I am recently returned from a productive trip to British Columbia, specifically Vancouver and Whistler. At the invite of Bill Sheehan of the Product Policy Institute, I traveled to B.C. to attend and present at the RCBC (Recycling Council of British Columbia) Zero Waste Conference. The B.C. province is working hard at reducing their waste, whether that be consumer products or food scraps. The product stewardship programs in B.C. are mature, and they are adding more products through rule making as they move forward in this policy area (the latest is paper and packaging).
Besides presenting with Bill Sheehan on 'EPR in the US', I was also able to have meetings with some key players in the region, including most of the regulatory staff within the EPR Department of the B.C. Ministry of the Environment. We had a great discussion on the differences and commonalities in the Canadian and US EPR programs, and plan to continue working together to help discover best practices for implementation. I also had some great chats with some of the IFO folks, including Mark Kurschner (Product Care), and Neil Hastie (Encorp Pacific). I also had some great conversations with those in the compost industry, where B.C. is making great strides with backyard and municipal collection.
Another highlight was a tour from Dennis Kinsey of several beverage container takeback locations, including a depot, a government liquor store, and a "Changes" unit attached to a grocery store. Changes is a program where grocery consumers can return their food and consumer packaging to the store when they return, earning credits toward future purchases. It was great to see customers bringing their packaging back to the store and then turn right into the store to make more purchases (a great vision of the benefits of return to retail). Is the model developed and utilized by Changes a vision of the future of packaging take back programs? There is great potential for expansion of this program to other grocery retailers in Canada, and a great place for a US grocer to step out ahead of it's competition by implementing the first full packaging retail return program.
I have a large pile of business cards from the many contacts made at the conference, and I look forward to my next connections with all of these people working in the EPR policy area.
EPR progress in the US is dependent upon the lessons learned from our neighbors to the north, and I look forward to our continued collaborations in the months and years ahead.