Cash for Containers

PHOTO CAPTION: Message in a bottle: If Queensland introduces the Cash for Containers scheme it will reduce marine plastic pollution and be a step to ease plastic ingestion for turtles and migratory sea birds. Photo by Mic Smith.

The Queensland government is now considering both a cash for containers scheme and banning single-use plastic bags.

Environmental minister Stephen Miles renewed his commitment to the schemes on World Ocean Day during a trip around Henry Atkinson Artificial Reef, where he highlighted the effects of plastic on marine turtles.

He first announced on 20 May in a statement, that an advisory board would be established to plan the schemes.

“Container deposit schemes are popular with the community, encourage recycling and cut waste,” Dr Miles said in the statement. “The scheme has proven successful in reducing beverage container litter in South Australia, and New South Wales has also recently announced plans to introduce a scheme.”

A potential banning of single use plastic bags was also brought up.

“Across the country, between 2003 and 2005, major retailers voluntarily introduced measures to reduce the use of plastic bags, during which time plastic bag use decreased by around 45 per cent,” Dr Miles said. “Unfortunately, in the 10 years since the voluntary action expired, plastic bag use has started to increase again.

“South Australia, Northern Territory, the ACT and Tasmania have all banned the use of single-use plastic bags, and I am interested in seeing what may work both at a national and state level.”

His office was approached by Blank for further comment but did not respond. The opposition has resisted the idea, with opposition leader John-Paul Langbrook saying that there were higher priorities.

“We are concerned whether these are measures that might lead to increased cost of living for Queenslanders,” he said. “It’s really important that Labor get with the other things that Queenslanders would like to see and that is a plan for jobs.”

According to the data of the 2014 Rubbish Report compiled by Clean Up Australia, beverage containers made up 37.5 per cent of Queensland’s rubbish. Beverage containers make up one in three pieces of rubbish in Australia, and bottles make up 40 per cent of waste on beaches.

The Marine Debris Project, CSIRO’s three-year-long survey of Australian shores, found that 75 per cent of rubbish in the ocean is plastic and having a detrimental effect on marine wildlife.

Boomerang Alliance national convenor Jeff Angel said that the schemes could create several hundred jobs for Queenslanders as well as billions of dollars for Queensland charities.

“The LNP have been badly misinformed by the beverage industry… and they’re making a very big strategic error because we will not stop campaigning for change,” he said.

Mr Angel said Queensland was the highest littering state in Australia, the reason being lack of governmental action over the years.

“Successive governments have had pathetic policies relying on voluntary industry action,” he said.

“This scheme is a sign we clearly have to move to some form of industry regulation.”

He felt if Queensland successfully created a cash for containers scheme and banned plastic bags, more states would follow.

“The momentum will just build and build,” he said.

If the legislation is passed, Queensland will follow in the footsteps of South Australia, the Northern Territory and most recently New South Wales, where Premier Mike Baird has announced a cash for containers scheme by July 2017.

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