This last year was a challenging year from many perspectives. First, we witnessed a forced lockdown of all redemption centres (RCs) due to a global pandemic that created havoc for operators and consumers alike. Yet, we witnessed a continued increase in sales from distributors of over 7%, resulting in more used beverage containers (UBCs) being returned for recycling. Overall, this translates to 17% more volume at RCs in New Brunswick in the last five years alone. But the bad news is that our UBC recovery rate in New Brunswick keeps falling – our province currently has one of the lowest rates amongst beverage container deposit-refund programs in Canada.
No system improvements can succeed without acknowledging the unique challenges RCs face, nor the fact that there are huge discrepancies from one centre to the other. However, no matter our differences, we must prioritize changes that will improve the convenience factor and consumer experience; otherwise, recycling rates and public participation in the Beverage Containers Program (BCP) will continue to decline. After nearly 30 years, opportunities for modernization, greater operational efficiencies, and cost savings remain.
Our continued work and discussions with BCP stakeholders on RC standards are leading to the collaborative creation of an Operations Manual for RCs. This manual will state minimum requirements for cleanliness, security, customer service, etc., and give tools and tips to meet these requirements to help level the playing field for RC operators. The project has brought all stakeholders to realize that the BCP’s modernization can only happen if we cooperate and work together. While change can be disruptive, it is necessary. Resisting progress, especially one that could bring about greater convenience and accessibility for consumers, is risking the eventual end of the BCP.