As Canada moves towards a circular economy, the Canadian Beverage Association (CBA) and its members stand at the vanguard of this transition. Beverage producers have decades of experience informing consumers about the value of beverage containers, and continuously improving recycling systems. Beverage producers and Environment and Climate Change Canada both aim to create positive change, and it is therefore important they work together to develop a labelling system that promotes universal participation in all recycling systems.
October is Circular Economy Month, and CBA is working with government at all levels on solutions. CBA members have developed 100 per cent recycled PET (rPET) water bottles, actively participate in the governance of recycling programs across Canada, and are increasing the use of recycled content in their packaging. Canada’s beverage container recycling programs collect and recycle containers, including aluminum cans, plastic bottles and cartons, which are recovered at an overall national rate of about 75 per cent.
As beverage producers, we believe consumers also have a critical role in supporting the circular economy. Currently, there is not enough recovered PET—a type of lightweight plastic—to meet market demand. Recycled PET is used to make new products and packaging which reduces the need for raw materials, lowers greenhouse gas emissions, and supports jobs and growth in the circular economy. By making recycling convenient and easy to understand, collection systems can foster active and enthusiastic consumer participation to increase the collection of recyclable materials which can then be transformed into new packaging.
Labelling should inform consumers and universally promote participation in all recycling, including deposit-return and blue box systems. To this end, the beverage sector has concerns regarding the federal government’s requirements on labelling for recyclability and composability. Under these proposed regulations, labelling rules will prohibit using the “chasing arrows” symbol and other recyclability claims on plastic packaging and single-use plastics unless at least 80 per cent of Canadians can access recycling systems that accept these plastics. Should these requirements come into force, it will create conditions where packaging that can be recycled will say “not recyclable” on the label. In Ontario, many sources of PET, such as films and thermoform product labels that would carry the “not recyclable” label, are still accepted in the “blue box,” and recovered as rPET.
Introducing additional labelling requirements will not necessarily enhance the recycling system. Instead, it might complicate matters and hinder progress towards our ambitious targets. We acknowledge consumers sometimes misunderstand the current recycling symbol, and concerns exist about its continued use. The government should collaborate with a broad stakeholder group, identify barriers to circular behaviour, and promote effective consumer-tested messaging on and off packages.