Loblaws, Canada’s largest grocery chain, has been fined $8,000 by the province for deliberately skirting recycling regulations.
The infractions relate to regulatory policy concerning the return of beverage containers at Coquitlam’s Real Canadian Superstore (RCS), which is a subsidiary of Loblaws
The Ministry of Environment published the administrative penalty on May 22, following continued non-compliance dating back to June 8, 2022.
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“Despite multiple attempts by Ministry staff to educate RCS and Loblaws on their obligations under the Regulation and how to achieve compliance, the RCS Coquitlam location has repeatedly refused to take any steps to come into compliance,” the decision stated.
B.C.’s Environmental Management Act requires all retailers selling beverage containers to collect returns, and the Coquitlam store has repeatedly failed to implement an approved plan.
The contraventions were not disputed by Loblaws.
On Dec. 12, 2022, environmental inspectors recommended the company be fined for refusing to accept returns.
A public complaint had been lodged with the MOE in November, stating the location was still not accepting bottle returns or offering refunds.
Loblaws was first told it would be required to accept empty beverage containers in July 2020.
The administrative decision stated that ensuring retailers accept beverage containers for return is the foundation of the regulatory regime, and allowing some retailers to skirt the rules creates an uneven playing field.
The non-compliance was considered low-risk by the ministry, as it does not interfere with the environment or human health.
It determined aggravating factors were the repeated, continuous, deliberate, and economic benefits derived from the infractions.
However, it also stated that Loblaws has made efforts to prevent reoccurrence, and is now accepting bottle returns.
In April 2023, Loblaws wrote to the ministry, stating that other retailers had arranged different recycling agreements, which resulted in “better collection services and compensation for costs.”
They said the containers are accepted at the location’s customer service kiosk along with general customer returns.
“The need to keep this process sanitary has required both resources and significant colleague training,” the statement said. “Our store has made the necessary changes within the store, which required extensive colleague training, to ensure that bottles are accepted.”
Compliance will be confirmed in follow-up inspections, the decision said.