Environmental Protection Officers recommended fining the Coquitlam Real Canadian Superstore for refusing to allow customers to return recycled beverage containers or provide them a necessary refund.
The Ministry of Environment received a public complaint the location was refusing to accept returns, contrary to recycling regulations in the Environmental Management Act.
The regulations state that any “seller,” meaning a producer or retailer, of beverage containers are obliged to accept returns of recyclables. Contravention of these requirements can result in fines of up to $40,000.
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“The failure to comply with this Section of the Recycling Regulation is being referred for an Administrative Penalty,” stated the officer’s inspection report from Nov. 29.
The store has been repeatedly told by the ministry this year that it’s required to accept recyclables. An advisory was issued after an inspection on June 8 found that the location was out of compliance, and a follow-up inspection on Aug. 26 resulted in an official warning.
Loblaws, the parent company of Real Canadian Superstore, was first told that it would be required to accept returning empty beverage containers more than two years ago, in July 2020.
Multiple periods of engagement followed, informing the conglomerate that the ministry expected it to comply or face regulatory action.
Officers called the Coquitlam location on March 9, 2022 and the manager confirmed that they were not accepting beverage containers. Ministry information and resources were provided that same day to help the store achieve compliance.
During a follow-up call on March 23, the manager said they had still not resumed accepting returns and were waiting on direction from Loblaws.
A representative from Loblaws told officers on March 23 they were working on a plan to resume collections across all Real Canadian Superstore locations, aiming to be accepting returns “very soon.”
Follow-up calls with the Loblaws representative on April 5, 11, 27, and May 3 found that no progress was made, nor was any timeline provided.
Following up on the public complaint, officers called the Coquitlam store manager on Nov. 18, who said they are still not accepting bottle returns or offering refunds.