Ontario's Blue Box System: A Case Study of Government's
Role in the Technological Change Process, 1970-1991

Extracted from: David McRobert, Labour Relations, Technological Change and Sustainability:
Resolving the Structural Issues. Osgoode Hall Law School, York University, October 1994.

1.  Introduction

a.  Background

b. The Argument for Refillables

2.  The Establishment of Ontario's Blue Box System

a.  The Transformation Begins

b.  The Decline of Refillable Soft Drinks in Ontario

c.  Early History of the Blue Box System

d.  The Actors, The Process and the Blue Box Deal

e.  The Aborted Resurgence of Refillables

f.  The Beer Can Tax

3.  The Implications of Restructuring

a.  The Impact on Workers and Unions

b.  The Environmental Impact

c.  The Impact on Municipalities

4.  Conclusions


1. Introduction

The establishment of the Blue Box recycling system in Ontario provides an important case study illustrating several aspects of the technological change process.  While the Blue Box system is often praised by industrialists as a model for resource recycling, its negative impacts on the environment and workers are poorly understood. 

This analysis will show that many of the Blue Box system's supposed environmental benefits are illusory and exaggerated, and  demonstrate that the establishment of this system profoundly reduced actual and potential employment levels in the soft drink packaging sector.   Under the Blue Box system, municipal taxpayers subsidize both soft drink companies and their shareholders as well as consumers of soft drinks and other non-refillable packaging because most of the costs of managing these recyclable packaging wastes are externalized.

This case study also documents how laws and policies which enable technological changes that favour the rich and powerful are established. Indeed, the real benefactors of the Blue Box system are the soft drink companies who lobbied hard to get it established.  Moreover, the discussion will demonstrate how the evolution of a particular socio-technical system is defined as logical and inevitable by its proponents.  The role of labour also will be examined, and it will be shown that large labour unions like the United Steelworkers played an important role in shaping the evolution of the Blue Box system and the decline of the refillable container.

a.  Background

Since the 1960s, new disposable packaging technologies have diversified the ways in which food and goods are merchandised, bought and consumed.[1]  Modern packaging has been prompted, in part, by demand for consumer convenience but also by the desire of food retailers to reduce customer service in many stores.  With nearly 100,000 workers in Canada, the package making industries are among the largest industrial employers in Canada.[2]

To recover their enormous investments in research and development (R&D), plants and equipment, packagers strive to perpetuate their particular types of packaging.  Fierce competition exists between the makers of glass and plastic containers, between aluminum and tinplate can manufacturers, and among suppliers of other types of packaging. 

Packaging is also a major source of litter and solid waste.  The amount of packaging materials used and eventually thrown away grows yearly and, in the late 1980s in Canada, was estimated at well over 5 million metric tonnes per year.

In Canada, the regulatory jurisdiction related to packaging waste is split between the federal, provincial and municipal governments.[3]  Under the Constitution Act, 1867, the federal government has general powers related to the making of laws and regulations affecting the promotion of trade and commerce between Canada and other nations and between Provinces within Canada.[4]  In addition, the federal government has the power to enter into treaties with other national governments.  Thus, it could be argued the federal government has a very important role in the establishment of national standards aimed at the regulation of packaging.  It also explains why federal and provincial governments have cooperated in the development of the National Packaging Protocol, a national agreement on reducing packaging waste in Canada.[5]

Provincial governments also have considerable regulatory power to regulate the distribution and sale of packaging within their boundaries.  Generally, these powers derive from the property and civil rights jurisdiction under s. 92 and allow the provinces to require manufacturers to include additional information on product labels and deposit requirements.  Municipal governments have limited powers to ban materials from landfills but usually they are responsible for operating disposal facilities such as landfills and incinerators, locating new disposal facilities, and operating recycling and waste diversion programs.

b. The Argument for Refillables[6]

Refillable containers are an ancient tradition dating back as far as the Aztecs.  The key idea behind refillable bottles is that packaging materials can be re-used for their original purpose many times, thus saving resources and money while reducing manufacturing pollution, litter, and solid waste.[7]

Recycling and re-use were the norm for the majority of households in developed nations prior to the Second World War.[8]   Making do with what you had and conserving resources were considered civic duties.[9]  As the environmental impacts of disposal activities became evident in the late 1960s and 1970s, the call to increase recycling of materials and conserve energy began to grow.[10]  In the late 1980s, pressure for regulations to reduce, re-use and recycle (3Rs) used materials began to grow in most parts of North America.  Part of this pressure is attributable to the declining availability of disposal capacity.[11]  Environmentalists oppose incineration because of well-founded concerns about toxic emissions.[12]  Most Ontario communities will run out of landfill space to bury their garbage before the turn of the century and provincial officials regularly refer to the problem as a waste crisis.[13]  Most estimates suggest that Canadians produce about one tonne per person each year of solid waste and that more than 85 percent of this waste generated is landfilled, 10 percent is incinerated and approximately 5 percent is recycled.[14]

While the availability of landfill capacity is becoming a critical problem, the siting and environmental assessment of new landfills in Ontario has become extremely costly and time-consuming.[15]  In the 1980s both public and private sector landfill proponents found that it took an average of 6 years to obtain all the necessary planning and approvals for construction of a new landfill in Ontario.[16]

There are many good reasons to develop alternatives to current waste disposal practices.[17]  If designed and sited improperly, landfills can pose serious environmental problems.[18] Environmentalists have argued for more than two decades that a great deal of the solid waste going to landfills is packaging waste which does not add a great deal to the quality of life experienced by most urban-industrial people.[19]  In order to reduce packaging waste produced in North America, environmentalists have advocated a shift back to refillable beverage containers.  Studies of waste composition suggest that up to 4 to 8 percent of the domestic solid waste by volume being landfilled in developed nations is used beverage containers for beer, milk, soft drinks, mineral water, fruit drinks, wine and spirits.[20] 

Environmentalists have long contended that beverage container distribution and collection systems must minimize environmental impacts and effects.[21]  While a debate persists as to the relative merits and efficiency of reusing refillable beverage containers versus recycling them, there are several lifecycle assessments (LCAs) which show that collecting, refilling and reusing bottles in a decentralized manner produces enormous benefits for the environment.[22] 

There are four main environmental impacts associated with packaging wastes: i) energy consumption; ii) solid waste generation; iii) atmospheric emissions; and iv) water consumption and emissions.  The exact level of environmental benefits from refillables is tied to "trippage rates" for the specific container,[23] the weight and design of the empty container, and the distance from bottlers to markets.  Plastic refillable containers (ie. refillable PET and refillable polycarbonate (Lexan) containers) now being used in Europe for soft drinks and juice offer additional benefits such as lightness and increased safety and durability, and have produced massive energy savings there as well.[24]   However, in North America industry has refused to formally consider refillable plastic container options and governments have generally avoided examining these technologies as part of 3Rs policy-making processes.

Data on energy consumption show that refillable glass bottles are the most energy-efficient container when refilled 10 times and returned at a high rate (in the order of 95 to 98 percent).[25]  For example, the Franklin report[26] concluded that when refillable glass containers were re-used 10 times compared with aluminum cans recycled at 90 percent, energy savings in the range of 30-50 percent were achieved.  Moreover, the production of certain non-refillables requires polluting and environmentally-destructive energy forms.  For example, aluminum cans require large amounts of electricity[27] and steel can production uses coal.

Most LCAs also suggest that atmospheric emissions of dust, sulphur oxides (which contribute to acid rain) and hydrocarbons are lower when refillable glass containers are used and water pollution emissions related to chemical oxygen demand and aluminum are higher when non-refillables are used.[28]   Moreover, production of PET non-refillables results in the emissions of many serious toxic pollutants and volatile organic compounds.  Toxic emissions from aluminum production also are a serious concern.[29]  Similarly, the production of steel releases numerous toxic pollutants.  In contrast, the production of new glass containers and the washing of old containers for refilling operations releases few toxic compounds into the environment. In addition, the production of aluminum releases two of the most potent greenhouse gases --  tetrafluoromethane and hexafluorethane.[30]  Thus, refillables are consistent with the goal of promoting pollution prevention.[31]

Refillables also generate less waste for disposal.  Refillable bottles are returned by consumers at a very high rate;  In contrast, cans and other non-refillable containers are landfilled at a much greater rate.[32]

Another compelling arguments made for refillable containers is based on product stewardship,[33] and the argument that costs related to the use of the product should not be socialized or externalized.  Refillable containers are consistent with product stewardship because they require consumers and producers to take greater responsibility for the used materials they generate.[34] 

To establish and maintain refillable systems, beverage companies almost always use deposit/refund systems to ensure the containers are returned for re-use.[35]  Where deposit/refund systems are employed with depots, and well promoted, container redemption rates can reach up to 95 percent.[36]  Deposits also have a proven track-record on reducing litter, and they are supported by numerous people, including naturalists, cottagers, and others who dislike seeing beverage container litter in rural or wilderness areas.[37]  However small and large retailers of beverages in many developed nations dislike deposit/refund systems because they create more work for employees handling the bottles or cans[38], the cans and bottles are unsightly and dirty, the glass bottles sometimes break, and deposits systems are awkward to maintain.[39]

To force bottlers and other beverage producers to re-use beverage containers, many governments have enacted and enforced quotas to require a certain percentage of beverage product be sold in refillable containers.[40]  Some governments have gone so far as to ban the sale of non-refillable containers such as cans, tetra briks and PET plastic bottles for certain beverages.  Table 1 presents a survey of various measures which have been taken by governments in Canada and in Europe to promote refillables, primarily in the last two decades.

Table 1 -- Measures to Promote Refillable Beverage

Containers in Various Jurisdictions
Jurisdiction Initiative
In Canada 
PEI Ban on all non-returnable/non-refillable soft drink and beer containers
New Brunswick Partial deposit redeemed for non-refillables; full deposit redeemed for refillables (1991)
BC     In May 1992, the BC government proposed a system similar to New Brunswick's
Ontario  Environmental Levy on Non-refillable Alcohol Containers (July 1989); 30 percent of soft drinks required to be sold in refillable containers (1985)
In Europe

Ban on all non-refillable soft drink and beer containers
Finland Tax on all non-refillable soft drink and beer containers
Germany  Requirements under 1991 Packaging Avoidance Ordinance to sell approximately 72 percent beverages in refillable containers by 1995
Netherlands    Ban on Non-refillable PET bottles unless recycled at a 70 percent rate
Norway  Ban on all non-refillable beer and soft drink containers; restrictions on size, weight and colour of containers
SwedenTax on all non-refillable beer and soft drink containers; deposits on all beer, soft drink, wine and liquor containers
Switzerland   Packaging legislation allows federal government to ban or restrict non-recyclable containers

2.     The Transformation from Refillables to Throw-away Containers

Prior to 1962, all soft drink containers used in Ontario were refillable glass bottles.[41]  Large numbers of bottlers of soft drinks operated in local markets throughout the Province.  As this analysis will show, the advent of disposable cans and bottles forced most of them out of business, because only the largest bottlers could afford to invest in the costly machinery needed to use the new non-refillable containers.        

By 1967, cans had been introduced in the Toronto region. Simultaneously Ontario soft drink brand owners began to build partnerships with the steel industry and large canning companies like Continental Can who had developed efficient canning methods for soft drinks.  Together these companies began to gradually increase the proportion of non-refillables in the marketplace, primarily by substituting steel cans for refillable 10 oz. bottles, and sales of refillables began to decline. 

a) The Transformation Begins

The transformation of the North American marketplace, once begun, proceeded swiftly.[42]  For example, the US soft drink and beer markets were totally transformed during the 1970s and the early 1980s.  In 1964, 87 percent of all US beverage sales were in refillables.  By 1988, beverage sales in refillable units represented only 10.7 percent of total sales.[43]  Current data show that about 95 percent of packaged beer and 94 percent of packaged soft drinks sold in the US are in non-refillable containers.

Similarly, in most Canadian jurisdictions sales of refillable soft drink containers began to decline fairly quickly, although refillable beer systems were preserved primarily because of a move to standardized containers in the early 1960s.[44]  By 1990, about 90 percent of packaged soft drinks sold in Canada were non-refillable.  Refillable soft drink sales in Ontario dropped from roughly a 40 percent market share in 1986 to 3 percent in 1993.[45]  In many provinces in Canada, measures designed to control the distribution of beer have protected the monopolies of the breweries and indirectly served to protect the refillable system for beer.[46]

What led to this massive decline in the use of refillable bottles for soft drinks in many parts of the US and Canada?  In part, industry was seeking to displace labour by substituting the use of energy and resources and increasing their use of automated equipment.  Cans and non-refillable bottles could be quickly disposed of, almost always at public expense, rather than collected, washed and refilled.  Harry E. Teasley Jr., a Vice-President for the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta, Georgia in the mid-1970s (and later became President and CEO for Coca-Cola Foods) stated at a conference on litter in the 1977 that rising labour and capital costs in the 1960s and 1970s helped to propel the soft drink industry towards one-way containers.[47]  Since material and energy costs were holding steady, bottlers began to switch to steel cans in an effort to save money. 

