May 15, 2009
Cash it instead of kicking it
RECYCLING of drink cans and bottles will increase more than 20 per cent if a 10-cent refund scheme is introduced in New South Wales, says the Local Government and Shires’ Associations and Clean Up Australia.
State and federal ministers of the Environment Protection and Heritage Council will meet in Hobart on May 22 – both organisations have called on the ministers to act urgently to improve recycling and ease the financial burden on ratepayers by introducing container deposit legislation (CDL).
The refund scheme attaches a value of 10 cents to a drink container, virtually guaranteeing high recycling rates of 70 to 85 per cent. Outside of South Australia, the rate is only 50 per cent or less.
President of the Shires’ Association, Bruce Miller, rejects assertions that CLD will undermine kerbside collections.
“This is an unsubstantiated myth and only helps to derail productive discussions about this proven system,” he says.
“Our ministers cannot continue to swallow and rehash this unsubstantiated rhetoric that appears to stem from the very industry currently getting a free ride on the back of councils and Clean Up Australia, who collect and process the litter they produce at great cost.
“This kind of legislation and kerbside collecting have co-existed and operated successfully in South Australia since the mid-1970s,” says Cr Miller.
The current covenant ensures that local government bears the cost of collecting, transporting and processing containers that are effectively worthless in the current economic climate as the price for collected containers and materials plummets.
Clean Up Australia chairman, Ian Kiernan, says a national container deposit scheme like the one in place in South Australia is definitely the way forward for Australia on recycling.
“Drink containers make up a large proportion of the rubbish volunteers find dumped in the natural environment on Clean Up Australia Day each year – up to almost 40 per cent,” he says.
“Consumer behaviour needs to improve but government and industry have to share responsibility for tackling the waste created away from the home where kerbside recycling already operates effectively.
"South Australia has taken the lead on this issue but there is a historic opportunity on the 22nd of May in Hobart for all states and territories to act in the national interest to address an environmental issue that really should have been properly dealt with decades ago,” Mr Kiernan says.
President of the Local Government Association, Genia McCaffery, says the legislation would make sure that the beverage container industry took genuine responsibility for their products.
“Kerbside collection of recyclables currently costs well over $300 million a year nationally to run and our communities are the ones to bear this cost,” she says.
“The time of the current voluntary National Packaging Covenant is clearly finished – it was flawed from the start and has done little if anything to stem the ever growing tide of drink containers.
“The Commonwealth must introduce the kind of legislation that has proven so environmentally and financially effective in Europe, the US, Canada and, of course, in South Australia.
“If we want a more sustainable Australia, ministers must heed the call of local government, community organisations and the environment movement.
“Serious consideration of CDL on 22 May would be a major step in that direction,” says Cr McCafferey.
LGSA and Clean Up Australia have praised the efforts of some state ministers to pursue CDL, but they agree a national system will ensure high recycling rates for the entire country.