June 27, 2008
New report shows that introducing deposits on containers may make us feel better but will hit us in our pockets
The Packaging Council has released a detailed review of the economic and environmental impacts of introducing a container deposit system in New Zealand conducted by independent economic consultancy Covec Ltd.
This report updates a previous report undertaken by the same economists in 2006 on the possible impacts of the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill. Speaking at the Packaging Council's Annual General Meeting Executive Director Paul Curtis said:
"We asked Covec to update the report for two reasons. Firstly we wanted to make sure that the analysis was pertinent to the current Waste Bill which has been substantially amended during its two year passage through the legislative process. Secondly we wanted to address criticisms of the initial report made in Envision NZ's report into container deposits which was published last year."
"In the process we have amended the number of containers that would be included in a deposit refund scheme to just beverage containers excluding food jars and cans, milk containers and aerosols. We have also used 2006-2007 recycling data which reflects a 20% improvement in recycling over the previous year."
The revised analysis concludes that though a deposit refund scheme would reduce waste from landfill by approximately 45000 tonnes, the net impact on New Zealand consumers would be an additional annual cost of between $48 to $90 million. Using the mid range estimate, the additional annual cost would be around $1600 for every additional tonne recycled.
Mr Curtis said that the study shows there is no economic or environmental benefit to New Zealanders of introducing a tax on containers:-
"One of the fundamental provisions in the Waste Bill is that mandatory take back schemes must be based on the economic and environmental benefits outweighing the economic and environmental costs. Well quite clearly they don't! We took on board Envision's criticism of the methodology and reviewed their own analysis of Container Deposit Legislation set out in their report "The Incentive to Recycle". Covec have outlined the analytical errors made in this report which fail to factor in the infrastructure costs of establishing a deposit refund system alongside a mature nationwide kerbside recycling system."
"What we have found is that recycling rates have increased and are continuing to increase with more material types being collected and new markets for recycling opening up. Covec's model for a refund system is based on looking at the best options available from overseas experience whereby consumers would either take their drinks containers back to supermarkets or to recycling transfer stations."
Mr Curtis told Packaging Council members that he appreciated that many of them felt the costs were understated:
"I have been challenged by people who know a lot more about the economics of operating container deposit systems than I do that the costs of implementing CDL are much higher than the Covec report states. However I have always taken the view that we are better to be conservative in our approach. What we can't get away from is that CDL would add millions to industry costs at a time when we are facing spiraling fuel and energy costs and taxes on waste and carbon. Whichever way you crunch these numbers they are way in excess of the $6 million mentioned in the Envision report. And by spending upwards of $50 million to implement the scheme, we would reduce waste to landfill by just 1.5%. It doesn't make sense."
The research also finds that current kerbside collections address the 60% of drinks containers which are consumed at home. A further 30% containers are consumed at restaurants and other entertainment venues and collected by recycling operators which leaves 10% drinks containers consumed whilst people are out and about.
Mr Curtis posed the question: "Isn't it far better to find a solution to help people do the right thing with their cans and bottles whilst they are out at the shops or in the park?"
The Packaging Council is an active member of the Ministry for the Environment's Recycling in Public Places Initiative Steering Group and is also investigating various models for involving the private sector in extending this initiative. Mr Curtis also announced a new vision and look for the Packaging Council with a new logo "Towards Sustainable Packaging."
Recycling rates have increased from 52% in 2006 to 57% in 2007
First report: $61 - 121 million per annum
Revised report: $48 - 90 million per annum
Cost per additional tonne recycled:
First report: $1020 per tonne
Revised report: $1600 per tonne
Reduction in waste sent to landfill:
First report: 90,000 tonnes per annum
Revised report: 45,000 tonnes per annum