published a new plan to upgrade British Columbia’s recycling programs between 2021 and 2026.

The Extended Producer Responsibility Five-Year Action Plan, or EPR initiative, will guide the implementation of changes to B.C.’s recycling program. Changes include expanding the categories of recyclable items and requiring producers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers to take on all responsibility for the lifecycle of their products by properly collecting and recycling them. 

Some new items that the plan will include as recyclable include batteries of hybrid and electric vehicles, mattresses, and compressed canisters like fire extinguishers and single-use camping fuel. Product categories will also be expanded to fit more items that don’t have a clear place to go once they are used, by making the definitions broader to include more items. 

The plan includes the expansion of the deposit-refund system to cover all beverage containers, including milk and milk alternatives like soy and almond milk containers, which will be implemented by February 2022. The province will make it mandatory for producers to implement the requirements of the EPR program for some single-use items and more packaging products, such as straws, cutlery, party supplies, and food containers, by January 2023.

Mattresses, compressed canisters, fire extinguishers, and medical sharps will be included as recyclable items in the program by 2025. Batteries of vehicles, hybrid and electric, and other battery types will be implemented by 2026. 

Broader product category definitions will be updated by 2026.

As B.C. plans to have only zero emission vehicles by 2040, a way to recycle and repurpose hybrid and electric vehicle batteries will need to be developed.

A provincewide EPR approach to regulate mattresses that are usually dumped or abandoned, including about 10,000 mattresses in Metro Vancouver, would save an estimated 100,000 cubic meters of landfill space yearly, according to plan documents.

Another action item in the plan is evaluating the policy options of packaging and paper and exploring ways that it could be better managed throughout its lifecycle. Examples of where they can be found are stadiums, grocery stores, food services, and institutions. To start understanding how recycling ICI fabric material can better help the environment, the ministry will be doing research and data collection on how the packaging is managed and assess options of how to better improve the recycling of the products, and any updates to be implemented by 2025.

The EPR initiative report says that “The Province is committed to keeping pollution out of our oceans and waterways, reducing waste, and incentivizing a circular supply chain for plastics,” and the initiative is expected to add to B.C. and Canada’s plans to phase out single-use plastics to further prevent improperly disposed plastics from polluting the environment, and harming wildlife.