An Alberta recycling company is appealing a fine it received last year for cashing in on beverage containers that came from Raven Recycling in Whitehorse.
Alberta Reclaim and Recycling Company and its directors have been slapped with an $844,778 fine for collecting refunds on out-of-province beverage containers.
The fine includes $75,000 as a base penalty, and $769,778 for “economic benefits assessment,” according to Gilbert Van Nes, general counsel with the Environmental Appeals Board.
“The idea is to eliminate the economic gain that’s achieved by violating the (Environmental Protection and Enhancement) act,” he said.
“It’s so people don’t simply write it off. If you’re making $100,000 doing something and you get a $5,000 fine, it’s not a big deal.”
The owners of the company, Johnny Ha and Shawn Diep, have appealed the penalty.
Van Nes said the preferred method of dealing with an appeal is through mediation. Talks were going well for a while, he added, but ultimately broke down.
Between January 2012 and January 2013 the company imported over eight million cans from the Yukon, according to documents filed with the Environmental Appeals Board.
The beverage containers were purchased from Raven Recycling and shipped to a warehouse in Edmonton, where the large bales were disassembled, sorted and brought to the Andrew Bottle Depot for return.
The Alberta Reclaim and Recycling Company operated the bottle depot as well.
These beverage containers were then introduced into the deposit refund system as if they were Alberta beverage containers through the Andrew Bottle Depot.
“Alberta Reclaim and Recycling Company received a significant economic benefit by importing beverage containers into Alberta from Yukon and circumventing the legislated deposit system in place in Alberta,” the document reads. The number of containers processed through the bottle depot between January 2012 and January 2013 increased by more than 1,000 per cent, according to the EAB documents.
It went from processing 564,000 containers in 2010 to 6.4 million in 2011, and 6.6 million in 2012.
The scam was only discovered after Canada immigration officials were tipped off that illegal immigrants had been working there.
The company was charged with 13 counts of accepting containers that were transported from the Yukon into Alberta and returning them for a refund.
They were also charged with two counts of operating a bottle depot without a permit.
The owners of Alberta Reclaim and Recycling are appealing the penalty on the grounds that there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude the size of the economic benefit assessment fine.
They also say there wasn’t enough evidence to conclude the cans entered the Alberta beverage container recycling system. They are requesting the economic benefit assessment penalty to be removed in its entirety, or failing that, reduced significantly.
Joy Snyder, executive director of Raven Recycling, said the news was disappointing to learn.
Companies like Alberta Reclaim and Recycling act as “brokers” for Raven, Snyder said, the middle men between recycling processors and factories.
But that’s not how it’s done in other Canadian jurisdictions. Larger provinces have their own internal supply chains.
Snyder said she often has to search for the broker who can give her the best price for her product.
“Sometimes we send our aluminum cans to our scrap metal broker in Vancouver,” she said.
“You have a number of brokers, they give you their best price, and you go with the best deal.”
Snyder said it might change the way Raven does business in the future.
Raven’s plastics, for example, are shipped to Merlin Plastics in Vancouver, one of the government’s processors for beverage containers.
“We can choose to use those processors,” Snyder said, “and that’s something that, now that I know about this (scam), I would do in the future.”
Alberta Reclaim and Recycling is scheduled to appear before the Alberta Environmental Appeals Board on April 22.
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