For their part, the large brewers and soft drink bottlers began to prefer cans over bottles because they were easier to handle, lighter to ship, and unbreakable.  In addition, canning operations required up to 50 percent less space for storage of empty bottles and other equipment.  Thus, as companies began to switch over to cans from bottles, valuable urban real estate owned by bottling companies could be sold off, often yielding massive profits for the bottlers.  Meanwhile modern beverage companies moved to the suburbs.

Large retailers also began to favour non-refillables and started to work closely with brand owners to streamline and centralize the distribution of soft drinks, and where possible, beer.  Since cans took up less space and were not generally returned, display and storage space requirements were reduced by 40 to 75 percent; this made the product more cost-effective to market because per unit shelf space costs were slashed.

The consolidation of the beer and soft drink industry in North America also partially explains the decline in refillables.  Before World War II, local brewing and bottling companies produced most of the beer and soft drinks sold in the developed nations.[48]  Since then, the soft drink and beer companies has been consolidated in the hands of a few large companies that ship products over longer distances and distribute their products nationwide and, increasingly, globally.[49]        

The consolidation process has been gradual and steady. A good example is provided by consolidations of Coca-Cola's US bottlers.  From a peak of 1200 bottlers in the U.S. in the 1920s, the number of Coke franchises had dwindled to about 800 by the early 1970s.  However, as Pendergrast observes, Coca-Cola still had too many bottlers.[50]  "While the small town bottler remained a Company tradition, he simply wasn't terribly efficient in the modern marketplace."[51]  The Company began to facilitate merger and sales by establishing a Bottler Consolidation Department in 1971.  Pendergrast explains the rationale for this new department in the following terms:

In the century's early decades, the independent franchise system had effectively disseminated the soft drink throughout the United States.  Now, however, the fifty-mile-radius territories, appropriate for the horse and buggy, proved miniscule to tractor trailers thundering down American superhighways with full loads.  High-speed bottling and canning could spurt enough product to cover whole states.[52]

Later, Pendergrast notes that by 1988, the top ten Coke bottlers accounted for 78 percent of the brand's volume, and head office owned equity positions in half of these operations.[53]  This allowed Coca-Cola to maintain raging price wars with Pepsi[54] in the 1980s, resulting in prices which were actually lower per ounce than in 1970, when adjusted for inflation.[55]  Royal Crown and other smaller competitors were slowly crushed by frantic efforts to yield profits and control market share.[56]  Moreover, Coca-Cola bottlers put enormous pressure on their delivery and sales employees to work long hours.[57]

A similar pattern is identifiable in Canada.  In the 1920s, there were more than 200 brewing and soft drink bottling companies in Canada.  By 1990, there were fewer than 20 beer companies and 10 soft drink bottling franchise companies in operation.[58]  Of this number, more are in the beer industry.  In the soft drink industry, three companies, Pepsi, Cott Beverages and Coca-Cola, accounted for more than 85 % of all sales of soft drinks in Canada, as demonstrated by Table 2.

Single-use containers helped the large brewing and soft drink companies because they allowed the large companies to gain market share from smaller competitors whose distribution tended to be more local or regional in scope.  Frank Sellinger, a former vice-president for the American beer giant Anheuser-Busch, testified before Congress in 1974 that the availability and acceptance of single-use containers hastened the concentration of beer production in the hands of a few large companies.[59]  Similarly, Peter Chokola, president of Chokola Beverages, an independent soft drink bottler in Wilkes-Barre, Pensylvannia, testifying before the same committee said that a few companies in the US were able to gain nearly total control of the soft drink industry "only through the irresponsible, unrestricted use of the throwaway bottle and beverage can containers."[60]

Table 2 -- Soft Drink Sales in Canada, Jan.- Aug. 1993[61]
RankCompanyKilolitres% of Market
2.Private[62]   763,58127.3
Total 2,797,000100.0

More sophisticated packaging technologies usually were linked to large investments in packaging equipment, often shutting small entrepreneurs out of markets.  Thus, one effect of the growth of the packaging industry was to develop a centralized and more efficient system of distribution.

As can sales began to expand, many of the large chain food stores began to demand that cans, rather than bottles, be distributed to them through their central or regional distribution centres.  These distribution centres were located in or near large urban centres, usually close to highways, facilitating distribution of food products to their outlets in adjacent communities by large trucks.  In addition, large supermarket chains did not want to negotiate with multiple local bottlers offering different services and prices.[63]

This new centralized distribution system seriously eroded the ability of smaller local bottlers to compete with larger canning operations because it began to reduce demand for product and the level of local off-truck deliveries.  As the size of production runs at local bottlers began to fall, so did the economies of scale.  Gradually, the delivery economics for local bottlers began to worsen. 

As the size of food stores began to escalate, aided by these newer systems of production and distribution, the attractiveness of refillable bottles as a means to ensure customer loyalty began to decline.[64]   Returned bottles also could be handled or stacked by staff in small and medium-sized stores at "slack times" in the day, reducing the net cost of handling empty bottles.  However, as the size of food stores increased and the number of different refillable container types expanded, handling returned bottles required increasing amounts of retailer staff time.

To reduce disruptions to the work of cashiers and packers, most large retailers began to require customers to return bottles at special counters.  Often, these counters were understaffed and customers had to wait several minutes to get their refunds.  These factors contributed to a growing perception among many concumers that refillable bottles were “just a hassle” and not worth the trouble.

At a socio-cultural level, television became an important social force, and people began to consume more beer and soft drinks in their own homes.  As Vance Packard suggests in his classic analysis of American commercial culture, The Waste Makers, speed, convenience and disposability became increasingly important to many consumers.[65]

Another factor that prompted greater interest in disposable containers was that many US and some Canadian soldiers had been exposed to single-use bottles and cans during World War II.[66]  The fact that cans did not break easily also encouraged their acceptance.  Moreover, one-way containers looked cleaner and newer; in contrast, refillable bottles often appeared scuffed or damaged, especially those that had been re-used 40 or 50 times.

As automation techniques improved, the logic of the shift to non-refillables became more and more compelling for industry.  By 1983, it was estimated that the cost of filling and distributing non-refillables cost soft drink companies was four to five times less than filling, distributing, collecting and refilling glass containers.[67]

To support the switch to non-refillables, the soft drink industry began to attempt to build "scientific" support for their case.  The recognition of the complexity of environmental effects associated with various products had led to the development of a fledgling science (now called "life-cycle analysis") in the 1970s and the 1980s.[68]  Some of the first product assessments to be conducted in the late 1960s and early 1970s were prepared under the sponsorship of the Coca-Cola Company by the Midwest Research Institute.[69]  The purpose of these studies was to compare different containers to determine which produced the least effects on natural resources and the environment.[70]

To undertake its conversion to canning operations, the Ontario soft drink industry relied on generous tax provisions allowing rapid depreciation allowances for environmental investments, thereby signicantly reducing tax burdens.[71]  One expert places the government "tax expenditures" in the conversion of the Ontario soft drink industry's infrastructure at between $7.5 to 10 million between 1980 and 1990.[72]  Profits in the large soft drink companies soared.

b) The Deline of Refillable Soft Drinks in Ontario

By 1971, the market share in Ontario for refillable soft drink bottles had dropped to 55 percent of total sales.[73] Environmental groups began to advocate establishment of a fully refillable deposit/return system for distributing soft drinks to reduce litter[74], protect the environment and promote local bottling.[75]

Before long, Ontario environmentalists had built enormous public pressure for a refillable soft drink system to eliminate litter and reduce solid waste for disposal.  The Ontario government responded by appointing consultative bodies such as the Littering Control Council of Ontario in 1970,[76] the Solid Waste Task Force in 1974 and Ontario Waste Management Advisory Board (OWMAB) in 1975.[77]  The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) also was established in 1971 and waste management became an important priority for the fledgling ministry.

In 1976, the ruling Progressive Conservatives led by Premier Bill Davis were in a minority position, and decided to pass amendments to the Environmental Protection Act which, if fully implemented, would have required the gradual phase-out of non-refillable pop containers.[78]  In addition, the government promulgated Regulation 687/76 under the new legislation.

The promulgation of the new regulation unleashed a furious reponse from the soft drink brand owners, industry associations and other interest groups.  At the government's request, the OWMAB agreed to hold public hearings on the regulations in November 1976.  The OWMAB heard more than 35 formal submissions, including one from the Metal Container Manufacturers' Advisory Council (MCMAC).  In their brief, MCMAC stated that if the regulations were implemented more than 1,200 jobs in steel can making would be lost, and capital facilities worth more than $50 million owned by companies involved with soft drink can manufacturing would be abandoned.[79]  In contrast, ENGOs, small bottlers and retailers requested that an efficient system be developed, making use of as few standardized bottles as possible.  The independent bottlers were a powerful and vocal group in this coalition.  In the early 1970s, many of these companies were not yet owned by the large brand owners.  They bought concentrate from brand owners, which they mixed with water to produce soft drinks using equipment and materials that were often purchased from and maintained by local suppliers, providing important spin-off economic benefits.

As the brand owners began to shift more production to cans, independent bottlers were hit hard.  Most of these small bottlers recognized that the preservation of the refillable system was essential to their survival.  They argued that, to make a refillable system work in Ontario, new regulations would have to be drafted.  The existing regulations were not being enforced; indeed the MOE knew that they could not be fully enforced without a massive increase in the number of inspectors available to investigate complaince by local store owners all over the province.  MOE lawyers and investigators questioned the logic of dedicating staff and time on prosecuting small stores selling pop when larger retailers and the franchisors were violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the law by selling non-refillables at deep discount prices.

During the 1977 election the Davis government promised that new regulations would be drafted and approved by Cabinet before the end of 1977, but the regulations were never drafted.  Instead, in late 1977 the re-elected Davis government came to a "gentlemen's agreement" with the soft drink industry that required them to sell at least 75 percent of their product (by volume) in refillable bottles rather than cans.[80]  This agreement was premised on increased sales of the 1.5 litre bottles by retailers.  By March 1978, the OSDA was able to take out a full-page ad in the Toronto Star proclaiming their environmental virtue because they had reached a refillable/nonrefillable sales ratio of 72 percent.[81]  In the meantime, Linda Pim, then an environmentalists at Pollution Probe, sought a declaration from an Ontario Divisional Court that the Minister had failed to comply with his statutory duty.[82]  The court held that Pim lacked standing on the grounds that the two remedies sought were not justiciable.  Moreover, even if Pimhad standing the application would have been defeated on its merits because Cabinet has discretion as to whether to enact regulations or not.

Ontario's refillable soft drink system came unravelled between March 1978 and early 1981.  In June 1979, the federal Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs banned 1.5 litre bottles due to explosion problems.[83]  By this time, these containers represented approximately 25 percent of refillable sales.  To ease the hardship that this ban might cause for small bottlers, the MOE relaxed enforcement of Regulation 687/76 and overlooked the voluntary agreement it had negotiated with the OSDA to sell 75 percent of its product in refillables.[84]

Other factors also were influential in transforming the Ontario marketplace.  First, competition among the soft drink producers, large food retailers and smaller specialized retailers was growing.  Large retailers, with the support of franchisors, began to offer deep discounts on 24-packs of cans to build brand loyalty and consumers began to switch over to cans.

Secondly, by the late 1970s North American soft drink companies and retailers had all but eliminated the popular 10 oz. refillable bottles and replaced them with steel cans; thus, alternative single serving refillable containers became unavailable.

Thirdly, in North America both the large chain food retailers and the large brand owners like Coca-Cola and Pepsi began to lobby aggressively against "forced deposits" on containers and refillable requirements.[85]  In addition, the soft drink industry clarified its oppostion to paying "handling fees" to retailers, an approach adopted in Quebec in 1982.[86]

Ontario retailers also began to lobby against refillable requirements.  Many retailers felt that Regulation 687/76 imposed costs on them that ought to be paid for by the soft drink companies[87] but most retailers chose to ignore the regulation altogether.[88]  Evidence was gathered based on summaries of LCAs prepared for industry suggesting the environmental benefits of refillable glass bottles were marginal and exaggerated.[89]

Faced with increasing economic pressure, many smaller bottlers in North America began to sell their operations to the large franchisors.  The large franchisors then would serve local markets through one or two large plants; sometimes the smaller bottlers were converted into distribution warehouses.

In 1981, the Ontario soft drink industry announced it had "solved" the breakage problem related to the 1.5 litre bottles.  This announcement came nearly two years after it had been suggested as a possible solution by Japanese scientists in November 1979.[90]  However, industry and retailer interest in these heavy containers had collapsed.  Although the soft drink industry claimed that the recession had put a damper on sales of the 1.5 litre glass bottles, they were viewed by many small and large retailers as dinosaurs. 

