Most Albertans don’t think twice about stopping at a convenience store and grabbing something cold to drink on a hot summer day.
Thanks to a huge push in education over the last several decades, those beverage containers are no longer ending up in the landfill, but instead being recycled.
In Alberta, with one of the largest recycling programs in Canada, the beverage container recycling program is operated by the Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation (ABCRC).
According to Guy West, president and chief executive officer of ABCRC, as of 2022 Albertans are recycling 84.5 per cent of non-refillable beverage containers in the province.
Those bottles and cans are collected at depots scattered around the province under licence by the Beverage Container Management Board. Once a depot is licenced, the ABCRC steps in and arranges container collection from the sites.
According to West, most of the recycling is done in North America. Tetra Pak carton containers are shipped down to the United States and repurposed into an element of fibre glass. Plastics are initially taken to a plant in Alberta before being taken down to California for further refining. Glass containers are processed close to home, at a plant in Airdrie.
“Alberta has one of the best programs in Canada,” said West.
“We should all be proud of it.”
The ABCRC website says that over two billion beverage containers are recycled in the province on an annual basis.
West says that while the numbers in the province are impressive, more can be done and the ABCRC is working to “reinvent the wheel” to further increase the numbers.
“We’re working on getting an accurate count of containers,” said West.
The recycling system Alberta works as a “closed” system, meaning that only beverage containers sold in the province, with the deposit, are eligible for recycling. Every beverage in the province is charged a deposit when the item is purchased, which is then returned when the item is taken into an Alberta Bottle Depot.
West says that the system has had some history of depot operators skirting the law and bring in containers from outside the province, however, they have been in the minority and that there is ways for handling those situations, should they arise.
“The depot’s do everything they can,” said West.
“If they are not legitimate, they get found out.”
Plans for the ABCRC going forward include evaluating how to supplement and improve the depot system and generally work towards making things as easy as possible for consumers to participate in recycling.
Though recycling has been in place in the province since the 1970s, the current system has been operating as the ABCRC since 1995.
In the County of Stettler, bottle depot’s can be located in the Town of Stettler and in Big Valley.
Editor’s Note-This story was updated to correct the name of Tetra Pak cartons.