Quebec City, October 31, 2023 — To demonstrate that the government’s reform of the deposit refund system, which will officially be launched tomorrow, does not go far enough, Équiterre brought 6,000 plastic bottles to the National Assembly this morning.
"6,000 bottles are wasted every 5 minutes in Quebec. Over 2 million plastic bottles a day go to landfills, and others end up in nature. To physically see what that represents helps to demonstrate the scale of the problem."
-Amélie Côté, Équiterre’s Analyst in Reduction at the source
"If the government hadn't postponed its deadlines, these bottles could have been returnable for refund tomorrow," adds the expert. "There's a mismatch between what's being proposed by the government and what's needed to prevent beverage container waste. But it's not too late for the government to propose a truly ambitious deposit refund system."
Three major improvements to be made
According to Équiterre, there are three major problems with the deposit refund system, which, if addressed, could improve the government’s chances of achieving its recovery objectives.
1. The deposit-refund amount is too low
If the amount of the refund for returnable containers isn't high enough, people will be less encouraged to return them, greatly affecting recovery rates.
A 2015 study conducted for the Quebec government concluded that a 35¢ deposit would achieve a return rate of nearly 90% for plastic and glass containers. However, the current version of the deposit refund system will reduce the deposit-refund amount of a 473 ml beer can from $0.20 to $0.10.
2. Implementation is far too slow
The government has been talking about extending the deposit refund system since January 2020, but the complete roll-out has now been postponed to March 2025. Between now and then, more than a billion glass and plastic containers will be sent for disposal. That's far too many. The government has the power to advance the full implementation of the deposit refund system or, at the very least, to stop postponing the different stages.
"We need to integrate plastic bottles into the deposit refund system as quickly as possible," says Simon La Terreur, Chair of the Board of Valoristes Québec. “There are so many of them in public spaces, as evidenced by the quantity collected by Quebec City's binners in just a few days." His organization, Valoristes Québec, seeks to facilitate and highlight the work and contribution of Quebec City's binners, i.e. the people who recover returnable, recyclable or reusable materials from the public domain for economic, social or environmental reasons.
3. The deposit refund system does not sufficiently encourage refillable container systems
Reusable beverage container systems - the best example of which is the good old glass beer bottle - are the best solution for reducing waste, and must be at the forefront of reform.
In 2009, 83% of beer bottled in Quebec were in glass multiple-refill bottles. In 2017, it dropped to 32%, and then to 15% by 2022, according to data from the Association des brasseurs du Québec.
"Équiterre is concerned about the lack of space and resources allocated to multiple-refill containers, and hopes that the government will work on long-term solutions to encourage these types of systems, which are ecologically and economically proven," states Amélie Côté
"We’re working to send a clear message to the Minister of the Environment and the government: we have the chance to develop one of the best deposit refund systems in the world, but what's been implemented so far isn't good enough. We hope that the situation will be corrected," she concludes.
Équiterre's offices are located on Indigenous lands that have not been ceded by treaty, which we now call Montreal and Quebec City. We recognize that Indigenous peoples have protected their territories since immemorial times and have used their traditional knowledge to guard the lands and waters. We are grateful to live on these lands and are committed to continuing our efforts to protect them. Read more »