To drive home their point of view, several national retailer associations[91] formed the "Retail Returnable Containers Committee" (RRRC) in 1981 and, with the assistance of the federal Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce, hired a consulting firm to prepare a critical assessment of the costs associated with handling glass refillables.[92]  The study concluded that the cost of handling refillables on a per container basis was in the range of 7-11 cents when labour and storage costs were fully assessed.[93]  In 1982, the Quebec government responded to pressure from retailers by imposing a 2 cents/bottle handling fee.

c) The Early History of the Blue Box System

To encourage recycling, environmentalists and non-profit groups in Ontario and other parts of North America began to advocate source separation and the curbside collection of certain kinds of recyclables like newspaper, metal cans, and glass bottles.[94]  Thanks to the work and volunteer efforts of several individuals and public interest groups in the 1970s, some municipalities in Ontario established curbside programs to collect bundled newspapers and, where possible, other materials such as cans and glass bottles, for recycling.[95]  Depots also were established to complement these programs. 

These early efforts to promote curbside collection of recyclables usually failed because of low prices for the recyclables and hidden subsidies to virgin material use.[96]  Other problems that continue to plague recycling programs in North America were identified including: unstable prices for used and recyclable materials; and contamination of the materials. 

The few initiatives that did survive almost always were based on the collection of newspapers because markets for post-consumer and pre-consumer recycled paper materials were already well established.  Private paper manufacturing companies had concluded using this material was economically attractive because it reduced primary processing costs (including labour) and energy costs.[97]

In 1975, Pollution Probe researchers launched a socio-economic analysis of paper recycling to determine why most of the curbside programs had not succeeded.  The main findings of their research were reported in a document titled Recycling: Identifying the Barriers published in 1975.[98]  The report contended that the "major stumbling block seemed to be the belief on the part of key government and industry officials that recycling was simply not feasible".[99] 

In August 1980, the MOE announced a policy to encourage source separation of recyclables.  One year later, in August 1981, financial support for larger scale residential source separation projects (the "Source Separation Program") was announced.[100]

d) The Actors, The Process and the Blue Box Deal

In parallel with these early recycling efforts during early 1980s, the Ministry undertook a comprehensive review of its regulatory requirements for refillable soft drink containers.[101]  A discussion paper outlining proposals for revising the refillable requirements for the soft drink industry was prepared in mid-1982 and consultations began with soft drink manufacturers and their suppliers, retailers, public interest groups and other stakeholders in late 1982.

When sales of refillable soft drink containers began to decline in the early 1980s, many environmentalists renewed their push to get the Ontario government to enforce the 75 percent "gentlemen's agreement" on refillables.[102]   They were supported by the independent bottlers who feared their imminent extinction at the hands of brand owners.  At the same time, the soft drink industry contended that consumers preferred disposables such as cans and plastic bottles.  Meanwhile, bureaucrats in the MOE were increasingly frustrated by difficulties associated with purporting to regulate marketing by dozens of small retailers and the large bottling franchisors.[103]

Sensing mutiny within the MOE, the soft drink industry began to push for "packaging freedom"[104]: in other words, freedom to use cheaper, throw-away packages for their products, freedom to continue rapid consolidation in their industry and eliminate the independent bottlers, and freedom to start cutting the number of unionized and non-unionized bottling workers they employed.  The OSDA convinced the MOE bureaucrats that an approach based on packaging freedom was in the best interests of the MOE, the Ontario government and the Province's environment.

One of the keys to freedom, the soft drink companies knew, based on their experiences in the US, would be introduction of new polyethylene terepthalate (PET) plastic soft drink containers.  The 2-litre PET bottle had numerous attractions.  First, like steel and aluminum cans the bottle does not shatter and is much lighter than glass.  Secondly, the large size enabled soft drink companies to sell more beverage in a single unit.  Moreover, less handling was required, more beverage would fit into trucks, and the ratio of of packaging material to product was lower so packaging costs were reduced.

PET had other advantages as well.  Noise levels in glass refillable bottling plants were often deafening; bottling and handling operations for PET bottles were much quieter.  The risk of injury to workers from broken glass also was eliminated.  Moreover, the bottlers realized tremendous productivity gains, initially in the range of 10 percent annually, because breakages no longer slowed the bottling lines.[105]

Bottlers quickly found that larger PET bottles allowed them to sell their product at a lower price per ounce than beverages packaged in smaller containers.  These savings were passed on to consumers and this helped to boost sales of soft drinks in PET containers.  In the US between 1966 and 1976 the market share for 1- and 2-litre PET bottles increased from 12.6 percent to 35.6 percent.  The other soft drink packaging material that had grown in importance in the US during the late 1970s was aluminum.  Even though there was compelling evidence that aluminum production was destructive to the environment and extremely energy-intensive[106], in the 1970s the aluminum producers and the canners had developed new automated production lines to further cut labour costs.

Of the aluminum manufacturers involved in the consultations and lobbying efforts leading up to the new regulatory regime, Alcan was most influential.  Alcan hired lobbyists and consultants who met with officials in the MOE and municipalities to explain how aluminum could provide a sound financial footing for Ontario's recycling programs.  These lobbyists pointed out that floor price for aluminum in Ontario would be at least $900/tonne, twelve times the price for scrap steel in Ontario at the time.  The key was to persuade the soft drink industry to switch its canning material to aluminum.

To counter fears that a switch to aluminum would devastate the steel industry, Alcan had a study prepared by a California consultant suggesting that a "changeover" to aluminum cans would result in a net loss of 24-43 jobs and create over 1,100 jobs in the aluminum and recycling industries.[107]  By early 1982, even the then-Environment Critic for the NDP from Hamilton, Brian Charlton, appeared to be persuaded about the merits of the Alcan model.[108]

In contrast, the United Steel Workers of America (USWA), non-unionized steel workers and the steel companies were arguing in favour of greater use of steel cans to provide a more secure footing for their industry, which was under considerable economic pressure.[109]  Dofasco claimed that Alcan's proposal to switch to aluminum from steel could jeopardize as many as 3,500 jobs.[110]  The aluminum industry responded by producing a study which showed that the entire can-making industry (which included all canned food packaging) only employed a total of 1,200 people in Ontario.

In May 1983, Alcan joined forces with Twinpak Inc., a US-based manufacturer of PET bottles, Consumer's Glass, Domglas Inc. and the Ontario Paper Co. to form the Recycling Support Council[111] and provide funding support for a demonstration project in Burlington.  Then in November 1983, the Council announced that it would provide $1 million towards the cost of curbside recycling if the soft drink regulations were changed.[112]

To resolve conflicts between these different industry associations, environmental and public interest groups, government officials and companies, a multi-stakeholder commitee (MSC) consultation process was established by the Ontario government in early 1985.[113]  The former Executive Director of Pollution Probe, Colin Isaacs, and Eva Ligeti, a contract staff lawyer working at the Canadian Environmental Law Association, agreed to represent environmentalists.[114]  Ligeti resigned from the MSC and CELA withdrew from further participation soon after the process began once it became clear that the process had been designed to legitimate implementation of the industry-favoured recycling model.[115]

Other stakeholders participating in the MSC included representatives from the soft drink industry, workers and unions, the steel industry, independent bottlers, retailers, the Recycling Council of Ontario and the MOE.[116]

After several months of discussion, the Ontario Soft Drink Association (OSDA) made an offer through the multi-stakeholder committee (MSC) process based on the original Alcan proposal that seemed to break the log-jam.  Under the terms of the deal, the OSDA would help to establish the Ontario Multi-Material Recycling Incorporated (OMMRI).[117]   Recycling performance requirements and dates for attainment of the targets would be spelled out in regulations under the Environmental Protection Act[118] and industry would sign a memorandum of agreement with the MOE outlining its obligations to suppport recycling.  In exchange for helping to set up and expand municipal Blue Box curbside recycling programs, the refillable quota would be relaxed to 40 percent.  Moreover, industry would be allowed to lower its refillable quota to 30 percent when recycling infrastructure had been provided to more than half of Ontario householders.

The stakeholders also accepted the concept of greater packaging freedom for industry and increased industry reliance on newer, more valuable plastic bottles and aluminum cans.[119]  As part of the deal, both Coca-Cola and Pepsi agreed to switch to aluminum cans by 1987.[120]  Despite the important environmental and social implications of this deal, Isaacs and the other stakeholders did not insist that the MOE carry out an environmental assessment of this new recycling model.[121]

The soft drink industry and Alcan were extremely pleased with Isaacs "fresh" approach to the issue.  Corporate donations to Pollution Probe began to increase, and OMMRI, Alcan and Coca-Cola became top donors to Probe's coffers.  Indeed, records show that Pollution Probe received more than $50,000 from Alcan between 1986 and 1990.[122]

To reduce the impact of the new system on the steel industry, the regulations would be phased-in to allow steel cans to be introduced immediately but delay the introduction of aluminum by two years.  These provisions were challenged by a major aluminum manufacturers, led by Alcan, who argued that the regulations were ultra vires the government on the grounds that they did not fall within s. 136(6) of the EPA [now section 176(7) of the EPA], and were passed for an ulterior motive.  Moreover, they contended that sections 7 and 15 the Charter of Rights and Freedoms prevented this type of discrimination.[123] However, the Divisional Court ruled that the regulations were not arbitrary, capricious or unnecessary because the means used could be rationally related to the achievement of legitimate ends.

Initially OMMRI pledged $1.5 million towards Blue Box system expansion.  While this was not a large sum of money, it convinced Minister's staff in the fiscally-conservative Ministry of Treasury and Economics to support the deal.   Meanwhile, a knowledgeable commentator on waste issues estimated that not having to operate a full-scale bottle deposit/return system saved the soft drink industry about $60-80 million annually.[124]

In February, 1987, under pressure from the MOE, OMMRI announced its funding would be expanded to a $20 million program of capital support for municipal-scale Blue Box programs.  Under the program, OMMRI agreed to provide up to two-thirds of capital costs for the purchase of blue boxes, trucks and processing equipment.[125]

With the combined financial support of the MOE and OMMRI behind the Blue Box system, hundreds of municipalities began to implement Blue Box programs, spurred on by environmentalists and growing awareness about environmental issues.  Moreover, suppliers started to develop new collection and processing equipment designed specifically for municipal Blue Box programs.[126]

As part of the Blue Box deal, industry officials, environmentalists and other stakeholders wanted a mechanism to review the program and make recommendations on it.  The Peterson government responded by establishing the Recycling Advisory Committee (RAC) in 1985 to advise the Ontario government on how to implement the Blue Box system.  RAC reported directly to the Minister of the Environment, allowing RAC officials and members to communicate directly with the Minister's office, allowing RAC to avoid having to deal with the bureaucracy and the limiting the potential for damaging information leaks.  In addition, the establishment of RAC allowed important files with potentially embarassing information on the Blue Box decision-making process to be transferred out of the hands of the MOE bureaucracy and into the hands of a new elite in the small RAC office.[127]  As a concession to the steelmakers, the Minister agreed that the administrative office for RAC was based in Hamilton, thus providing easy access to RAC for managers at Stelco and DOFASCO.

While representation on RAC was never really balanced, its composition was gradually altered between 1985 and 1989 so that, by the end of 1989, it was comprised largely of representatives from industries and companies with a vested interest in recycling and other known municipal and ENGO supporters of recycling.[128]

For this reason, it was no surprise to many observers, when in 1988 RAC recommended that the ratio for monthly refillable sales be lowered to 30 percent based on the fact that Blue Box services were available to nearly half of Ontario's households.[129]    A report released in the spring of 1989 would show that less than 5 percent of non-refillables were being recycled in blue boxes despite the promises of the soft drink industry.[130]

The recommendation to relax the refillable regulations was eagerly accepted by the government even though Regulations 622/85 and 623/85 required the soft drink industry to recycle 50 per cent of its non-refillable containers before the quota could be lowered.

e)  Interpretative Compliance

In late 1989 behind the backs of ENGOs and other stakeholders, the MOE, OMMRI and senior OSDA officials and consultants to RAC began discussions on the environmental merits of refillables and the relevance of the refillable requirements under the regulations.  The basic proposal being made by the soft drink industry became known subsequently as "interpretative compliance" and was supported by a subcommittee of RAC.  The gist of it was that the soft drink companies were really environmental good guys and should be recognized for their efforts because of their financial contribution toward establishment of the Blue Box system.  Thus, the MOE should agree to relax enforcement of the refillable requirement. 

