The NSW government wants input into the design of the state’s new container deposit scheme (CDS), which is due to be introduced from July 2017.
The discussion paper, which can be found here, is a jumping off point to spark feedback about the scheme’s operation and its key design principles.
In 2014-15, the EPA estimates that around 160 million containers were tossed away in NSW, littering the environment. Drinks containers are a major component of all the litter tossed in NSW, with the National Litter Index estimating it at 44 per cent of all litter volume.
The detritus caused by discarded containers is a thorn in the side of the state’s 152 councils, which the CDS should partially alleviate.
The discussion paper says: “By providing a reward, the CDSs create a disincentive to litter and an incentive to pick up littered items. In doing so, in most cases, they also shift waste management and litter collection costs away from local councils and land managers, and on to drink manufacturers and consumers.
“In general consumers cover the cost of the scheme in the price of the drink when purchasing it. In this regard, CDSs are based on the “polluter pays” principle, shifting waste management and litter collection costs away from local councils and land managers and on to consumers.”
Other objectives include reducing litter, diverting litter from landfill, boosting recycling of single-use containers and increasing the collection and reuse of refillable containers.
The decision is between two models:
A refund CDS, where 10 cents is added to the price of a drink, which is refundable if the container is returned. This can be done through kerbside recycling, reverse vending machines, a local collection depot or through a school or charity.
The scheme’s aim is to give consumers an incentive to return drink containers – either by paying a refundable deposit (as happens in South Australia and the Northern Territory) or by providing other incentives, such as discount coupons, competition entries or donations to charity. Technology such as reverse vending machines can also be used, where appropriate, with the government suggesting there be at least 800 of these machines, mainly in more built-up areas. Reverse vending machines work by consumers feeding containers into the machines and receiving a docket, redeemable for cash.
The other option has been proposed by the drinks industry, which it has named “thirst for good”, puts more stress on education and extra collection resource and less on refunds because the industry is concerned revenues will fall if drink prices rise.
This alternative proposal involves a $15 million annual investment by the industry to pursue five measures: extra litter bins and collectors, community education campaigns, 100 reverse vending machines and persuading community groups to collect drink containers. The industry would provide collection trailers to every NSW council which would then loan them to groups, who would keep the $300 refund per trailer (around 6,000 cans).
NSW Environment Minister Mark Speakman encouraged the public to provide feedback on the new container deposit scheme.
“The Premier has made it his priority to reduce the volume of litter by 40 per cent by 2020,” Mr Speakman said. “An efficient and cost-effective container deposit scheme will help NSW reduce litter.”
Features of the scheme to be decided include:
Incentives offered to return containers – both financial and non-financial
How the scheme should interact with kerbside recycling
Which containers should be covered
Method of collection and what infrastructure is needed to back this up
Who should co-ordinate, regulate, evaluate and monitor the CDS
How will it be funded
Mr Speakman said the CDS Advisory Committee, which he said “contributed invaluable input into the development of the discussion paper”, was established to provide expertise in environmental matters, industry operations, recycling, innovation, behavioural psychology, local government and litter management.
“More than 100 stakeholders provided support and input to the committee,” Mr Speakman said. “Now we’re going out to the community. We want its views on a NSW scheme.”
Public consultation is open until 26 February 2016.