Could Alberta soon enforce a bottle deposit on cannabis containers?

Published Sep 15, 2020 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Christian Ouellet

The legalization of cannabis in Canada has presented some issues for the environment. The single-use containers have created concerns regarding the amount of plastic filling the landfills in Alberta. The federal government's stringent requirements guiding the packaging have created a problem, and Alberta has proposed a solution to this growing concern.

Help is on the way

The Alberta Bottle Depot Association, which represents over 200 independently owned depots, believes it has a solution that will appeal not only to the Alberta government but to the independent owners that the Association represents. President Jerry Roczkowsky predicts the depots will benefit from half-million-dollar revenues when the system is established.  Because of the size of the packaging on cannabis products, the municipal recycling center systems have issues managing the containers' size and composition.

Implementing a deposit refund system on cannabis products would ensure the best return for the recycled materials. Keeping the cannabis products clear of contamination from the municipal mixed plastic collection will provide the highest value placed on the clean raw materials. Roczkowsky wants to clearly state that the idea of bringing the cannabis packaging concerns in the deposit system will help to keep cannabis packaging and products pure, allowing them to retain a greater value.

The director of sustainable waste processing, Neil Kjelland, has voiced his opinion that it would be unlikely that the City of Edmonton would sort cannabis containers. He explained that the mixed format composition would be an issue at the recycling center. The recycling center screens out mixed-format packaging due to end processors only accepting non-contaminated containers, which have not been in contact with other compounds. According to Kjelland, small items similar to the strictly regulated cannabis containers are often screened out due to the mechanical sorting process.

Interestingly, although it is not the practice for counts to be taken on the mixed-format intake, Waste Services did a waste composition audit in response to a news inquiry. The results found that technicians located no cannabis containers in those recycling bags.

A hemp plastic company also has a solution to this growing problem of landfills and recycling. The company has a mission to revolutionize the plastic industry. The future of hemp plastic looks towards providing alternatives to pure fossil fuel-based plastics. Industrial hemp may be the crop of the future, and packaging with hemp plastic could be the right direction for us to take if we want to reduce the amount of waste that builds more with each passing year.


The Alberta Bottle Deposit Association suggests that incorporating a deposit would be the encouragement that Albertans would need to bring in the packaging for recycling. When the cash amount of deposit is discussed, Roczkowsky suggests a 10 cent minimum return on plastic containers, which is the same as glass bottle returns under one-litre in size. However, the consumer may have issues with the additional cost associated with purchasing legal cannabis, so that must also be considered by producers.


Why it would work

According to the president of the association, Albertans are consuming around 2.4 billion beverage containers each year, and around 85 percent of those are making their way to the recycling depot. Albertans are already using the depots, so adding their cannabis containers to the mix would not be an issue. The cannabis containers would just be added to the beverage containers that they already bring to the depot.

The Alberta Gaming, Liquor, and Cannabis Board are not turning a blind eye to the issue. They are currently in discussions with retailers, producers, and the Alberta Beverage Container Recycling Corporation. The ABCRC oversees the recycling and collection of non-refillable beverage containers in the province. Spokesperson Heather Holmen said the corporation is developing a program that this new industry could grow with while at the same time leveraging the existing systems.

Private recycling companies are also looking for ways to solve the problem. Some licensed producers are providing bins at the retail locations, while several others are looking into providing their own recycling programs for consumers.

Final words

The deadly worldwide pandemic has put many programs on hold. Retailers, consumers, and provincial jurisdictions share the interest of cannabis companies to do their part by leaving behind smaller footprints on the planet, and cleaning the landfills is a great place to start.

Over 500 cannabis stores have received approval to open in Alberta


Related posts