In part the industry recommendation on "interpretative compliance" was a response to perceived problems with enforcement of the refillable regulations.  The MOE had launched several prosecutions of soft drink bottlers between 1987 and 1989.  One case, R. v. Erie & Huron Beverages[131],  was working its way through Provincial and Weekly Court to the Ontario Court of Appeal and eventually it would prove to be a major embarassment to the soft drink industry and the Ontario government.  In this case the company, Erie and Huron Beverages Limited, was charged with five counts of violating each of s. 3(1) of Ont. Reg. 622/85 [now O.R. 357] and s. 8(1) of  Ont. Reg. 623/85 [now O.R. 340].  On December 23, 1988, the Court of Appeal ruled that bottlers could not be prosecuted for failing to meet the 30% monthly quota on refillables.  In the decision, Carthy J.A. described OMMRI as a “club” that companies could join or opt out of.

In essence, the Erie & Huron Beverages decision meant that the Crown could not prosecute under the quota provision in what is now section 7 of O. R. 340.  Thus, the MOE Legal Sservices Branch felt it was restricted to trying to enforce the prohibition in Section 3 of Regulation 357, and the advertising and display provisions in section 6 of Regulation 340, which focuses on retailers.  However, the MOE had had limited success with these types of prosecutions in the 1970s and 1980s.  For example, the wording of the prohibition in section 3 made enforcement more difficult because of its complexity and this opened the door to effective challenges based on technicalities.  The regulations that had been designed in a multi-stakeholder process could not be enforced.

According to the  "interpretative compliance" proposal, soft drink producers and distributors would be deemed to be in compliance with the quota if they maintain the capacity to produce 30 percent of the soft drinks they sell in refillable containers.[132]  The terms of the deal were revealed in mid April 1990, when Neville Kirchmann, then CEO for TCC Beverages, the Canadian franchisors for Coca-Cola, told an annual shareholders meeting that RAC had asked the Ontario government to further relax the 30 percent quota and instead adopt the "interpretative compliance" policy.  Environmental groups accused the government of caving in to pressure from the soft drink industry.[133]

During the summer election of 1990, the Liberals were repeatedly attacked for their position on refillables and the fact that they were caving to industry pressure.[134]  At the beginning of the campaign, a coalition of environmental groups (including Greenpeace, CELA and Pollution Probe) released an eight-point environmental plan; among the eight measures was a challenge to implement a fully refillable system for juice, soft drinks, beer, wine and spirits.

In response to ENGO coalition's eight-point plan, the NDP promised to implement a refillable system and thus phase out steel soft drink cans.   However, within days Rae was lambasted by Leo Gerrard, the United Steelworkers union leader, for that commitment and no one expected such a promise would see the light of day.    What environmental groups did hope was that the MOE would begin to enforce the provisions in Regulations 622/85 and 623/85 requiring the soft drink industry to achieve certain minimal levels of refillable sales.

After the election, the soft drink industry clamoured to meet with the new Environment Minister, Ruth Grier, to pressure her to recant on her strong statements on refillables.  In a private meeting held days after she was formally appointed as Minister, soft drink industry officials threatened to legally challenge any attempt by the new government to force them to meet the 30 percent quota.[135]  They pointed out that a challenge under the Free Trade Agreement or the Charter could undermine Ontario's refillable regulatory regime.  Meanwhile, in April 1991 distilleries warned that they would probably move their operations to the US if the provincial government required them to use refillable containers.

As a result, the new NDP government was advised to drop its commitment to make the soft drink industry pay for recycling its own waste and refilling soft drink containers and halt any prosecutions of the soft drink industry by senior policy advisors and lawyers in Cabinet Office, the Premier's Office and the Legal Services Branch of MOE.  As a compromise, the new government asked the soft drink industry to spend a million dollars on TV ads in late 1990 and early 1991 to promote refillables.  The impact was dismal.  By mid 1991, the refillable ratio for soft drink sales by volume was about 10 percent and by mid 1993 monthly sales estimates prepared for the MOE suggested that approximately 3 percent of soft drink sales were in refillables.

f) The Beer Can Tax

Meanwhile the Ontario government was closely examining its policy options to protect Ontario's beer industry.  Pressure to break down inter-provincial and bilateral barriers to trade in beer has been growing in the past decade.[136]  If the barriers to trade in beer are partially removed, or completely broken down, then it would be much more difficult to ensure refillables are used for beer in Canada because American companies, who are seeking entry into the Canadian market, use non-refillable cans extensively because this container is cheaper to produce and transport over longer distances.

In the 1992 Budget Statement, the Ontario Treasurer, the Honourable Floyd Laughren, announced that:

This government is committed to the 3Rs -- reduce, re-use, and recycle.  In support of the Minister of the Environment's waste management initiatives, I am expanding the environmental levy to apply to all non-refillable beverage alcohol containers, including beer cans.  In addition, effective May 25, 1992, the levy will be increased to ten cents per container.[137]

The tax was immediately attacked by American beer companies, Alcan, branch-plant canning operations in Ontario and unions involved with these operations.  The most aggressive attack was launched by Alcan's US operations who feared this new "green tax" might set a precedent that would be eagerly followed by cash-strapped North American governments.  Malcolm Rowan, a Toronto consultant and former Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology, was hired to coordinate the industry attack on the budget measure.  A series of meetings were held involving staff from the Ministries of Consumer and Commercial Relations, Environment and Treasury and Economics.

In a July 1992 statement[138], the MOE attempted to defend the tax.  Critics pointed out that this defence was limp and unpersuasive.  The environmental performance of domestic aluminum beer cans with deposits is very good [because more than 85 percent are collected for recycling under the Beer Store’s deposit system], especially when compared to that of steel cans used by the soft drink industry.[139] 

Another powerful criticism of this initiative is that the Ontario government failed to establish a labour adjustment program for those workers affected by the levy.  Moreover, two important government ministries with an interest in this issue, Ministry of Industry, Trade and Technology (as it then was) and the Ministry of Labour, were minimally involved in policy development on this matter. While follow-up research by the MOE suggests that no more than 20-30 workers were directly affected by the levy, these workers expressed justifiably outrage at the lack of planning on the part of the Ontario government.

3.  The Implications of Restructuring

a. The Impact on Workers and Unions

The Blue Box system had important implications for workers and unions.  When refillable glass container systems are employed, the containers are consumed locally, collected, refilled and washed close to where the product is marketed, this creates local jobs and ensures that spin-off benefits are largely retained by the community consuming the beverage product rather than exported to adjacent or foreign jurisdictions.

The Blue Box system was premised on a different approach. Since many of the workers at small bottlers were not unionized, they were unable to resist the strong pressure for conversion and consolidation of the soft drink industry from the franchisors and the large packaging manufacturers.[140]  Thus, hundreds of bottling jobs in Ontario were eliminated in the wake of the launch of the Blue Box system.  Moreover, thousands of jobs that would have been created if soft drink companies had been required to use refillables and deposits also have been forfeited.

Since good data on employment in the soft drink industry is difficult to obtain, sorting out the impact of different forces in the restructuring of Ontario's soft drink industry is a complex task.  An illustration of the type of jobs that have been lost is provided by filling operations.  Filling 2000 cans per minute requires 5 or 6 workers, whereas filling the same amount of bottles requires nearly 50 workers.[141] 

Employment in the Ontario soft drink industry was approximately 4,795 in 1986 based on annual sales of 650 million litres.[142]  By 1990, although annual sales had increased to 986 million litres, nearly a 50 percent increase compared to 1986, MOE research suggested that total employment had dropped to 3,700.  Although new data is unavailable to confirm that this trend has continued since 1990, union officials have noted a steady decline in employment trends at most soft drink plants in the past few years.[143]

The dismantling of the refillables system also reduced employment in northern and rural communities.  Statistics Canada data shows that more than 300 jobs were lost in northern Ontario between 1986 and 1990 because of closure of bottling plants.[144]  Most jobs that have been retained in the north are management positions or jobs in distribution and sales.

The bleeding at soft drink operations in Ontario has not stopped.  In 1992, Coca-Cola laid off 180 more workers and Pepsi laid off another 70 employees. In early 1994, Coca-Cola's operations in Canada laid off 500 workers.  Two hundred of these workers were based in Ontario.[145]            [Note: Lay-offs continued between 1994 and 1997.]

What is more difficult to assess is how many potential jobs have been lost because of the relaxation of refillable requirements under Ontario's EPA.  Based on current consumption levels, it could be argued that if a refillable/nonrefillable ratio of 75:25 had been maintained, at least two thousand more bottling and packaging jobs would have been created in the province's soft drink industry between 1985 and 1992.[146]  In addition, millions of hours of work would have been created for handlers, drivers and other workers in the system.  If depots for returnable beverage containers had been created, then another 1,000-3,000 jobs might have been created collecting high quality materials for recycling and refilling.[147] 

Another consequence of the Blue Box system is that all Ontario citizens are now doing unpaid work for the private sector sorting their recyclables and hauling them to curb.  This unpaid work is generating revenues and profits for industries that buy up the recycled materials at firesale prices dictated by the private sector. 

The material-gathering methods employed by Blue Box system workers also have ominous long-term implications for the health and safety of workers in the recycling sector.[148]  There already is considerable evidence that the repetitive motions that curbside collection workers are forced to undertake are contributing to the growing problem of repetitive strain injury (RSI) noted in many sectors of the economy.  In 1993, the Ontario Workers' Compensation Board introduced a new industry code (rate group 689) to identify firms in the "Waste Materials (Recycling)" industry.  These are private-sector firms that handle waste material and specialize in recycling.  As of June 1994, there were 329 lost-time injury (LTI) claims allowed in this industry for injuries sustained in 1993.  The rate of injury in these firms for 1993 was 8.5 per 100 workers. 

The nature of injuries sustained by workers in the private sector recycling industry (rate group 689) follows a slightly different pattern from that of other claimants.  The largest single type of injury in the waste materials industry was "sprains and strains", which accounted for 37 percent of all claims in this rate group.  This is less than the proportion of sprains and strains among all workers compensation claims.  Across the system as a whole, sprains and strains account for approximately 50 percent of all claims.  Table 4 compares the distribution of injuries in the private waste materials/recycling sector and the overall distribution of injuries for all claims in 1993.  This data indicates that in this rate group, the most injured part of the body was the back or lumbar spine, which accounted for 25 percent of the claims.  The second most frequently injured part of the body was the fingers, which accounted for 12 percent of the claims.

In the municipal sector, while it is not possible to obtain specific information on recycling workers, the general rate of injury reported by the Municipal Health and Safety Program for sanitation workers, which includes recycling workers, was 22 lost-time injuries per 100 workers in 1993, reduced from a rate of 41 per 100 workers in 1985.[149]     

Studies undertaken of garbage workers show that they have a high incidence of RSI because of repeated flexing and twisting motions.[150]  Moreover, they work in dangerous conditions and are frequently injured because of broken glass or because they are in accidents with vehicle drivers on city streets.[151]  Exposure to the elements also compounds health and safety problems.[152]

Table 3 -- Percent of Claims, Nature of Injury - All Claims Compared to Private Recycling Industry Firms (WCB Rate Group 689)

         Nature of Injury

Percent of  Claims

Rate Group 689

Percent of All Claims

 Sprains and strains (MSI)



 Contusions/bruises with intact skin






 Occupational injuries unspecified









Like garbage workers, workers collecting Blue Box materials are exposed to severe working conditions.  In contrast, working conditions in the Beer Stores run by the Brewers of Ontario where used containers are dropped off for re-use and recycling are very good.  Injury rates for the applicable rate group are in the range of 3-4 LTIs per 100 workers.[153]  If more workers were shifted out of curbside recycling and into a depot-based system, the savings to workers, their families, the health care system and society as a whole would be enormous.

An even more serious problem exists with the material sorting methods usually employed in support of the Blue Box system.  Again, these jobs entail repetitive motions in a noisy and dangerous work environment.[154]  Thus, the incidence of RSI among workers at these sorting plants is expected to increase every month according to officials at Ontario's WCB.

Despite the clear issues related to quality of work and working conditions and the employment impacts associated with the Blue Box system, no study was ever undertaken by the MOE or the Ministry of Labour on technological change.  Similarly, no labour adjustment programs were established for the workers affected by the closure of the bottling plants that was facilitated by the new regulations.

b. The Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of the Blue Box system is difficult to assess.  By the end of 1992, more than 500 Ontario municipalities were involved in recycling programs, providing recycling services to roughly 80% of the Province's residences.  In total, Blue Box services were available to more than 3.2 million householders and apartment dwellers as of December 1992. In 1991, more than 420,000 tonnes of Blue Box materials were diverted from disposal by participants in these recycling programs.

In practical terms, the 400,000 tonnes collected in 1991 represents more than 10.7% of the estimated 4.05 million tonnes of total MSW generated for disposal by Ontario households.  Moreover, the average participating household diverts more than 131 kilograms of Blue Box recyclables from disposal and the system is extremely popular.[155]

Despite the popularity of the Blue Box system, no formal environmental assessment of the Blue Box system and its potential impacts was ever undertaken.  There are numerous environmental problems with the current system, especially when compared to other systems for collecting and managing used beverage containers. 

