Metro Vancouver residents are recycling laggards when it comes to taking back their empty bottles and other deposit containers.
And those in Surrey and Vancouver appear to be the worst of all.
So says Encorp Pacific, the non-profit agency that oversees the Return-It network of depots on behalf of member companies.
The system has an overall beverage container recycling rate of 80.1 per cent across B.C., a number that has improved from 72 per cent in 2006.
But Metro Vancouver is significantly worse than other regions at about 74 per cent, according to Encorp CEO Scott Fraser.
“Surrey and Vancouver are our two biggest challenges in terms of lower recovery rates and the largest numbers of unrecovered containers,” Fraser said.
Encorp says recovery rates are also low in the North Shore, Tri Cities and Abbotsford, but relatively high in Langley, New Westminster, Maple Ridge and Delta. (See accompanying charts below.)
An estimated 155 million beverage containers sold in Metro Vancouver each year never make their way back to depots, despite the offer of deposit refunds.
About half the containers that end up unrecycled in landfills are dropped in outdoor garbage containers or come from businesses, institutions or industry, while roughly a quarter each come from single family and multi-family residential.
The business/commercial sector has a container recycling rate of only 58 per cent in Metro, dragging down the region’s overall performance.
More cages for deposit containers on the sides of outdoor garbage bins could help binners retrieve and recycle them, Fraser said.
“We really would like to see recycling containers next to every street garbage bin,” Fraser said. “A harried family with three kids with juice containers walking down the street wants to put them in the first thing they see. And if it’s a garbage can we lose those containers.”
Encorp has begun offering free binner-friendly container recycling receptacles to municipalities that promise to service and clean them. They’re designed for areas with high pedestrian traffic.
Fraser said deposits are never paid out on many containers that are put in the blue box curbside recycling system – now overseen by Multi-Material BC – because they’re often crushed in mechanized sorting machinery and can’t be identified.
Some Metro Vancouver politicians have raised concerns that recycling of glass bottles will decline because MMBC no longer accepts them in the blue box in most municipalities, directing residents to instead bring glass to depots.
Depots also generally do not accept or pay refunds on beverage containers bought in the U.S. because no deposits were paid into Encorp’s system to cover their recycling.
Encorp marked 20 years of operating the container deposit system this year and recorded its 15 billionth container recycled in October.
Encorp’s statistics don’t include beer, wine and spirit bottles and cans.
They come back at much higher recovery rates – more than 92 per cent – under a separate system jointly run by major breweries.
Encorp’s Fraser said the disparity in return rates between the two systems is because liquor consumers are accustomed to returning empties when they go to buy more beer or wine.