B.C. will require several commonly discarded products to be recyclable by 2023, including electric vehicle batteries and chargers, mattresses, single-use fuel canisters, fire extinguishers, solar panels, e-cigarettes and a wider variety of lithium batteries.
The expansion of recyclable refuse is part of the provincial government’s Recycling Regulation and Extended Producer Responsibility strategy. The strategy requires manufacturers to take more responsibility towards their product’s final destination and lifecycle and will funnel reused plastic waste to the CleanBC Plastics Action Fund, according to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
“Expanding the number of recyclable products will mean convenient, free collection of those products and a cleaner environment for British Columbians,” said George Heyman, minister of environment. “Adding to the product list will reduce the waste that’s now being sent to the landfill or illegally dumped in back alleys or green spaces. This will protect our environment and boost our economy through an increase in recycling operations and remanufacturing.”
Municipal and Indigenous governments have historically shouldered waste management costs for products that aren’t easily recyclable, according to an email from the Ministry of Environment. The abandonment of 10,000 mattresses in Metro Vancouver costs $1.5 million to manage annually, it said.
The ministry said electric vehicle batteries should be redesigned for ease of recycling as often as they are for performance. “Under producer responsibility, recycling costs are reflected in the vehicle producers’ design and manufacturing choices, providing an incentive to make batteries that are easier to disassemble for recycling and reuse,” according to the statement.
Nemkumar Banthia is a professor and senior Canada research chair at the University of British Columbia specializing in waste recycling and sustainable building materials. Between reducing, reusing or recycling refuse, Banthia said recycling should be the least utilized option towards the goal of a cylindrical and sustainable economy.
“There should be a carbon analysis of the whole (recycling) process,” he said.
Banthia said building ease of recycling into a product – as is incentivized in B.C.’s Extended Producer Responsibility strategy – is a good start, however. Be it buildings or batteries, “we need to change our engineering mindset completely for that context,” he said.
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