Perhaps the most important flaw in the design of the Blue Box system is that industry does not pay a fair share of the cost of operating the system.  Moreover, it is difficult to get a clear picture of the costs of managing different materials in the Blue Box system.  For example, newspaper collection and recycling in the Blue Box system lowers the average per tonne cost for operating recycling programs.  Recycling newspaper costs municipal taxpayers in the range of $30-50/tonne.  In contrast, it has been estimated that recycling packaging waste costs between $200-350/tonne, depending on private sector subsidies and the market vlaue of the particular material.[156]

Another serious flaws in the evolution of the Blue Box system has been the fact that many industries that generate recyclables and other wastes do not fund the system.  While some industries that use recyclable packaging materials, such as the Ontario Soft Drink Association, share a small part of the cost of operating the Blue Box system in Ontario,  many others have never contributed to funding the Blue Box program even though they use recyclable packaging materials such as Old Corrugated Cardboard (OCC), metal or glass collected by municipalities.  Still others do not contribute to funding current diversion efforts and may use non-recyclable packaging even though their products or product packaging cause waste management problems.  This has prompted many companies and industry associations to demand that government create a "level playing field" for all industries.[157]

Another consequence of the Blue Box system is that it has required large capital investments in a particular approach to recycling that may not be environmentally optimal.  Technologies which might have offered partial solutions to certain problems have been jettisoned in favour of others supported by the North American soft drink industry.  For example, one problem identified above is that of bottle returns.  European retailers and companies responded to this problem by developing sophisticated reverse-vending machines which allow customers to return bottles in a much more cost-effective manner.[158]  In contrast, most North American retailers have generally refused to invest reasonable amounts of capital in these machines so that the system could function here.

Alternative models for collecting materials that would appear to have the potential to significantly increase the rate of diversion of solid waste in Ontario also have been ignored.[159]  Under one proposed model, paper fibre would be recycled in curbside programs but packaging waste like containers would be returned to vendors for deposits.  Based on current rates of recycling for these materials and modest assumptions about the potential success of this approach, it appears that this model would deliver significant increases in diversion at a much lower cost to Ontario municipalities.  Another distribution option that deserves re-examination is the home delivery system that was employed for milk and other dairy products up until the 1960s.  This approach is still popular in some ethnic communities in Ontario, and could result in significant environmental benefits and added convenience.

c. The Impact on Municipalities

At present, 3Rs services in Ontario are funded primarily through municipal and general provincial revenues.  In this respect, 3Rs services are similar to police protection, libraries and other local or provincial services.

In 1991, OMMRI data suggested the official cost of the Blue Box system in Ontario amounted to approximately $100 million.[160]  Of this total, municipalities carried the largest share of Blue Box System costs at $59.1 million.  The provincial government paid out about $22.5 million in grants in support of the program.  Material sales brought in approximately $14.1 million, and private industry funding for the system provided through OMMRI II amounted to $3.9 million.

During the first phases of the development of the Blue Box program, bureaucrats and industry portrayed the Blue Box system as a partnership between industry and governments.  This picture of cooperative system development avoided the need for a new legal framework to support initial Blue Box development, and  reduced administrative costs to the private sector supporters of the program.  It also allowed the Liberal government to avoid grappling with the tricky and controversial issue of "who pays" for recycling programs.

A key problem with this approach is that reliance on tax revenues means that funding for 3Rs competes against other social and economic programs such as welfare for allocations of scarce resources.  In order to finance their Blue Box programs, many municipalities have been forced to raise taxes.[161]

An additional challenge for municipal Blue Box programs in the past three years has been the decline in revenues obtained through the sale of recycled materials.  A basket of Blue Box materials that would have commanded a market price of roughly $68/tonne in 1988[162] yielded only $36/tonne in 1991.  Since municipal Blue Box programs diverted approximately 400,000 tonnes of recyclable materials in 1991, this market price decline resulted in a loss of revenues from material sales of more than $12 million.

In part, the unstable prices for Blue Box materials reflect the evolution of new markets for materials in Ontario and the rest of the world.[163]  Secondary materials compete for market share with primary materials and must be cost competitive in order to be attractive to end users.

Other corporate decisions also have severely affected the viability of the Blue Box system.  An assumption held by most advocates of recycling was that the sale of materials recovered from the waste stream would pay, to a significant extent, for the costs of collecting and processing post-consumer materials.  In theory, aluminum cans would provide municipalities with a steady stream of high-value recyclable materials to fund their Blue Box programs.  However, soft drink manufacturers moved away from aluminum cans and, as a result, the quantities of aluminum collected in Blue Box programs declined dramatically after 1992.[164]

4.0  Conclusions

The development of Ontario's Blue Box system demonstrates how support for prefered technological change options that are environmentally and socially destructive can be mobilized by industry despite pressure from environmentalists and unions for alternate models.

In the case of the Blue Box system development, government and industry exploited a fundamental split in the environmental movement between the radicals and reformers.  Reformers in the environmental movement saw the need to compromise with the packaging industry and the potential to build alliances with the retail sector.  Despite strong evidence that the environmental benefits of refillables were significant, they were willing to trade these off to build a more comprehensive recycling system for other products and commodities such as newspapers.  More radical environmentalists sought to preserve the refillable system but lost influence in the decision-making process.  This loss of power can be attributed in part to the establishment of RAC, a parallel system of policy advice to the Minister of Environment.

The system was sold as one that was more friendly to consumers because it would not require them to transport bottles back to stores to redeem deposits.  The Blue Box system also emphasized consumer protection to the detriment of the environment to the extent that it reduced the use of exploding glass containers.  In addition, the alternative containers reduced occupational health and safety risks that were associated with breakable glass bottles and noisy glass bottle production lines.

This case study also demonstrates that government plays a crucial role in the technological change process.  In decision-making on the Blue Box system, government policy makers acquiesed to pressure from packaging makers and the soft drink industry.  There is no evidence that decision-makers considered how the implementation of the Blue Box system would affect employment patterns in the bottling industry and the regional distribution of soft drink jobs in Ontario.  As a result, an alternate approach that might have created between 1,000-2,000 new jobs in soft drink bottling was ignored.

There is also evidence that certain technological options have been ignored by policy makers.[165]  Thus Ontario residents and consumers have been prevented from taking advantage of refillable containers by large companies and powerful unions.

END -- Dec 26 1994

[1]For example, plastic boil‑in‑the‑bag food pouches contain foods that are ready to eat within minutes after they have been put in a pot of boiling water.  Plastic blisters with peel‑off covers now provide "portion packs" of jellies, pills or ointments.  The foam‑plastic sleeves on soft drink bottles, which reduce breakage, are also being adopted for toiletry and pharmaceutical bottles.  Vacuum‑metallized plastic films are supplanting foil laminations for products that must be protected from moisture or oxygen.  The rise of the microwave oven has been accompanied by a new type of food package that can be used as a storage container, a cooking vessel, and a plate.  For further discussion of the development of disposable packaging, see L. Blumberg, and R. Gottlieb, War on Waste: Can America Win Its Battle with Garbage?  Washington, D.C.: Island Press, 1989.

[2]  It has been estimated that package-making is the third largest U.S. industry in terms of sales.  The total value produced by the industry in the U.S., including the costs of design, package filling, plant operation, and other services, exceeds $40 billion annually, or about 10 percent of the value of all finished goods. See Tellus Institute, Assessing the Impacts of Production and Disposal of Packaging and Public Policy Measures to Alter its Mix: Literature and Public Policy Review.  Prepared for the Council of State Governments, USA.  Boston: Tellus Institute, 1990.

[3]  For a discussion on jurisdictional issues, see Canadian Institute for Environmental Law And Policy, (CIELAP) A Regulatory Agenda For Solid Waste Reduction. Prepared for the Solid Waste Environmental Assessment Plan (SWEAP), Metropolitan Toronto Works Department. Project directors: S. Shrybman and R. Lindgren. Toronto: SWEAP, June 1989.

[4]   The leading case on constitution and the environment is R. v. Crown Zellerbach Canada Ltd., [1988] 1 S.C.R. 401.  Important sources include: A.R. Lucas, "Natural Resource and Environmental Management: A Jurisdictional Primer," in D. Tingley (ed.), Environmental Protection and the Canadian Constitution, Conference Proceedings, (Edmonton: Environmental Law Centre, 1988); and Judith Hanebury, "The Environment in the Current Constitution" (1992), Alternatives, Vol. 18 (4), pp. 14-17.

[5]  The National Packaging Protocol (NAPP) is an agreement on measures to reduce packaging waste that was prepared by the National Task Force on Packaging, a multi-stakeholder body established by the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) in 1989.  With the support of the Ontario government, the CCME endorsed the NAPP in March 1990.  The key goal of NAPP is to reduce the amount of packaging material being disposed of in Canada to 50% of 1988 levels by the year 2000.  The NAPP is vague with respect to refillable container use; a curious position given that the signatory governments wish to promote greater accountability on the part of brand owners and the achievement of the national packaging reduction targets established in the NAPP.

[6]  This section draws on materials contained in: D. McRobert and P. Muldoon, "Toward a Bioregional Perspective on International Resource Conflicts: Lessons for the Future," In: Owen Saunders and Monique Ross (eds.), Managing Resource Use Conflicts: Growing Demands, Shrinking Heritage.  Calgary: Canadian Institute of Resources Law, 1992.

[7] J.E. Young, "Refillable Bottles: Return of a Good Thing", World Watch, April 1991, Vol. 4, No. 2.

[8]  Samuel P. Hays, Beauty, Health and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 1955-1985 (1987). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

[9]  In addition, industrial and commercial recycling activities were well established within selected industrial sectors as a means of waste management, particularly in those sectors where recycling of scrap and off-specification materials was more cost effective than extracting and processing raw materials.

[10]  In most jurisdictions today, three methods are commonly used to manage municipal solid wastes: landfilling, incineration, and the 3Rs (reduce, re-use, and recycle).  In the United States and some European countries, large quantities of solid waste are

transported long distances to remote landfill sites for disposal.  This practice is sometimes referred to as "waste export". 

[11]  For example, in February 1992, the Ontario Ministry of Environment (MOE) estimated that 62 landfills in Ontario would close within one year and that another 65 would close between early 1993 and 1997: see Ministry of the Environment, "Responses to Request for Information by the Standing Committee on Social Development of the Ontario Legislature", February 1992.  (Question posed by Carman McCLelland, January 20th, 1992.)

[12]  Paul Connett, Waste Management as if the Future Mattered  (New York: Work on Waste, 1989); J. Kidd, The Burning Question: Emissions from Municipal Refuse Incinerators. Toronto: Pollution Probe, 1984; J. Kidd, "The Politics of Energy From Waste", Probe Post, 9(2), Summer 1986; and J. Kidd and K. Millyard, Up the Stack (and into the Foodbasket). Toronto: Pollution Probe, 1986.

[13]  Whether this presents "a crisis" or not is debatable:  see It's Not Garbage, An Action Agenda for Waste Reduction, March 1, 1990.  Toronto: Canadian Environmental Law Association.  

[14]  M. Keating (ed.), Canada and the State of the Planet: The Social, Economic and Environmental Trends That Are Shaping Our Lives (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1997); p. 35.  See also: Friends of the Earth Canada, Pollution Probe and the World WildLife Fund, The Summit Environmental Accountability Project -- Report on Canada (Ottawa: FOE, July 15, 1991), pp. 19-22.

[15]  The provincial government is speeding up the environmental assessment (EA) process in Ontario, which is a key part of the planning and approval system for new landfills.  Preliminary reforms aimed at streamlining the EA process were announced by Environment Minister Grier in April 1992, and these reforms took effect in the summer of 1992.

[16]  One of the factors that has lengthened the planning and approval process in the past ten years has been the growth of public concern about landfills and their social and environmental impacts.  The general public and public interest groups are both demanding that more emphasis be placed on diversion from landfill in order to extend the operating lives of disposal facilities.  As a result, EA approvals for new municipal disposal and waste management facilities today are often contingent on the demonstration of a clear intent to undertake 3Rs activities.

[17]  Ontario Ministry of the Environment, The Physical and Economic Dimensions of Municipal Solid Waste Management in Ontario.  Report prepared by CH2M Hill Consultants for the Fiscal Planning and Economic Analysis Branch, MOE, November 1991.  Toronto: MOE, 1992.  Hereinafter: MOE, Physical and Economic Dimensions.

