Container Deposit Scheme
(Private Members Statement, 15 May 2014, Legislative Assembly, NSW Parliament)
My constituents support a container deposit scheme and frequently ask me why New South Wales has failed to introduce this effective form of waste management. A container deposit scheme adds a small fee of perhaps 10¢ to the price of beverages sold in containers. The fee can be refunded when the container is presented for recycling at collection depots and vending machines. Australians are among the biggest waste producers in the world and we are far from meeting our 2010 packaging recycling target of 65 per cent. Sydney sends about two million tonnes of waste to landfill every year. Our dumps could be full by as early as 2017. We need to act urgently.
More than 12 billion containers are consumed in Australia every year and only 50 per cent are recycled. New South Wales accounts for approximately 40 per cent of the beverage market, which equates to almost five billion containers each year. Of the 12 billion containers used in Australia every year around six billion end up either in landfill or as litter. We only recycle 42 per cent of our beverage containers and the rest—about two billion containers—end up as litter in streets, parks and beaches or filling up landfill. Beverage litter is not just an eyesore; it blocks drains, contaminates land and waterways and, shockingly, is responsible for the death of thousands of birds, marine mammals and turtles. Whole bottles have been found inside whales. While beverage containers are easy to recycle, most drinks are consumed away from home and away from recycling facilities.
The Boomerang Alliance reports that for non-alcoholic beverages, 55 per cent of glass bottles, 39 per cent of PET plastic bottles and 54 per cent of aluminium cans are consumed away from home. Recycling bins in public places do not work because they get contaminated with non-recyclable rubbish and end up in landfill. Space is also limited in parks and along footpaths. Deposit schemes create an incentive to not discard beverage containers but instead present them for recycling at depots to get a refund. Discarded containers are collected by community groups to raise funds.
Based on a PricewaterhouseCoopers assessment for the Council of Australian Governments, if a scheme were introduced New South Wales councils would save $66 million a year from reduced litter and waste collection and improved efficiencies in the operation of recycling programs because of the need for less transport and sorting. There would be less litter to clear in the public domain and container collection depots would create recycling hubs that would deal with problem waste such as electronics and chemicals and councils would not have to deal with them. The Boomerang Alliance estimates that the average waste collection cost per home will be around 20 per cent less if a container deposit scheme is introduced. Because recyclables under a container deposit scheme are sorted and cleaned they attract higher prices than those collected in kerbside recycling.
Container deposit schemes exist in some States in the United States of America and Canada and in Sweden, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Denmark as well as South Australia and the Northern Territory. On average, schemes achieve beverage container recycling rates of 80 per cent. In South Australia it is more than 80 per cent, which is more than double what New South Wales recycles. In some countries it is as high as 95 per cent. A deposit scheme in New South Wales is expected to increase drink can and bottle recycling rates to 80 per cent. In South Australia, where a scheme has operated since 1975, drink bottles and cans only make up 4 per cent of litter. Drink bottles and cans make up a third of the litter in New South Wales. The Northern Territory joined South Australia and introduced a scheme last year. The Tasmanian Parliament has voted unanimously to introduce one and is preparing a feasibility study. I hope that the new government in Tasmania continues the study. The Victorian Premier publicly supports a scheme and favours a national model.
The Environment Protection and Heritage Council released a regulatory impact statement with two options: a container deposit scheme or extending the Australian packaging covenant using more bins and advertising. The covenant is unlikely to help given that it is yet to reach its 2010 recycling target. While a national approach is preferable, New South Wales should be a leader and push for a national model at the Council of Australian Governments Standing Council on Environment and Water while advancing work on a State scheme. Polls consistently show that people think container deposits are a good idea. The community campaign has gone on for more than 30 years. The only opposition comes from industry; however, it will get used to a scheme as it has done elsewhere, with no impact on sales. What are we waiting for? I call on the Government to show leadership and work with other Australian governments while pursuing a State scheme if a national model is not possible.