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.


5 comment on “Update on Bottle Deposit Debate

  1. Stephen

    I moved here from Montreal 8 years ago – Quebec does not have a bottle-deposit. I could return my empties to ANY grocery store or depanneur (ie, corner store) that sells the product in the container I am returning.I had to walk 1 or 2 blocks at most to return any returnable containers.

    What ends up happening downtown for the many people who do not have cars – and you need a car to return your empties to get a refund unless you live next door to the one of the ZERO bottle return centres downtown – is that I either put my bottles into my apartment building’s recycling or store them until I manage to borrow a car to return them.

    I have chosen to live downtown to live close to work as I did in Montreal – a green choice, a cost-saving choice for me as well,, you would think, but sadly, I need a car to do many, many things I did not need a car for in Montreal. I feel the bottle deposit is a tax on the non-car owning, public because to get 50% of the deposit back, I need to rent a car, hire a taxi, or take bags of empties on the bus, none of which I will do to return empty bottles, so the province gets to keep 100% of my bottle deposits. I would love to get this money back, the cost of living here is very high.

    It is time for this city to act like a city, not like a series of extended suburbs, which is how I view this place now.

  2. Jen

    I’m not sure I agree. The proposed system would mean more money for the average citizen, but the people who collect bottles and the people who depend on it for income will be losing out. I think the system of compensation for jobs and for wellfair is broken but I’m not sure that HRM’s proposed system does anything to fix that.

  3. spaustin

    One point that HRM seems to miss (or at least I haven’t heard voiced from council) is that the deposit system makes bottles and cans valuable and as result, they’re almost non-existent as litter. Any bottle that is abandoned by its owner inevitably gets picked up by someone. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true of other items, like flyers. A true sign of spring in Nova Scotia is the piles of discarded flyers emerging from the snowbanks! Anyway, food for thought.

  4. Greg Rozon

    I would like to know and see transparent information that shows the rise in operational/overhead expenses (This is in large part because operational and overhead expenses have risen while refund deposit revenues have remained flat..) If they can show that these rises are legitimate and not because of poor stewardship or increased wages for managers and higher ups then I could welcome a change. And yes, we may see more garbage around if people wont get money for refundables. Maybe increase deposit to 15cents and keep refund at 5 cents. Groups still get donation money and RRFB gets more.

  5. pauldoerwald

    I’m a bit late commenting, but I hope it’s still useful. The current situation isn’t working. The bottle depots are unpleasant places (returning bottles at the Beer Store in Ontario is a great experience, but it only applies to booze!), I feel ripped off at the till (compared to Germany and Ontario where I got 100% of my deposit back when I lived there), I feel violated whenever someone picks up my curbside recycling, and I also appreciate the income my bottles provide for those individuals and I don’t want to take that away from them who clearly need it more than I do. Where is the balance?

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