NSW cash for containers scheme to reduce marine debris:
Pictured above: A bottle parade in Manly NSW last April raising awareness of plastic pollution. Deposits for plastic bottles in neighbouring NSW could reduce estimates that one in three pieces of rubbish is a beverage container.
The sight of a plastic bottle lying on a beach in New South Wales may soon be a lot rarer.
The New South Wales government is planning to implement a container deposit scheme (CDS), involving a 10 cent refund for every beverage container.
Suggested ways people can return their rubbish include: reverse vending machines, collecting depots and collections at schools or charities.
NSW environment minister Rob Stokes said the government recognised litter as a serious problem and had informed industry representatives it preferred a CDS.
“Independent advice states that a state-based scheme, using reverse vending machines and targeting containers that are predominantly consumed away-from-home, will be both cost efficient and effective.”
“Importantly, it will also complement, rather than compete with, our existing kerbside recycling system. The Government is currently working with the community and industry to refine the design principles of a CDS to protect the environmental health of our parks, rivers, beaches and towns.”
According to the CSIRO’s three-year-long survey of Australian shores – the Marine Debris Project – 75 per cent of rubbish in the ocean is plastic, and production is rising due to more industrialisation and demand. Surveyors also found 40 per cent of waste found along beaches was bottles and the Clean Up Australia organisation has estimated that one in three pieces of rubbish in Australia is a beverage container.
Dr Chris Wilcox, one of the scientists involved in the project, said that once in the sea, plastic beverage containers have both physical and chemical negative effects to marine animals including leaching toxins soaked up from the environment around them.
“An animal’s digestive system then causes these toxins to be released,” he said.
“In some cases the toxins appear to mimic natural hormones, making them dangerous to animals at very low concentrations.”
Project findings also indicated that South Australia’s scheme was effective in reducing bottles going into the sea but not their lids as there’s no deposit placed on them.
“ Personally, I believe that a mix of CDS and targeted marketing to change attitudes to litter could make a significant impact on the amount of plastic lost into the environment,” Dr Wilcox said.
“It is also worth considering the use of deposits beyond beverage containers.
“We could have a plastic surcharge that is refundable on all plastic, which would extend the benefits of a CDS much more widely.
“But a CDS is certainly a good start – both for its direct impact on plastic, and the likely awareness that it generates.”
The scheme comes as welcome news to the Tweed Heads Environment Group Inc, who manage Landcare projects in the Tweed Heads area.
“Where there is council maintenance, there appears to be little problem (with litter),” Secretary Richard Wagner Murray said.
“However there appears to be considerable litter dropped from boats which collect in mangrove areas and in other public areas where there are insufficient waste disposal bins.”
Other scheme supporters include the Boomerang Alliance, an organisation formed of groups such as Clean Up Australia and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, and NSW’s Local Government Association, who have released a report that the scheme could save local councils up to $23 to $62 million per year in recycling costs.
Boomerang Alliance National Convenor Jeff Angel said the 10 year push for a CDS in NSW was the right choice.
“It’s (CDS) been proven in over 40 jurisdictions around the world to be the best way to clean up bottles and coke litter,” he said.
“It grows the recycling industry.”
Tweed Shire Council is supportive but cautious of the scheme, with the shire’s Waste Co-ordinator Rob Dawson saying he wanted to know more details.
“It may have a detrimental effect to kerbside recycling,” he said.
“We might need to move them (kerbside pick up services) back to three or four weekly services.”
He was also concerned that the state government may pay for the scheme for a couple of years, creating a community expectation then leave council to pay for it.
“So it could save us money, but we’d need to see the structure of what the state government is offering.”
Byron Shire Environmental Programs OfficerLloyd Isaacson said the scheme would beautify and improve the shire’s open spaces and beaches.
“Any financial benefit that may arise will not be known until further details of the scheme are released by the State Government.”
CDS’s are not without critics, as packaging and beverage organisations have all spoken out against a national CDS scheme.
The Australian Food and Chief Executive Gary Dawson said in a press release that a national CDS scheme would cost Australian taxpayers $8 billion.
“In contrast, industry is proposing an alternative National Recycling Action Plan that would make it easier for Australians to recycle litter at their work, at home and in public places including parks, breaches, sporting grounds and shopping centres,” he said.
“Importantly the National Recycling Action Plan would not cost the taxpayer a cent.”
South Australia’s CDS has been running since 1977, and the Northern Territory since 2012.
A poll conducted by Greenpeace and the Boomerang Alliance in 2013 showed that support for a CDS in Queensland was at 85 per cent.
Victoria’s and Tasmania’s governments have already ruled out implementing a CDS, both citing cost to the taxpayer. The Queensland government stated in 2013 that it would not introduce a container deposit scheme in order to keep costs low for Queensland families.
“Plastic production is doubling about every 11 years, thus between 2003 and 2014 we made as much plastic as was made from the time it was invented until 2003,” Dr Wilcox said.
“And looking forward, we will make as much again between 2015 and 2026 as we have made up to now. Thus we need to rapidly improve our custody of plastics to avoid its increase in the ocean.”