[18]  Landfills generate dust and litter, and attract scavenging birds and wildlife.  Leachate released by landfills can contaminate ground and surface waters, resulting in environmental damage and creating potential risks to human health.  Landfills also require careful monitoring, post-closure care, and potential long-term

clean-up.  In some cases, they use land that could be used for agriculture, recreation or housing.  It is clear that these environmental problems and public concerns about them will not disappear soon, even though waste management practices at landfills in Ontario have improved considerably in the last two decades.  This means that governments have to seek out viable alternatives to the establishment of new landfills.

[19]  In fact, even though North Americans use about twice as much packaging as most Europeans, it could be argued that Canadians and Americans do not really benefit from use of this additional material.  Moreover, making the packaging, especially plastic and paper packaging, causes considerable damage to the environment.  On this subject, see Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy, A Regulatory Agenda for Solid Waste Reduction, A Report Prepared for the Solid Waste Environmental Assessment Plan (SWEAP), Metropolitan Toronto Works Department. (Toronto: SWEAP, 1989).

[20]  Returpack Inc., "Beverage Containers -- An Environmental Issue",  Synopsis of the Swedish and Norwegian Industry-organized Deposit and Recycling Concept (Stockholm: Returpack, 1990), p. 1.

[21]  This is consistent with the National Packaging Protocol which states that:

All packaging shall have minimal effects on the environment.  The environmental impact of packaging extends beyond the effect of its disposal -- quantity of waste is not the only issue.  Resources and energy are consumed to produce and transport packaging.  Consideration of broader environmental consequences should be included in an assessment of the impact of packaging.

[22]  For example, a 1989 lifecycle study prepared for the U.S. plastics industry showed that reusing a refillable glass bottle more than eight times will result in substantial decreases in air and water pollution emissions, and will save energy because the amount of energy required to make a new container is substantially more than that required to wash and redistribute a refillable container.  See: V.R. Sellers and J.D. Sellers, Comparitive Energy and Environmental Impacts of Soft Drink Delivery Systems.  Prepared for National Association of Plastic Container Recovery. Prairie Village, Kansas: Franklin Associates, 1989.  Hereinafter: Sellers and Sellers, Comparative Energy.   For a review of this study, and other lifecycle studies on refillables, see U. Valiante and P. Vopni, Environmental Options for Wine and Spirits Bottles.  A Report Prepared for Pollution Probe.  Toronto: Pollution Probe, May 1991.

[23] Trippage rate is the term used to describe the average number of trips the container can make before it is recycled by the bottler, broken by the consumer (and thus, is not returned for deposit) or inadvertently landfilled.  In the 1950s, the eye-glass thick Coke bottles were washed and reused up to 45 times.  In fact, compared to disposable aluminum cans often used to distribute beer and soft drinks, which require staggering amounts of electricity to produce and are often carelessly landfilled, this was a phenomenal rate of resource conservation.   In some sectors, these high rates of bottle reuse, or trippage, lasted into the 1980s.  For example, beer bottles in Ontario were reused an average of 22 times before the switch to "tall neck" bottles.   Even today, beer bottles in Ontario are reused between 12-15 times.

[24] For example, as noted above, the study conducted for the Swedish Brewers in 1990 concludes that refillable PET reused 10 times requires approximately 20 percent less energy than a refillable glass bottle reused 10 times and 30 percent less energy than aluminum cans when the cans are recycled at a rate of 82 percent.

[25]  It should be noted that between 0.3 and 0.5 MJ/litre of further energy savings are obtained if the trippage rate for refillables is increased from 10 to 20 times per bottle. 

[26]  Sellers and Sellers, Comparative Energy, supra note xx.

[27]  While the vast majority of the electricity is generated by hydroelectricity, the impacts of this energy consumption are difficult to assess.  It could be argued that much of the energy consumed could be directed to other more appropriate uses.  Moreover, it must be pointed out that aboriginal groups have raised very serious concerns about the impacts of the James Bay I hydroelectric project, and have predicted similar impacts will flow from construction of James Bay II.

[28]  However, suspended solids and biological oxygen demand (BOD) related effluents are higher for glass refillables when recycling rates for some non-refillables are in the 90-95 percent range.

[29] To produce one tonne of alumina from bauxite, more than one tonne of "red mud", a toxic soup made up of metal oxides and other metal compounds is released into the environment.  Often this waste is stored in settling ponds near the smelter; it is corrosive and can pollute both ground water and surface water.  Toxic air and water emissions are also released when aluminum is recycled. See: J.E. Young, "Mining the Earth", In: Lester Brown (ed.),  State of the World, 1992 (1992).  Washington: Worldwatch Institute; and Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, Nonferrous Metals: Industry Structure -- Background Paper (1990).  Washington, D.C,: U.S. Government Printing Office.  Some key background documents on the environmental impact of the aluminum industry include: M. Brown, and B. McKern, Aluminum, Copper, and Steel in Developing Countries (1987).  Paris: OECD; A.R. Burkin (ed.), Production of Aluminum and Alumina, Vol. 20 (1987).  Prepared for the Society of Chemical Industy in the U.S.  New York: John Wiley and Sons; United Nations Environment Programme, Environmental Aspects of Aluminum Smeltering: A Technical Review (1981).  Industry and Environment Technical Review Series; United Nations Environment Programme, Environmental Aspects of Alumina Production: A Technical Review (1985).  Industry and Environment Technical Review Series.  A dated but excellent assessment of the impact of the industry in developing countries is: R. Graham, The Aluminum Industry and the Third World (1982).  London: Zed Books.  A comprehensive analysis of the impact of smeltering in Quebec is presented in: Lavalin Inc., The Cumulative Impact of Aluminum Smeltering on the Environment (1991).  Unpublished Report prepared for Environment Canada.

[30]  It has been estimated that emissions from the Canadian aluminum industry are responsible for the equivalent of 6 percent Canada's carbon dioxide emissions: see  xxxxxx "Canned Heat," The Globe and Mail, February 1992.

[31]  The major characteristics of pollution prevention are: reduction or elimination of pollutants at the source, an emphasis on an efficient use of resources, and a reduction of the total amount of pollutants.  Moreover, the toxicity of various emissions related to the production of the package must also be considered.  For a discussion, see P. Muldoon,  "Toward a National Pollution Prevention Strategy: Principles for Reform to Address the Problem of Toxic Contamination to the Canadian Environment," in Sustainable Development in Canada: Options for Law Reform. (Ottawa: CBA, 1990), pp. 130-152, p. 316.

[32]  For example, recovery rates for beer and soft drink bottles with a deposit are in the order of 98 percent.  Cans, even when they have a deposit, have lower recovery rates and are discarded as litter more frequently than bottles.

[33]  The theory behind product stewardship is the following: if products are designed and manufactured with due regard for their integrity, environmental cost, and future use, as well as the re-use or recycling of the materials that go into them, then we can get a significant head-start on: 1) increasing durability; 2) increasing the extent to which products can be repaired and/or parts can be made interchangeable; 3) recycling the product or its parts if it can not be repaired or re-used; and 4) preventing many types of pollution.

[34]Re-use of bottles minimizes externalization of costs because industry is required to maintain its own infrastructure to collect, inspect, wash, and then refill bottles.  Similarly, industry is not subsidized by taxpayers who pay most of the costs associated with running recycling programs and disposing of MSW in North America.

[35]  For background on deposit/refund systems, see B. Armstrong, "Beverage Deposit Systems -- Pros and Cons: Notes for A Panel Discussion". Presented to Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) Annual Conference, October 15, 1990; and P. Franklin, "Curbside Recycling and Deposits: Removing More from the Waste Stream for Less". Paper presented at Windstar in Washington Conference, September 15, 1990.

[36]  In Ontario's beer industry, the container redemption rate for beer bottles with a ten cent deposit exceeds 98 percent: see D. McRobert and A. Imada, Doing More For Less: The Role of An Expanded Deposit/Refund System for Recovery of Ontario's Used Beverage Containers, A Brief Submitted by Pollution Probe to the Ontario Government, (Toronto: Pollution Probe, 1991) at p. 18.  See also Vopni and Valiante, Environmental Options, ibid.

[37]  R.C. Porter, "Michigan's Experience with Mandatory Deposits

on Beverage Containers", Land Economics, May 1983, 59:2.

[38] Handling fees are usually paid to store owners to compensate for storage and handling costs.  However, most store owners contend that these fees are inadequate.

[39]  On these themes, see T. Carter, "Deposit Systems -- An Expensive and Dirty Alternative". Presented to Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) Annual Conference, October 15, 1990.  Carter was a vice-president at the Retail Council of Canada (GPMC??) when he made these comments.

[40]  Provincial litter or beverage container legislation includes the following laws as of December 1993: Newfoundland, Litter Act, R.S.Nfld. 1994, c.xx; New Brunswick, Beverage Containers Act, S.N.B. 1991, c.B-2.2; Nova Scotia, Litter Abatement Act, S.N.S. 1985, c.xx (as amended); and Saskatchewan, Litter Control Act, R.S.S. 1978, c.L-22;  Alberta,  Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act, S.A. 1992, c.E-13.3 (as amended); British Columbia, Waste Management Act, S.B.C. 1982, c.74 (as amended); Manitoba, Environment Act, S.M. 1987-88, c.26, C.C.S.M. E125; Ontario, Environmental Protection Act, R.S.O. 1990, c.E.19 (as amended S.O. 1992, c.1);  Prince Edward Island, Environmental Protection Act, R.S.P.E.I. 1988, c.E-9 (as amended); Quebec, Environmental Quality Act, R.S.Q. 1990, c.26.

[41]  That year, the first non-refillable, a steel can, was introduced in northern Ontario.

[42]  Mark Pendergrast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola: The Unauthorized History of the Great American Soft Drink and the Company that Makes It (1993).  New York: Collier Books.  Hereinafter: Pendergast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola.

[43]  J.S. Gitlitz, "The Decline of Returnables", Resource Recycling, July 1990, Vol. xx, No. x.

[44]  In 1961, Canadian beer companies decided to make 12-ounce amber "stubbies"  (compact amber beer bottles) the industry standard for beer bottles.  Market research undertaken at the time had revealed that consumers prefered these containers for beer; moreover, it was clear that the switch to standard containers would conserve resources and energy and reduce the need to ship bottles across different jurisdictions.  This had become necessary because consumers were becoming more mobile and consequently were regularly transporting bottles across provincial borders.  Consumers were required to return their non-standardized green and clear beer bottles within a specified period.

[45]  "NDP record on refillables criticized," Toronto Star, November 23, 1993

[46]  However, the BC government failed to protect its refillable beer system in the late 1980s, and the system declined quickly. Refillable beer containers now represent less than 30 percent of market share in that province.  However, these systems are under pressure and may collapse because of pressure for freer trade under the FTA and NAFTA.

[47]  Harry E. Teasley Jr., Vice-President of Coca-Cola (US), Presentation to a Seminar on Litter Reduction and Solid Waste Management, Sydney, Australia, August 1977.

[48]  Pendergast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola, supra note xx, pp. 310-11.

[49]  Frederik Clairmonte and John Cavanagh, Merchants of Drink: Transnational Control of World Beverages (1988).  Penang, Malayasia: Third World Network.

[50]  Pendergrast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola, p. 310.

[51]  Ibid.

[52]  Ibid.

[53] Ibid, p. 382.

[54]  For background on the wars between Pepsi and Coke in the U.S., see Roger Enrico with Jesse Kornbluth, The Other Guy Blinked: How Pepsi Won the Cola Wars (1986).  New York: Bantam.

[55]  Ibid.

[56]  Ibid.  Pendergrast provides an example of how it began to control market share; in the 1980s Coke and Pepsi developed "calendar marketing agreements" in which bigger bottlers paid supermarkets huge fees for the rights to exclusive end-of-aisle promotion space, dividing the year between them.  Royal Crown complained that these agreements were "lock-out agreements" and unsuccessfully sued the soft drink companies and the supermarkets.

[57]  Pendergrast cites the example of a Coke delivery driver who was threatened with termination if he refused to routinely work from 5.30 am until 11.00 pm in order to complete his route.  Ibid, pp. 382-83.

[58]  In the US, there were 756 brewing companies in 1934; today there are about 40 companies: see D. Saphire, Draft Report on Refillable Containers, September 28, 1993.  New York: INFORM.

[59]  Testimony by Frank Sellinger, Vice-president for Group Operations, Anheuser-Busch, US Senate Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee on the Environment, May 5, 1974.

[60]  Testimony by Peter Chokola, President of Chokola Beverages, US Senate Committee on Commerce, Subcommittee on the Environment, May 6, 1974.

[61]  This table is adapted from Equity Research Associates data as reported in J. Fielding, "Big beer's war on the microbreweries," Financial Times of Canada, December 11, 1993, p. 3.  The data represents eight months sales as reported in August 1993.

[62]  In 1993, most private labelled soft drinks are bottled by Cott Beverages for large retailers such as Loblaws.

[63]  Pendergrast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola, p. 310.

