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Continued collaboration with stakeholders, including governments, are key to making a circular economy a reality. Industry has embraced targets to make plastic packaging 100-per-cent recyclable or recoverable by 2030 and 100 per cent reused, recycled or recovered by 2040. Industry is already developing advanced recycling technologies (ART) to turn waste plastic back into new plastics, allowing us all to get the maximum value from existing resources and move toward eliminating plastic waste from our environment.
However, we need additional investment in research to continue identifying innovative and cost-effective recycling methods, strategies and programs for different types of plastics. We also need to continue to create financial incentives to establish standards and end-markets for recycled plastic content in products.
A critical component for success is a robust harmonized extended producer responsibility (EPR) program across the province, which shifts the costs and operational responsibilities for managing recycling systems from local governments to producers. The economic and environmental benefits of doing so are abundantly clear. The Recycling Council of Alberta estimates that implementing an EPR program for packaging and paper products would save Alberta municipalities more than an estimated $100 million annually. The savings would only grow from there as we expand EPR programs to cover additional material streams.
Alberta has the opportunity to leverage its technical chemical expertise to lead the way through the design and implementation of innovative plastics industry approaches that will assist in our evolution to a circular economy in Canada.
Christina Seidel is the executive director of the Recycling Council of Alberta and do-chair for the Plastics Alliance of Alberta.