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September 28, 2010

Inside Waste Weekly

NT Update: CDS will get results

Why does the Northern Territory need a container deposit scheme (CDS)? Because unlike the Footy Grand Final, we know we will get a result. From past experience the Territory has proven that container deposits are not only successful at reducing litter and increasing recycling but the community embraces them whole heartedly, writes Shenagh Gamble.

In March 2009, after around 20 years of intense lobbying by community, local government, independent MLAs and the recycling industry, the Northern Territory Government announced that it would introduce Cash for Containers legislation by 2011, provided it would be financially viable, legally sound and able to be delivered in both urban and remote centres.

Only three months out from 2011 and the game plan is still the same, although it seems to be progressing a bit slower than devoted supporters had hoped for.
In the Northern Territory only two of the 16 councils provide a kerbside recycling service, however this services about half of the population in the Territory. For the rest of the Territory, and the 14 other councils, we need something more to get us over the line with recycling.

Familiar old arguments (the economies of scale, not enough volume, small populations, lack of awareness in the community) hinder developments in recycling. Even though there have been successful trials in kerbside and container deposit schemes, without a Territory-wide, or better yet a National container deposit scheme, these arguments will still hold strong and efficient permanent recycling will remain out of our reach.

A lack of progress in achieving a CDS over the past couple of decades had already led one Territory town council to take matters into their own hands. The same week that the Territory Government made their announcement, the Alice Springs Town Council resolved to introduce a Liquor Litter Levy as a means to recoup some of the $630,000 of ratepayer's money that is spent on litter every year – estimating that around half of that cost is due to liquor related litter.

The revenue from the Liquor Litter Levy was estimated to come in at $350,000 from 12 liquor takeaway venues and was redirected into the town’s own Cash for Containers scheme. The scheme was so successful that the council had residents hauling out years’ worth of containers that they had been hording in the hope that one day they would be able to recycle them. It was estimated that the scheme would remove seven million aluminium cans from the litter stream in its first year.

In Lajamanu, in the central west of the Territory, the community desperately wanted to address the issue of litter and waste from beverage containers and decided to run a trial Cash for Containers scheme. The trial was so successful that the scheme continued on beyond the trial period. It has now fallen by the wayside for the simple fact that it is difficult to run such a scheme in isolation.

Local government in the Northern Territory has long been a vocal supporter of Container Deposit Legislation. It is hard to imagine the downside of a scheme that will pull quantities of recyclable material out of community landfills and help the cities generate the volumes necessary to invest in larger recycling infrastructure.

A Territory-wide or national CDS would provide business opportunities to organisations in remote communities. Surely this is in keeping with Australian government policies of ‘closing the gap’ with indigenous communities?

Various lobby groups may insist that they will only be drawn into the scheme kicking and screaming delivering petty threats to make the consumers pay, but it is an inescapable fact that to reduce container litter and deliver reliable quantities of clean recyclable material, a CDS is paramount.

Concern expressed by some councils on the interaction of the legislation with existing recycling contracts should not be mistaken as a problem. These are merely issues of contract management not environmental or waste management. We’ve got more important goals, namely litter reduction and resource recovery.

If things stay on track, the Territory will be closer to those goals before the wet season footy comp starts.

Shenagh Gamble is sustainability programs coordinator at the Local Government Association of the Northern Territory (LGANT). This is part of a regular series of updates designed to ensure we cover key developments in all jurisdictions. The views expressed in this article are her own and do not necessarily reflect the views of LGANT.


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