[64]  Up until the 1960s and early 1970s, many food store managers understood that operating a good deposit/return system for pop bottles was one way to maintain such loyalty.

[65] V. Packard, The Waste Makers (1960).

[66] Veterans returning back from the war began to purchase the containers in increasing numbers, especially in the US.  As these veterans began to achieve modest increases in disposable income, many were willing to pump this extra money into purchases or more expensive disposable products.  Sellinger has suggested that this acceptance of one-way containers led to higher post-war purchases of beer for home use in the US, and this in turn, encouraged the desire for the convenience of not having to return empty bottles: see Testimony by Frank Sellinger, supra note xx.

[67]  Personal Communication, Geroge Bothwell, Former Manager of Environmental Affairs, TCC Beverages Canada to David McRobert, September 1990.

[68]  Thus, at least nine different LCAs on different beverage containers were prepared between 1974 and 1991.  These studies include: Deloitte and Touche Canada Inc., Energy and Environmental Impact Profiles in Canada of Tetra Brik Aseptic Carton and Glass Bottle Packaging Systems (1991).  Study Prepared for Tetra Pak Inc., April 1991; Franklin Associates Ltd., A Comparative Energy and Environmental Impact Analysis of Selected Soft Drink Delivery Systems (1979).  Prepared for Twinpak Ltd., Dupont Canada Inc., and Consumers Glass Company Ltd; Gaines, L.L.  Energy and Materials Use in the Production and Recycling of Consumer-Goods Packaging (1981).  Argonne, Ill.: Argonne National Laboratory.  Prepared for the U.S. Department of Energy; M.P. Lundholm, and G. Sundstrom.  Resource and Environmental Impacts of Tetra Brik Aseptic Cartons and of Refillable and Non-Refillable Glass Bottles (1985).  Prepared for Tetra Brik International A.B.  Malmo, Sweden: Tetra Brik; V. R. Sellers, and J.D. Sellers, Comparative Energy and Environmental Impacts for Soft Drink Delivery Systems (1989).  Prairie Village, Kan.: Franklin Associates; Midwest Research Institute, Resource and Environmental Profile Analysis of Nine Beverage Container Alternatives (1974). Prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Midwest Research Institute, Resource and Environmental Profile Analysis of Five Milk Container Systems (1978).  Prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Sundstorm, G.  Energy Consumption and Environmental Effects of the Distribution Systems for Beer and Soft Drinks in Sweden (1990).  Summary prepared for the Swedish Breweries Association; Tellus Institute, Assessing the Impacts of Production and Disposal of Packaging and Public Policy Measures to Alter its Mix: Literature and Public Policy Review (1990).  Prepared for the Council of State Governments, USA.  For critical reviews of these studies, see D. Diakoulaki, and N. Koumoutsos, "Comparative Evaluation of Alternative Beverage Containers with Multiple Environmental Criteria in Greece", Resource Conservation and Recycling, 3: 241-252;

[69] Background on these studies is provided in J.D. Sellers et al. "The Life Cycle Analysis Methodology", Paper presented at Life Cycle Analysis: A Tool for the 1990s, Conference Sponsored by Franklin Associates Ltd., Kansas City, March 18-20, 1991.

[70] In the first studies, the effects of various emissions on human health and the environment were not measured directly because data were not available to do so.  Instead, the early studies reported quantities of various effluents and the amounts of natural resources consumed.  Attention was focused on the readily quantifiable and the less controversial aspects of different processes and products.  These types of studies are usually termed "inventory analysis" today.

[71]  For background, see  Jeffrey Bernstein,"Research and Development, Patents, Grant and Tax Policies in Canada" In: Technological Change in Canadian Industry (1985).  Volume 3 of the Research Studies Prepared for the Royal Commission on the Economic Union and the Future for Canada.  Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

[72] See infra, pp. 31-32.  Personal Communication to David McRobert from Bill Armstrong, Principal Consultant, Energy Pathways, Ottawa, Ontario, March 1991.

[73]  D. Northrup,  Beverage Container Regulation and the Controversy Surrounding the Safety of Large Refillable Containers.  Report prepared for the Ontario Waste Management Branch, MOE.  Toronto: Institute for Behavioral Research, York University,

October 179.  Hereinafter: Northrup, Beverage Container Regulation.

[74]  Many environmental groups, especially fish and wildlife conservation organizations, were concerned that steel cans were being strewn about in natural areas.  Litter campaigns were frequent in many parts of the US and Canada at this time.

[75]  The first major US report was B.M. Hannon, System Energy and Recycling: A Study of the Beverage Industry.  Urbana, Illinois, 1972; Revised March, 1973.  A summary of this report was presented in B. Hannon, "Bottles, Cans, Energy", Environment, March 1973 14(2): 11-21.

[76]  See OWMAB, Carbonated Soft Drink Container, supra note xx. 

[77] McRobert, Blue Box, supra note xx.

[78] The amendments to the Environmental Protection Act allowed the Minister of the Environment to pass regulations to phase out non-refillable containers for soft drinks.  While these provisions were never used, they provided a basis for ensuring that the Ontario soft drink industry sold large portions of their product in refillable containers.

[79]  O.R. Tilley, Chairman, Metal Can Manufacturers' Advsiory Council, "Opening Remarks at Meeting with Waste Management Advsiory Board", November 3, 1976.

[80]  Ministry of the Environment, "Minister of Environment and Ontario Soft Drink Industry Agree to 75% Refillable Ratio," MOE Press Release, March 26, 1978. It would later turn out that this decision to agree to a regime based on voluntary compliance would undermine future efforts by the MOE to regulate brand owners

[81]  see Five years of Failure, supra note xx.

[82]  Pim v. Ontario (Minister of the Environment) (1978), 23 O.R. (2d) 45 (Div. Ct.).  Pim would go on to become a researcher for the NDP and a member of the staffs for NDP Environment ministers Ruth Grier and Bud Wildman between October 1990 and late 1994.

[83]  In retrospect, there is evidence that the explosion problems were greatly exaggerated.

[84]  Ontario Ministry of the Environment, "Environment Minister Aids Soft Drink Industry to Replace UnSafe Containers,", June 29, 1979.

[85]  Some of the media coverage during this period included the following articles: P. Morton, "Hidden charges turn recycling into big business," Calgary Herald, October 6, 1979; R. Tomasson, "The old deposit bottle is back but it can cost 20 cents more," New York Times, January 12, 1980; "Bottle Returns: Returnables vs. Non-returnables," Newsweek, January 14, 1979; and J. Marchant, "Packager, Contain Thyself," Canadian Business, March 1980.

[86]  The Quebec law requires the soft drink companies to pay 2 cents per container handled by the retailers.  The money is paid to the retailers from a government fund. The system is described in: Pollution Probe, "Pollution Probe Urges Deposit System for Beverage Containers," Press Release, May 4, 1990.

[87]  For a description of retailer concerns, see G. Mackay, "Store owners resent picking up the tab for returned bottles," The Globe and Mail, April 23, 1979.

[88]  Northrup's 1979 study prepared for the MOE showed that only 47 percent of retailers were aware of the regulation and few were complying with it.  Of those aware of the regulation, only 20 percent agreed with it; in fact, most retailers resented that Regulation 687/76 focused on them rather than bottlers: see Northrup, Beverage Container Regulation, supra note xx.

[89]  M.J. Hare, Carbonated Soft Drink Packaging in Ontario: An Environmental Reappraisal.  Prepared for the Ontario Waste Management Advisory Board.  Toronto: MOE, 1979.

[90]  E.J. Cokerby, "Thermoplastic Polyester may be the key to the search for safe family-sized bottles," The Globe and Mail, November 23, 1979.

[91]  The retailer associations included: the Retail Council of Canada, the Canadian Grocery Distributors Instititute, the Canadian Federation of Retail Grocers, the Retail Merchants Association of Canada, Inc., the Association des Detaillantes en Alimentation and the association des Epiciers en Gros du Quebec.

[92]  Energy Systems Management Ltd., Returnable Soft Drink Handling: Food Retailer Costs and Issues.  Report prepared for the Retail Returnable Container Committee and the processing, Distribution and Retailing Program, Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce.  (ESM Ltd.: London, Ontario, 1981).

[93]  One of the important aspects of this calculation was the issue of "slack time" and how the value of the work performed during this time should be assessed.  The soft drink companies argues that empty bottles could be handled during slack periods in stores, and this meant that net additional labour costs were lower than those calculated by the retailers.  However, the retailers argued that the cost of efficiency disruptions that took place because of handling refillables and cleaning up broken bottles exceeded benefits associated with the slack time utilizxation of workers.

[94]  For background, see L. Blumberg and R. Gottlieb, War on Waste: Can America Win Its Battle with Garbage?  Washington, DC: Island Press, 1989.  See also: Pollution Probe, Municipal Paper Collection. Toronto: Pollution Probe Foundation, 1974, and Pollution Probe, Recycling -- Identifying the Barriers. Toronto: Pollution Probe Foundation, 1975.

[95]  For example, curbside recycling of newsprint was undertaken in Toronto and other major urban centres as early as 1972. 

[96]  Pollution Probe, Recycling: Identifying the Barriers (1975).  Toronto: PPF.

[97]   R.F. Stauffer, "Energy Savings from Recycling", Resource Recycling Jan.-Feb. 1989, pp. 24-60.

[98]  Pollution Probe, Recycling -- Identifying the Barriers. Toronto: Pollution Probe Foundation, 1975.

[99]  These barriers would later be explored more fully in a report prepared for Pollution Probe and the Canadian Environmental Law Association called Breaking the Barriers released in 1984.  This report proposed many specific reforms to existing laws.  See:

V. Adamson, Breaking the Barriers: A Study of the Legislative and Economic Barriers to Industrial Waste Reduction and Recycling.  A Joint Project of the Canadian Environmental Law Research Foundation and the Pollution Probe Foundation.  Toronto: Pollution Probe Foundation, 1984.

[100]  Under the Source Separation Program, financial support for operating expenses was provided for three years, with an allowance for depreciation of capital items as an operating expenses.  As initial projects reached their three-year limit under the Source Separation Program, the need for some continuing financial support became clear.

[101]  C. McLaren, "Pop cans bubble into environmental issue", Globe and Mail, August 16, 1985.

[102]  Kai Millyard, "Comments on A Discussion Paper on The Ontario Carbonated Soft Drink Container Regulations".  Brief prepared for Pollution Probe, February 4, 1983.  See also: D. Macdonald, The Politics of Pollution, p. 211.

[103]  To many senior officials in the Ontario government, it seemed unbelievable that significant MOE investigative and prosecutorial resources were, at least in theory, devoted to prosecuting soft drink companies for violations of Regulation 687/76 while corporations dumping toxins into the Great Lakes or open dumps in farmers’ fields were left untouched.  One senior MOE official informed the author that staff working on proposed hazardous waste regulations (now O. Reg. 347 under the EPA) were unable to see the Deputy Minister at MOE for more than one year because the Minister and the Deputy were dealing with the OSDA, the small bottlers and other stakeholders on the refillable soft drink issue.

[104]  This phrase was first used by Wayne Roberts in August 1990.  See W. Roberts, Now Magazine, August 1990.

[105]  Society of Plastics Industry of Canada, "Plastic Soft Drink Bottles: The Right Choice for Ontario," Submission to the Ontario MOE, June 9, 1983; p. 9.

[106]  see J.E. Young, "Mining the Earth", In: Lester Brown (ed.),  State of the World, 1992 (1992).  Washington: Worldwatch Institute; and Office of Technology Assessment, U.S. Congress, Nonferrous Metals: Industry Structure -- Background Paper (1990).  Washington, D.C,: U.S. Government Printing Office.

[107]  Dr. Jack Milgrom, SRI International, Introduction of An Aluminum Beverage Can in Ontario: Impact on Employment in the Ontario Steel and Aluminum Industries.  Prepared for Alcan Canada Products Ltd., Toronto, October 1982, p. i.

[108]  Bruce Stewart, "Can recycling scheme advocated by Charlton", Hamilton Spectator, Febraury 2, 1983, p. 1.

[109]  Anil Verma and Peter Warrian, "Industrial Relations in the Canadian Steel Industry" In: Richard Chaykowski and Anil Verma (eds.), Industrial Relations in Canadian Industry (1992).  Toronto: Dryden/Holt, Rhinehart and Winston.

[110]  "Dofasco urges Halton to Oppose Aluminum Cans,"  Burlington Spectator, January 27, 1983, p. 1.  These figures were clearly absurd because steel production for soft drink cans represented less than 1 percent of the total industry production at the time.  By 1985, steel industry officials had revised their estimates; a Stelco official stated that 600 jobs and the associated tax revenues related to these jobs would be at stake if Ontario allowed PET bottles and aluminum cans on the Ontario market.  See C. McLaren, "xxx".

