I recently read the story “Canadian packagers paying recycling costs” [Jan. 31, Page 5] and want to point out that the facts as reported are misleading.
The story makes reference to a statement by Derek Stevenson, manager of Stewardship Ontario, the Canadian agency that collects fees from industry to pay for residential recycling in Ontario. According to the story, “The recycling rate in 2003 for all plastic packaging in Ontario was 16 percent, ranging from 50 percent for PET and high density polyethylene bottles to 5.6 percent for film and 1 percent for plastic laminate.”
What Mr. Stephenson neglected to point out is that those rates represent only those plastics found in the residential sector. In terms of PET bottles, that is a very important distinction. Away-from-home consumption for PET beverage bottles is about 63 percent, and at-home (residential) consumption is about 37 percent of total sales — and that gap continues to grow, according to statistics compiled in a June 2004 report from the Environment and Plastics Industry Council titled “Overview of Plastic Bottle Recycling in Canada.”
For the most part, increasing away-from-home (and therefore away-from-recycling) consumption is the result of PET beverage packaging taking over the aluminum can market share in vending machines, and the ever-increasing consumption of bottled water. Municipal recycling programs can only access 37 percent of PET beverage bottles out there. That is the primary reason that the PET recycling rate continues to decline in the United States, in spite of increasing municipal curbside recycling.
So perhaps what Mr. Stephenson should have said is that the 2003 recycling rate in Ontario for PET and HDPE bottles is actually 31 percent. In fact, Ontario compares very poorly (nearly last!) with other Canadian provinces, which recover between 32 percent and 56 percent of bottles sold. In terms of beverage bottles alone, Ontario recovers only 35 percent, while other provinces recover between 66 percent and 89 percent. The primary difference is that those provinces have recovery systems in place that not only recover from households, but all points of generation — parks, offices, on the street, beaches, etc.
Given that 38 percent of all Canadian PET and HDPE bottles are sold into Ontario, it is an unfortunate waste of recyclable resin that they too have not adopted a more effective recovery mechanism like the rest of Canada — we call it deposit return, you call it a bottle bill.