Does cardboard collected from businesses in rural areas or smaller communities go into landfills or does it get recycled? If a private individual can recycle their cardboard in the Provincial Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program, so should a business be able to.


The Recycling Regulation, under authority of the Environmental Management Act, sets out the requirements for Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) in BC. EPR is a management system based on industry and consumers taking life-cycle responsibility (i.e., recycling) for the products they produce and use. Producers of designated products may appoint an EPR agency to carry out their duties in accordance with an approved plan1. The Recycle BC residential packaging and paper recycling program is an example of an EPR.

In 2011, the province amended the Recycling Regulation to make businesses supplying packaging and printed paper responsible for collecting and recycling their products. This was done to shift recycling costs from BC taxpayers to producers and to give producers more incentive to be environmentally friendly by producing less packaging and waste; however, this regulation has negative effects on businesses in rural areas or smaller communities.

The provincial EPR program separates Industrial Commercial Institutional (ICI) material from residential recycling, which is handled by Recycle BC. ICI is run separately from any type of residential program since the regulation requires private businesses to handle their own ICI waste. ICI material, especially cardboard, is a huge issue financially, environmentally and logistically due to the fact that one needs volume to bale cardboard to make it economical to ship to the end contractor. As businesses cannot dispose of their cardboard at a Recycle BC depot or waste transfer station, the business can either 1) dispose of the cardboard in a landfill site or 2) pay a private hauler to transport their cardboard (baled or unbaled) to a designated industrial or commercial recycling depot. Certain landfill sites have banned cardboard as it is a) an easily recyclable material, b) is a fire hazard, c) takes up space, and d) compromises the integrity of the landfill.

Private residents may self-haul recyclable cardboard to a Recycle BC depot or waste transfer station, but businesses are not permitted to put any (zero) cardboard into the self-haul depots at transfer stations. Individuals cannot collect waste from residential dwellings as that would categorize the individual as a business, making the recyclables collected ineligible to be dropped off at a Recycle BC depot or waste transfer station as the recyclables are then classified as business recycling. As an example, if a small business owner wants to recycle a cardboard box which contained reams of paper they bought from the store, they cannot recycle the cardboard box at a Recycle BC depot or transfer station. However, if they bought this same cardboard box for their home, Recycle BC will accept the box for recycling.

There has been an exponential increase in online shopping, coupled with the COVID-19 pandemic. Individuals can recycle the cardboard boxes received from their online orders in the Recycle BC Program, whereas businesses incur additional costs for ICI cardboard recycling.

Please note that schools fall into the ICI category too and therefore cannot officially drop off recyclables at a Recycle BC depot or transfer station. This is applicable to all BC schools due to the provincially regulated EPR program.

Businesses with ICI cardboard are expected to use private haulers to collect and transport cardboard to industrial/commercial recycling facilities; however, these private haulers are challenged in rural areas or smaller communities with extra transport costs, since they must ship the cardboard loose as baling facilities are not available in these communities (the density of uncompacted cardboard is 30-90 kg/m3 compared to compacted cardboard at 180-300 kg/m3)2. In areas that have a higher population density, it is cheaper to collect and bale cardboard because of the economies of scale, therefore it would be worth having a baling facility. Likewise, areas that are closer to the end market for cardboard would have less transport costs.

Cardboard is easier to ensure it gets recycled. There is less ICI recycling for other types of materials (plastic, tin, glass, etc) as these materials are less marketable. An EPR program for ICI will provide stability for the collectors and haulers involved the system for recycling cardboard and these contractors will have the ability to broker materials (whether it be cardboard, plastic or other) more efficiently.

An ICI EPR Program is essential for the long-term sustainability of even residential recycling in low population density areas as ICE occupies approximately 40% of the waste stream. Areas with low volumes of recyclables need an ICI recycling program to support processing facilities (for example bailing facility, transportation system, waste base re-manufacturing, etc).


That the Provincial Government:

  1. Include Industrial Commercial Institutional (ICI) material in the Provincial Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) program to make it fair for retailers and other small businesses.