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April 28, 2007

Hawke's Bay Today

Having the bottle to cut waste

When one studies the logic of the latest proposal for placing deposits on drink containers to boost recycling, it is cause for wonder that such a sensible scheme was ever abandoned in the first place.

Back in the 1970s, when used beer and soft drink glassware was worth stooping for and redeeming at dairies and bottle depots, the litter from discarded containers was as uncommon as mice in a cattery.

But for beverage manufacturers allowed to call the shots it was cheaper and more convenient for the public to do the bending.

An Envision study funded by 11 local authorities shows the wisdom of having deposits on recyclable containers from glass to plastic to paper.

While the profit motive improves the chances of the carbon credit trading scheme to improve the environment so, too, would it work magic on preventing containers from littering the landscape.

Timed for the Green Party's Waste Minimisation Bill (before a select committee) the Envision report suggests beverage manufacturers be made accountable under a "Container Deposit Legislation scheme" such as that used in British Columbia, South Australia and much of Europe.

It calls for a 10c deposits on drink containers which would cost the beverage industry only 0.3 cent per container, or $6.6 million a year, to administer.

The merits of recycling hardly need to be spelled out. Compelling reasons include public safety, aesthetics and pollution - as well as the cost, reflected in rapidly diminishing landfills.

Envision predicted ratepayers nationally would save $14 million in disposal costs at landfills if drink containers were recycled. It anticipates at least 84 percent recovery of all beverage containers (including tetrapaks and others that aren't currently recycled) - that is, at least 67,000 tonnes of beverage containers diverted from landfill.

It will also cut kerbside collection costs for councils and bring better returns for recycling companies, not only from more recyclables but in being able to cash up deposits.

Forty years ago recovering the deposits on drink bottles was a great way for community organisations such as Boy Scouts to raise funds. With a daily refund potential of more than $300,000 available on containers the most enthusiastic bottle gatherers under Envision's scheme would probably be schools.

It is hoped the select committee sees the unimpeachable sense in this proposal. The beverage manufacturers will demur of course, but they need to yield to the public interest to keep New Zealand beautiful - they can call it "host responsibility".


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