Get ready for EPR!
This article is intended to provide you with important updates about significant changes that will be happening soon to the ways in which recycling is carried out in Alberta.
Alberta Municipalities and the Alberta Recycling Management Authority (ARMA) are co-hosting an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Transition education session on Thursday, September 28, at next week's ABmunis Convention. A webinar on the EPR registration process will be co-hosted by ABmunis and ARMA on Thursday, October 5, from 1:00 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Register here.
In November 2022, the Government of Alberta passed regulations to reduce the financial burden of recycling on municipalities by shifting the physical and financial responsibility of collecting, processing and recycling materials from municipalities to producers. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has already been implemented in other provinces and is now coming to Alberta. Further information on EPR can be found on ARMA’s EPR web page.
Alberta’s EPR system covers packaging and paper products (PPP), and hazardous and special products (HSP). In each of these categories, only specific materials are designated for management by EPR. Not all materials currently handled by municipalities in these categories are covered by the regulations. The EPR regulations only apply to residential materials, not institutional, commercial or industrial materials.
ARMA is the designated oversight body for EPR. This means they will be responsible for ensuring that regulated parties undertake their required roles in the system and achieve the results required by regulation. The entities responsible for implementing recycling collection services are called Producer Responsibility Organizations (PROs).
Communities have choices to make
It is important that communities understand what choices need to be made and when they need to be made.
The first decision point will be to register with ARMA. For your community to be eligible for EPR it must indicate its interest by registering with ARMA. This involves answering a questionnaire on your municipality’s current recycling and Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program on ARMA’s website. Completion of the questionnaire does not mean that your community is committing to EPR. It only means that your community remains eligible to make choices (further information on decision points are included below).
Regional waste commissions to which a municipality belongs can register members on their behalf. ARMA’s registration window for municipalities is open from October 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023. ARMA has advised ABmunis that the act of registration should be looked at as an expression of interest, as registration will activate a robust and supported intake and onboarding process in which ARMA will work with each registrant. Registering does not require a council decision, as the community is not committed to anything at this stage. Municipalities that choose not to register by December 31, 2023, will continue to pay for their recycling systems, but will have an opportunity to register at a later date.
Municipalities can prepare for the EPR registration process by compiling information about their current recycling and HHW program costs. Some of the questions to answer are:
- Can you separate residential materials from any commercial or institutional materials (e.g., schools, hospitals, community centres, churches, government buildings)? You might co-collect residential materials along residential routes or at community recycling depots.
- What is the total number of households you service?
- What are the types and locations of recycling depots?
- What is the list of PPP and HSP materials you currently accept?
- How does this list of what you collect at curbside or at depot compare with the list of designated materials? (e.g., you might collect non-PPP plastics like laundry baskets or bins).
- What is the type and size of PPP, and HSP containers at the residential premises?
- What is the annual quantity of PPP and HSP collected?
Steps after registration
Producers, typically working through PROs, must submit their plans to ARMA to collect and manage their designated materials by April 1, 2024. Producers become responsible for collection and management of recyclables by April 1, 2025 (for single family residential dwellings). Municipalities must agree to enable producers to become responsible for the collection and management of designated material before any changes to local system operations can be made.
PROs must implement plans for multi-unit residential buildings on April 1, 2025, where the community authority is currently providing recycling services. For those municipalities that want EPR systems to operate in their communities, the PRO will become responsible for recycling.
However, there are many ways a PRO becomes responsible for operations, including hiring a municipality or a private service provider to perform specific functions, including collection. If a municipality becomes a service provider to a PRO it does so under a mutually agreeable, contractual relationship directly between the PRO and the municipality. Under EPR, it is the PRO, not the municipality, that is responsible for achieving its regulated outcomes.