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Paul Falvo says he feels like he's being taxed for being an environmentalist after purchasing organic juice from Extra Foods with a 35 cent deposit fee attached.

Extra Foods 'taxing' environmentalists

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 04/05) - A Yellowknife resident is hopping mad after being charged bottle deposits of up to 35 cents each on cartons and jugs of organic juice, even though the NWT's recycling program has yet to begin.

Yellowknifer bought some organic juice of our own, and were promptly charged a deposit even though no beverage container return program exists in the NWT just yet.

Paul Falvo was alarmed after noticing the added charges on the President's Choice brand of juices sold at Yellowknife's two Extra Foods stores.

He first discovered the deposit fee was being charged when he checked a Feb. 16 receipt.

"I'd like to know how long this has been going on? I'd like to know how much they've pocketed?" said Falvo, who prefers to purchase organically grown foods.

"Since it's environmentally-minded people who buy the organic products, I think they should hand that money over to Ecology North or some environmental group because it's not their money."

The territorial government enacted a beverage container recovery program last fall, but wholesalers haven't been asked yet to add deposit charges.

That won't happen until communities have depots established to gather beverage containers where customers can collect a refund on their deposit, possibly in the fall.

After noticing the extra charge last month, Falvo said he contacted the Department of Resources, Wildlife and Economic Development (RWED) to complain. He said they promised to look into it.

But when he bought more juice at the downtown Extra Foods store on Wednesday, he was astonished to find they were still charging the deposit.

Yellowknifer accompanied Falvo back to the downtown Extra Foods, Wednesday, and purchased a 1.89 litre carton of President's Choice organic orange juice for $5.39 and a 1.4 litre plastic jug of organic cranberry juice for $4.59.

After the purchase, the receipt showed a deposit charge of 25 cents plus 10 cents for a charge labelled "enviro" on the orange juice; and a 20 cent deposit plus a 10 cent enviro charge for the cranberry juice.

At the Extra Foods on Old Airport Road, the deposit and enviro charge was applied to the same carton of orange juice purchased downtown, but no charge was added to a non-organic brand of President's Choice juice that was also purchased.

"I know they'll refund it, but a lot of people aren't going to go back there to get their 30 cents," said Falvo.

"No one probably has slips any more."

Emery Paquin, RWED's director of environmental protection, said his department spoke with the manager of the downtown Extra Foods store after Falvo complained in February.

"We have not implemented our program as of yet so the deposits that they're placing are outside of our program. This is not a compliance issue, it's a product pricing issue," Paquin said.

Lori Stene, director of public relations for Westfair Foods in Calgary, said the charge is a result of a computer "glitch" that occurred when some juice brands were switched from one department to another. "Most of our other jurisdictions obviously have an environmental levy," said Stene.

"And so that got put on those in the change."

She said if anyone wants their deposit back, they can go to the store manager and their money will be returned whether they still have a receipt or not.

Any leftover money will be given to the Yellowknife food bank. Stene estimates about 40 cartons and jugs of organic juice with the deposit fees attached have been sold in Yellowknife over the last couple of weeks.

She said her office was unaware that RWED had alerted the store of the problem last month.

"I was not aware of that, and our senior operations people were not aware of that," said Stene.

She said Westfair will work to eliminate the fee immediately.