Changes to Yukon recycling regulations mean money for milk jugs

Consumers will now pay 10-cent deposits on milk containers, get a nickel back

Glass bottles at Raven Recycling. Containers for milk and milk substitutes are now refundable. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Returning your milk jugs to the local recycling depot will now net you a nickel.

About a year after they were originally going to be introduced, the Yukon’s new beverage container regulations are now the law of the land.

For the first time the regulations include containers for milk and milk substitutes like almond milk.

Those containers will now have a 10-cent surcharge added to them at checkout. Shoppers get five cents back if they return the container to a recycling depot.

“We are also catching up to most other justifications in Canada which do have milk containers in their beverage container recycling program,” said Sarah Chan, the acting manager of standards and approvals for Environment Yukon.

The new regulations have been simplified, putting all beverage containers into three categories.

Beverage containers other than milk that are less than 750 ml also have a 10-cent surcharge with a five-cent refund. Beverage containers of exactly 750 ml or more come with a 35-cent surcharge and a 25-cent refund.

In the old regulations that higher surcharge was reserved for containers of a litre or more, Chan said.

Money collected from these surcharges goes to the territory’s recycling fund. That’s the money that is supposed to pay for getting recyclables out of the territory.

Yukon’s Department of Community Services, which manages the fund, couldn’t say by deadline how much money the changes are expected to add to the fund.

“While all of the fund is used for recycling, costs aren’t 100 per cent covered — it’s not yet self-sustaining,” spokesperson Amanda Couch wrote in an email.

“Depending on the beverage container type, the consumer-paid non-refundable surcharge covers 40 to 96 per cent of the cost.”

The territorial and municipal governments pay recyclers diversion credits to help make up the difference.

Joy Snyder, the executive director of Raven Recycling, said adding milk containers to the Yukon’s system is progress.

“It increases the number of containers that are part of a system that pays for the recycling of the material and that’s what we’ve been asking all along,” she said.

Snyder said “number two” plastic jugs like the ones used for milk are “very easy to get rid of.” That plastic is bought by a company in Vancouver that breaks it down into chips and sends it around the world to be made into other things, she said.

But along with the more lucrative plastics, the recyclers will also be getting containers that Raven has to pay to get rid of, she said.

“In this case we get good number two plastic but we’re also going to get a lot of Tetra Paks and wax milk cartons.”

Last year the former Yukon Party government announced it was postponing amending two sets of recycling regulations to consult with industry.

The next group of regulations slated to get updated is the territory’s designated materials regulation, which will add surcharges on tires, electronics and electrical products. Those regulations will be implemented on Feb. 1, 2018.

Snyder said some customers arrived at Raven on August 1 with milk containers they had been saving up to get the five cent refund.

She’s expecting to see more of that after the rest of the territory’s regulations take effect.

“Wait until e-waste comes in, because everyone has been saving that old computer in their closet.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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