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March 1, 2009

The Australian

Recyclables still a problem on Clean Up day, says Ian Kiernan

PLASTIC rubbish, particularly recyclable drink and food containers, continues to dominate refuse collected during Clean Up Australia Day, event chairman Ian Kiernan says.

The founder of the event, now in its 20th year, wants a nationwide container deposit scheme to deal with the problem, similar to South Australia's 10 cent refund on drink bottles.

More than 630,000 volunteers collected about 8300 tonnes of rubbish across Australia today, with Mr Kiernan estimating 40 per cent of that would be recycled.

"Eighty-eight per cent of the community in Australia want deposit legislation on food and beverage containers, and we know that the recovery rates in South Australia are in excess of 85 per cent, other states 35 per cent," he told reporters in Sydney's Botanic Gardens.

"Instead of seeing a bit of rubbish there, you see a bit of money and it disappears like that."

Mr Kiernan said Clean Up Australia Day 2009 was a "huge success", with the number of volunteers rising by 15 per cent.

They were scattered across 6910 registered sites, located at beaches, waterways, bushland and local sites like parks and schools.

"That's more sites than there are postcodes," Mr Kiernan said.

But plastic continued to be a problem, with an increased amount collected since last year.

"We know it is a very convenient material, but we also know that it is incredibly durable and accumulates and is finding its way often into the oceans," Mr Kiernan said.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who helped clean up Sydney's Maroubra Beach, said he was open to a national container deposit scheme.

The proposal would be discussed at an environment ministers' meeting scheduled for later in the month, he said.

"I'd like to see much less litter in our waterways, in our streets, in our bush," Mr Garrett said.

"We've had a working group looking closely at container deposit legislation. They will bring a report through to environment ministers from the states, when we meet ... in March this year."

NSW Premier Nathan Rees said he had collected a couple of bags of rubbish while working on a clean up in Winston Hills, near Parramatta.

"Each year you are staggered by the sorts of things you pick up," he said.

"Bits of sheet metal this morning, a couple of old boots, prescription pills, and the ubiquitous plastic bottles."


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