Why B.C. has one of the most efficient recycling programs in Canada

Aiya Benaso / April 9, 2019

B.C.’s contamination rate for recyclable materials is one of the lowest in the country

Full producer responsibility

In B.C., Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is an environmental policy, in which it’s the company’s responsibility to reduce environmental impacts.

They must also manage the whole life cycle of their product, from selection of materials and design to its end-of-life.

Recycle BC implemented the EPR program in 2014. The responsibility of waste disposal is lifted off of municipal and regional governments and placed onto the manufacturers/importers and consumers.

“It’s a system where it’s both managed and funded by the companies that put their products into the market place, which is one of the big differences for B.C.” – David Lefebvre, Recycle BC spokesperson 

Unified materials collected

The material accepted into blue bins is the same province-wide.

Which wasn’t always the case. In 2014 different municipalities were in charge of when to collect, what to collect and the marketing of those materials for processing.

Lefebvre says this old system created quite a bit of confusion, and hardships for small cities who were trying to sell their materials out to a “world stage”.

“This change reduced consumer confusion, which in turn had a huge impact in marketing material.” – David Lefebvre, Recycle BC spokesperson 

Recycle BC is a not-for-profit organization responsible for residential packaging and paper product recycling throughout British Columbia.
(Recycle BC)


  • Plastic containers collected in the remain in BC, with a local end-market in Metro Vancouver that processes this material into pellets that can be manufactured into new packaging and other products.


  • Glass is shipped to Abbotsford to be processed into new bottles and to Quesnel to be made into sandblast materials.


  • Metal containers are sold to end-markets in BC, Ontario and the United States and can be recycled into new packaging, like aluminum cans, and sheet metal for automotive manufacturing.


  • Paper collected is sold to end-markets overseas, in the United States or in BC and can be made into things like egg cartons, boxes, and other paper products.

Locally processed materials

Despite shifting world markets for much of Canada’s recyclable materials, Recycle BC has been able to ensure that plastic packaging, paper products, glass and metal containers collected through its program in B.C. are still being recycled and processed locally.

China used to accept the vast majority of the worlds recycling due to cheaper shipping costs.

In January 2018, China’s passed the “National Sword” policy, banning the import of most plastics and other materials headed for that nation’s recycling processors, which had handled nearly half of the world’s recyclable waste for the past quarter century.

To find out more information about what doesn’t go into your blue bin, visit Recycle BC.

With files from Lya Fichmann.