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Container Deposit Scheme Back On The Agenda

By Pip Martens on February 6, 2015 in News

Photo: Con Tainer

Photo: Con Tainer

The NSW Government has announced it will be introducing a container deposit scheme to cabinet before the March election.

Environmental groups, community groups and local councils have been pushing for a cash for containers scheme in NSW for more than a decade. However, the scheme has faced fierce opposition from powerful players in the beverage, packaging and retail industries, claiming it’s too expensive and would cost jobs.

South Australia introduced its container deposit legislation in 1977 and the Northern Territory introduced similar legislation in 2012. In NSW, 1 in 3 pieces of litter is a beverage container, whereas in South Australia it is only 1 in 12. On Bondi Beach, 30,000 cans and bottles are left on the sand each year.

The NSW scheme would work by charging customers an additional 10 cents on container purchases and refunding them the 10 cents once the item is returned to a depot or reverse vending machine.

Reverse vending machines would be located in public places such as supermarkets, parks, beaches and other convenient locations across NSW, and schools and charities will be encouraged to collect containers for cash to support their fundraising efforts.

In a letter obtained by The Sun Herald in December, Premier Baird rejected the National Packaging Covenant Industry Association (NPCIA) alternative proposal, which included funding more recycling bins at beachfront parks. Coca-Cola Amatil confirmed in a media release on January 5 that the NSW Government considered the NPCIA proposal as presenting a “significant policy and funding risk”.

An independent review into the scheme commissioned by the former ALP Government in 2001 found that the scheme could create between 1000 and 1500 jobs in NSW. It concluded that once both financial and environmental impacts were considered on a whole of society basis, the potential benefits significantly exceeded the costs and recommended the scheme be introduced.

A strong political advocate for the scheme is Coogee Liberal MP Bruce Notley-Smith. He is working on a petition to submit to Premier Baird.

“Coogee being a coastal electorate, it bears the brunt of litter running through stormwater drains out into our oceans and rock ledges,” he said.

Mr Notley-Smith is confident there is a more concerted effort from Liberal and National MPs to pass the scheme this time around.

“For most of the people in this area of Sydney it’s a no-brainer; they want the scheme,” he said.

According to Mr Notley-Smith, local councils could save $78 million annually if the scheme is introduced.

A container deposit scheme is running in over 40 jurisdictions globally in countries such as Canada, Germany and Sweden.

Lisa Wriley, a waste campaigner for Total Environment Centre, said public support in NSW for such a scheme is strong.

“In our most recent Newspoll in October 2013, 84 percent of respondents in NSW supported the scheme,” she said.

Total Environment Centre is one of 31 community and environmental groups in the Boomerang Alliance, a group formed in 2003 with the aim of a zero waste society.

A surprising opponent of the container deposit scheme is prominent litter reduction group Keep Australia Beautiful. Instead, they are promoting their own initiatives such as Beverage Container Recycling Grants with funding from Coca-Cola Amatil.

The Baird Government has a fight on its hands with the Australian Beverage Council threatening to run attack advertising against them if the scheme passes cabinet.

The 2009-10 National Litter Index showed that litter in NSW is increasing. The NSW Government has committed to reducing litter by 40 percent with the aim to have the lowest litter rate per capita in Australia by 2016.