[111]  D. Macdonald, The Politics of Pollution: Why Canadians Are Failing Their Environment.  (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1991); p. 210.

[112]  Ibid.

[113]  Recycling Council of Ontario, A History of the Battle. RCO  factsheet on Ontario's Pop Can Laws.  Toronto: Recycling Council of Ontario, December 1985.

[114]  For an outline of the process and a defense of its results, see C. Isaacs, "Ontario's Pop Can Issue", Probe Post, Winter 1986, Vol. 8(3).

[115]  Personal Communication from Eva Ligeti, Environmental Commisisoner of Ontario, to David McRobert, December 1994.

[116]  Christie McLaren, "Pop cans bubble into environmental issue", Globe and Mail, 16 Aug 1985.

[117] OMMRI also represented the soft drink industry's container suppliers and its container material suppliers.

[118]  These regulations, Reg 622/85 and 623/85 came into effect in December 1985.

[119]  Isaacs recognized that using more valuable materials like aluminum to subsidize curbside recycling was one way to break some of the financial barriers that had been encountered in the effort to expand recycling.  In addition to collecting these new materials, the proposed Blue Box system also would capture traditional recyclable materials such as newspaper, glass containers, and metal cans.

[120]  Under the proposed agreement between the Ontario and the Canadian Industry Product Stewardship Initiative (CIPSI) tabled in June 1994, the industry consortium representing major packaging users and associations such as the Canadian Soft Drink Association and the Grocery Products Manufacturers of Canada, soft drink bottlers in Ontario will voluntarily switch back to aluminum for cans once again.  See: Ministry of the Environment and Energy, Canadian Industry Product Stewardship Initiative Package, June 1994.  For a critical assessment, see: Wayne Roberts, "xxx", Now Magazine, October 1994.

[121]  See C. Isaacs, "Ontario's Pop Can Issue", Probe Post, Winter 1986, Vol. 8(3).

[122]  Personal Communication from Meiko Ise, Director of Fundraising, Pollution Probe to David McRobert, July 1990.  These donations all but stopped in mid 1990 when Pollution Probe decided to reverse its position on the Blue Box and instead support

deposits and refillables for soft drinks.

[123]  Aluminum Co. Of Canada v. Ontario (Minister of the Environment) (1986), 19 Admin. L.R. 192 (Ont. Div. Ct.).  

[124]  Richard Gilbert, "Why recycling pop bottles is a third rate idea", Toronto Star, May 17, 1989.

[125]  There are unproven allegations that $10 million of the donated money was arranged through special tax breaks to OMMRI and the soft drink companies.  According to Bill Armstrong, a Prinicipal at Energy Pathways in Ottawa, special arrangements were negotiated to allow the soft drink contributions to deduct the donations from their taxable income between 1986 and 1989.  Armstrong says that Revenue Canada has never denied that special arrangements were made.  If these allegations prove true, then the 10 million dollars amounted to a contribution of about $1 for every 1000 cans distributed in the province over five years. 

[126]  Ontario Multi-Material Recycling Incorporated (OMMRI), Municipal Waste Recycling: Development Plans for Ontario.  Toronto: OMMRI, January 1, 1988.

[127]  Thus, the author found there were massive gaps in MOE files on the Blue Box deal from roughly 1984 to 1990 when he worked in the Waste Reduction Office of the MOE between 1991 and 1993.

[128]  Although the name of the committee was changed in the summer of 1990 to the Waste Reduction Advisory Committee and a few token environmentalists were added after the NDP took power, the province's main advisory committee on waste management was still controlled by industry between 1990 and 1993, when it was disbanded by the Ontario government.

[129]  Audit Task Group, Recycling Advisory Committee, Report on Methods of Measuring Recycling Rates for Carbonated Soft Drink Containers and Other Recyclable Materials (1987). Toronto: RAC, November 19 1987.

[130] Jill Johnson, "Recycling of Non-refillable Soft Drink Containers: What is 50%?", Unpublished manuscript prepared for the University of Toronto, Innis 420, April 1989.

[131]   [1989], 3 C.E.L.R. (N.S.) 223 (O.C.A.).

[132]  Recycling Advisory Committee, Ontario Government, Letter to James Bradley, Ontario Minister of the Environment, 21 December 1989.

[133]  C. McInnes and R. Mackie, "Move to Scrap Pop Bottle Quota Ridiculous, Environmentalists Say," The Globe and Mail, April 19, 1990, p. A6.  See also: D. McRobert, "Ditching Quota on Pop Bottles Regressive Move," Toronto Star, May 18, 1990, p. A23.

[134] Paula Todd, "Recycling: Have the Liberals Surrendered to Pop Makers," Toronto Star, August 2, 1990.  See also:

[135]  Apparently, one of the bogus arguments the soft drink companies made in their meetings with Ruth Grier is that the EPA refillables quota violates various provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms because the wine and fruit drink industries in Ontario are not required to use refillables.  At the time, there were a number of SCC and OCA decisions such as Wholesale Travel which held that this type of regulation would not violate the Charter: see P. Hogg, Constitutional Law of Canada, 3rd Ed.  (Toronto: Carswell, 1994.)  

[136] Canadian Press, "Tenative deal may spell end to provincial beer barriers", Toronto Star, February 16, 1991; p. C2.

[137]  Ontario Government, 1992 Budget Statement.  Toronto: Ministry of Treasury and Economics, April 31, 1992.

[138]  Waste Reduction Office, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, "Environmental Benefits of the Levy on Alcohol Beverage Containers."  Toronto: MOE, July 1992.

[139]  Many critics asked why the tax was being imposed on beer cans but not on soft drink cans.  Rumours persisted that the tax had been dreamed up by senior CEOs at Molson's and Labatt's rather than by the senior policy staff in MCCR who supposedly had crafted the beer tax cabinet submissions.

[140]  For further discussion on this point, see Paul Willman, Technological Change, Collective Bargaining and Industrial Efficiency (1986).  Oxford: Clarendon. 

[141]  Personal Communication to David McRobert from Cam Nelson, Union Representative, Brewery, Malt and Soft Drink Workers Union, July 15, 1992.

[142]  Statistics Canada, Employment in the Soft Drink Industry, Publication No. 93-113, SIC #1111.  Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1986.  This data is based on the 1986 census information.

Employment in the Soft Drink Industry - 1986


[143]  Personal Communication to David McRobert from Cam Nelson, Legal Counsel, Brewery Workers Union of Ontario, July 7, 1992.

[144]  Personal Communication to David McRobert from Bill Armstrong, Principal Consultant, Energy Pathways Inc., Ottawa based on his unpublished research, October 1991.

[145]  See Globe and Mail stories

[146]  This is based on the fact that refillable glass bottles require 4-5 times more workers on filling lines.  

[147]  The exact number of jobs created would depend on the extent to which new depots were developed or existing infrastructure was relied on by the industry.

[148]  This discussion is based in part on a recent review of OHS issues in Ontario's 3Rs sector that the author worked on: see Marianne Levitsky, David McRobert, Catherine DeVos, Roxanne Lloyd, "Occupational Health and Safety in Ontario's 3Rs Sector: Emerging Issues and An Overview of the Workplace Health and Safety Agency," Presentation to the 15th Annual Conference of the Recycling Council of Ontario, Hamilton, Ontario, October 5-7, 1994.

[149]  The difference between these rates and those for municipal waste workers does not necessarily mean that public sector waste and recycling workers are at greater risk than those in the private sector.  This is because of differences in the composition of these two groups:  rate group 689 includes a variety of occupations not directly comparable to the category of municipal sanitation workers.

[150]  Anthony Jenkins, "The yeoman of garbage," The Globe and Mail, October 30, 1993, p. D5.  According to Jenkins, "[a] recent two-year study study by the Quebec Health and Safety Research Institute found that two-thirds of the province's garbage collectors spend time off work each year because of injuries.  It discovered that in anaverage hour, a worker makes 482 flexes, 203 throws, 159 twists and 53 jumps off a moving truck.  These calisththenics, often done on busy streets, are performed in all extremes of climate and with minimal protective equipment."  The study summarized by Jenkins is titled: M. Bourdouxhe, S. Guertin, and E. Cloutier,  Etude des risques d'accident dans la collecte des ordures ménagères, Institut de recherche en santé et en sécurité du travail du Québec (IRSST), December 1992.  Montreal: IRSST.

[151]  Human Factor Inc.  Report on Physical Demands Analyses for Garbage Collection and Recycling Collection.  For the City of Waterloo, June 1992.

[152]  City of Toronto, Occupational Health, Safety and Rehabilitation Division, Management Services Department.  Occupational Health and Safety Audit Report for the Material Management and Sanitation Section, Jan. 1993. Toronto: Occupational Health, Safety and Rehabilitation Division, Management Services Department, City of Toronto, 1993.

[153] Personal Communication to David McRobert from R. Lloyd, Policy and Research Analyst, Workplace Health and Safety Agency, October 1994.

[154]  J. Powell, "Safety of Workers in Recycling and Mixed Waste Processing Plants".  Resource Recycling, Sept. 1992, pp. 49-50; A. Dessoff,  "Planning Safe MRFs", Waste Age, May 1991. pp. 79-80; C. Edwards, "Health and Safety in the Recycling and Waste Disposal Industries", Occupational Health and Safety Magazine (Alberta), Sept. 1992, pp. 7-14; C. Edwards, "Edmonton Recycling Society Cultivates Safety", Occupational Health and Safety Magazine (Alberta), Sept. 1992, pp. 15-16; L. Fredrickson, "Recyclers Learn Safety Rules", BioCycle, April 1993, pp. 64-66.

[155] The popularity of Ontario's Blue Box system is best demonstrated by the high degree of public acceptance of source separating recyclable materials.  Participation rates for Blue Box programs, usually measured in terms of "set out rates" (ie. the number of households who put their blue boxes at curbside every few weeks), approach 90% in many areas of Province.  The system's popularity also has been bolstered by international awards.  On September 14, 1989, the Ministry of the Environment, the Recycling Council of Ontario (RCO) and OMMRI jointly received an "Environmental Award of Merit" from the United Nations for the recycling achievements made in Ontario with the Blue Box system.

[156]  Personal Communication to the author from R. Arnot, Senior Policy Analyst, Waste Reduction Office, MOE, July 1993.

[157]  The concept of a level-playing field for industry is that any waste management or 3Rs laws, regulations and policies ought to treat all affected equally.  In other words, those who produce products that create waste should be accountable for this waste, whether they are a domestic brand owner or an importer and whether they use recyclable or non-recyclable packaging.  This approach is premised on the idea that those responsible for generating waste in every part of Ontario should be treated in a similar manner whether their packages contain soft drinks or milk.

[158]   For a description of this technology and its role in managing used beverage containers, see Tore Planke, "Handling of Used Beverage Containers: New Trends in Used Beverage Container (UBC) Recycling".  Paper presented to European Supermarket CEOs, December 1990.

[159]  Bill Armstrong, Energy Pathways, Letter to Evelyn Ruppert, Manager of Policy, Association of Municipalities of Ontario, October 6, 1993.

[160]  The MOE does not keep accurate data on the cost of the Blue Box system.  OMMRI's data is based on reported data from municipalities.  Additional expenditure information relating to OMMRI and Provincial contributions for 1990 and 1992 are also provided.  It should be noted that the Recycling Council of Ontario, which maintains a Program Costs and Revenues Monitoring System, has claimed in public meetings with the MOE and other stakeholders the true cost of running Ontario's Blue Box system is closer to $200 million annually.

[161]  In the early 1990s, the recession hit Ontario municipalities hard in terms both of declining revenues and increasing expenditures, increasing the number of difficult choices that municipalities must make.  Welfare rolls expanded significantly in many urban centres increasing pressures on limited property tax revenues.  Rather than continuing to rely on provincial and municipal taxes to fund 3Rs services, many municipalities argue that the companies who produce disposable products and products with disposable packaging should begin to share more of the burden.

[162] MOE, The Physical and Economic Dimensions of Solid Waste, supra note xx.

[163]  The market price swings for old newsprint (ONP) are a case in point.  With a limited de-inking mill capacity to remanufacture ONP into usable products in Ontario in 1989 and an increasing number of municipalities collecting ONP for recycling, the supply of this material quickly grew to exceed demand.  As a result, market prices for ONP declined precipitously in 1989 and 1990.  As new de-inking capacity came on stream in Ontario and other parts of North America in 1991 and 1992 to meet pressures for increased recycled content in newsprint and other paper products, the market price for ONP improved.

[164]  In the spring of 1994 the soft drink industry announced a tentative plan to shift back to aluminum cans to support the Blue Box system.

[165]  As noted above, LCAs show that refillable PET and refillable polycarbonate containers have environmental and energy profiles which are far superior to those for any non-refillable or refillable container now in use in Canada.   It could be argued that refillable plastic container options must be examined as part of policy-making processes.