Update on Bottle Deposit Debate


I promised some details on HRMs proposal around the bottle deposit.  What follows is a slightly edited version of HRMs official speil.

For my own part though, the key take aways for residents are:

  1. this is an idea, but not the only idea to fix the RRFB system and I look forward to your input and ideas! 
  2. The five cent bottle refund predates curbside pickup starting.
  3. The cost of running the refund system is growing faster than the revenue, so slowly but surely it is going from being a system that make money and soon it will be a system that costs tax money to subsidize.
  4. The changes to the provinces system will cost HRM millions a year that could be used to directly build healthy communities and address poverty
  5. The deposit system is not HRMs system, it is the provinces system.
  6. This is not a “tax grab” – the proposal is to stop collecting the deposit and no longer offer the service, so the cost to the consumer actually goes down.
The refund-deposit program of the RRFB charges a 10-cent deposit on all beverage containers (except milk) which residents pay at the checkout. Half of the deposit, five cents, is then returned to consumers when they drop off recyclables at RRFB’s Enviro depots. The remaining five cents, and any of the 10 cents not redeemed, funds the RRFB operations, educational programs, with a portion directed to municipal waste stewardship programs.

A 2011 organizational review commissioned by the NS Department of the Environment found that the RRFB model is in critical condition and unsustainable beyond 2016. This is in large part because operational and overhead expenses have risen while refund deposit revenues have remained flat.

In January 2013, the Department of the Environment invited waste management stakeholders, including HRM, to provide comment and to advance recommendations on changes to the beverage container deposit-refund program. In that discussion paper, the Province outlines their hypothetical scenario which is to increase the deposit tax on beverage containers to increase revenues and sustain the existing refund-deposit system.

HRM responded to this request and presented an alternative hypothetical system change scenario which reduces costs rather than increases revenues.

HRM suggests reducing the deposit consumers currently pay for every beverage container.

Currently, a person pays 10 cents on a beverage container. Five cents goes to the RRFB for operating costs, and the other five cents goes to back to the consumer when they drop the bottles off at the Enviro Depot.

HRM’s alternative scenario proposes that consumers only pay five cents at the cash and, instead of returning bottles for a refund, put them with their other recyclables curbside for municipal pick-up. This reduces the cost to the consumer and results in fewer people driving to the depots which has less of a negative environmental impact. The beverage containers in the blue bags would no longer have any value so no one will be trying to take them out.

More info can be found on the HRM website.