The NSW Container Deposit scheme (CDS) will be delayed by five months to give local councils and industry and environment groups longer to prepare.
NSW Environment and Local Government Minister Gabrielle Upton said the CDS would be rolled out from December 1, 2017 rather than from July, as originally planned.
It also means the cash for cans program will have broader coverage across the state and take in more rural and regional areas.
Ms Upton said groups such as Clean Up Australia and the Boomerang Alliance, as well as drinks industry stakeholders had asked for an extension.
“This will be the biggest initiative to tackle litter in the state’s history – stakeholder feedback is vital to get the scheme right,” Ms Upton said.
Under the scheme, NSW residents can return most empty drink containers between 150 ml and three litres to collection points in return for a 10-cent refund.
The aim is to significantly reduce the estimated 160 million drink containers littered every year and ease the burden on local councils.
Local Government NSW President Keith Rhoades called it ‘an eminently sensible decision’.
“Councils spend hundreds of thousands of dollars each year picking up litter, and would much prefer to be investing this money in other community services,” Mr Rhoades said.
“The scheme has the potential to cut litter in NSW by up to 43 per cent, but the complexity of the collection and refund processes required have become increasingly clear.”
He said the five-month extension would make it easier to ensure the supporting infrastructure and resources were in place before the scheme began, as well as rolling it out to other local government areas.
Boomerang Alliance Director Jeff Angel said the Alliance fought hard for the container deposit scheme and wanted to ensure it would work efficiently for the community and business to maximise the environmental benefits.
“The Alliance understood that getting the container deposit scheme up and running was a very complicated process. It’s better to delay the implementation by a few months, so the scheme is ready from day one,” Mr Angel said.
Industry groups were also pleased about the delay.
Tanya Barden, Director of Economics and Sustainability Australian Food and Grocery Council, said the drinks industry supported an efficient and effective container deposit scheme in NSW.
“We’re pleased that the NSW Government has listened to industry and environmental groups’ views about the complexity of introducing such as scheme. This extension allows the time to put the fundamentals in place so that the scheme can operate smoothly for both consumers and industry,” Ms Barden said.
The 2015-2016 National Litter Index found that 49 per cent of litter by volume was made up of beverage containers – and 43 per cent of the total volume was containers that will be caught by the NSW container deposit scheme.
Ms Upton said container deposit schemes operate in more than 40 jurisdictions around the world and are a proven and efficient way to recover litter and increase recycling of beverage containers.