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Booze bottle refunds slashed
But refundable deposit going up for juice and pop containers of more than one litre

Shane Magee
Northern News Services
Monday, January 18, 2016

It's bad news if you drink wine or liquor but much better if your preference is for pop or juice in beverage containers greater than one litre.

NNSL photo/graphic

Robert MacMullin sorts recyclable containers Friday at the Bottle Shop Recycling Depot on Old Airport Road. Consumers are being told that if the don't cash in their liquor bottles for deposit before Feb. 1 they may lose out on part of their refund because the amounts being refunded are changing. - John McFadden/NNSL photo

Starting Feb. 1, refundable deposit amounts for beverage containers will correspond to volume and container type, not their contents.

Currently, consumers get 25 cents back for all liquor and wine bottles when brought to the Bottle Shop Recycling Depot for recycling. But that will be dropped to 10 cents for one-litre bottles or smaller. On the other hand, large cartons or plastic bottles of more than litre will be worth 25 cents. Right now they are only worth a dime.

At the same time, handling fees - the portion of the deposit consumers don't get back - are going up by a few cents in many instances.

"An aluminum can was 10 cents (refundable deposit) plus five cents (handling fee). That will be changing to 10 plus eight cents," stated Judy McLinton, manager of public affairs for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (ENR), in an e-mail Friday.

"You will continue to get 10 cents back in refundable deposit but the container recycling fee has increased to eight cents. A wine or liquor glass container of a litre or less was 25 cents (for deposit) plus 10 cents. It will now be 10 cents plus 13 cents so the refundable deposit has decreased to 10 cents but the container recycling fee has increased to 13 cents. A two-litre pop container was 10 cents plus 10 cents. It will now be 25 cents plus 10 cents. The refundable deposit has increased to 25 cents but the container recycling fee stays the same."

Nonetheless, not all are happy with the changed fees.

"That's where we make our money," said Eric Brown, head of Scouts in Yellowknife about the reduced refunds for wine and liquor bottles they collect on bottle drives.

"It's hard enough to raise money as it is nowadays. There is so many organizations doing it that it is incredible. I don't know what (the government's) thinking on this is - it appears to be a money grab."

Brown said the thousands of dollars raised each year during their bottles drives are used to fund efforts such as sending scouts to jamborees and taking them on snowmobile trips. He added those activities will continue but scouts will have to come up with other ways of raising money for them. He said he has no idea why the GNWT is changing the refund rates.

"Some wing nut thinks they are doing good for the government. It's really money in the government's pocket. I'm personally sick and tired of the government scrounging for every single way they can to take money out of people's pocket," said Brown.

Diep Duong, manager of waste reduction with ENR, said the refunds for containers are being changed to align and standardize them with the rest of the country. The department will now go by size rather than what is in the container. The handling fees, which are increasing for some containers, haven't changed in the 10 years since the beverage container program began, she said.

"Four of the last six years the program has run a deficit. Costs have been rising for transportation, storage and equipment supplies and maintenance," said Duong. "Because the handling fees haven't risen in 10 years, our depots and processing centres haven't kept up with inflation. We want to make sure they are viable."

Duong does not feel lowering some refunds will be a disincentive for people to recycle.

"We've got a really strong recycling program in the NWT," said Duong. "We average between 86 and 93 per cent recovery rate on a annual basis over the last 10 years."

Adam Pich, owner of the Bottle Shop Recycling Depot on Old Airport Road, said the changes will make things more streamlined at his business.

"What they've done is made it so that anything from a one-litre down is a dime to make it simpler for all the depots, and everything over a litre and up, whether it be a two-litre pop, or liquor or milk is now a quarter," Pich.

He pointed out that even with the changes, when one pays a deposit, it will still be refunded when the container is brought back to his facility. He said from a refund perspective, the consumer is not being pinched. Everything evens out at the end of the day, he said.

"I think they could make more money because the two-litre pop and juice containers used to be a dime - now they are going to be 25 cents," he said.

"I think there is more (money) in the beverage containers that there was in liquor containers. Mickey bottles, which used to be 25 cents, are now 10 cents," he said.

Pich said there may be a grace period at his establishment after the changes take effect Feb. 1.

"We might be a little lenient at first. If someone comes in - we don't like people complaining - you know how it is," said Pich.

Cards are being distributed at Yellowknife's two liquor stores, letting people know that if they want their full refund of 25 cents that they've paid on containers of one litre or less, then they'll have to take the bottles to the depot by Feb. 1.

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