By Paul Hemsley
The Western Australian Local Government Association (WALGA) has continued to kick the can over a proposed “cash for containers” scheme to reduce litter and kerbside rubbish in the run-up to the state election in March 2013, saying its petition for the scheme has received 1590 signatures.
The West’s local government body has been urging the Barnett government to implement a deposit and refund scheme since November 2012 when WALGA cited the need to provide a direct financial incentive for residents to recycle empty cans, bottles or cartons.
The Barnett government's position on a "cash for containers' scheme has been to wait for wait for an outcome from the National conference of Environment Ministers before making any decisions about a state based container system.
Although well-established in South Australia since 1977, container deposit schemes have remained highly contentious elsewhere as councils look for ways to reduce the growing cost of dealing with rubbish from packaging.
However such moves have been stridently opposed by the food and grocery lobby that has mounted a series of vigorous campaigns to stop deposit schemes taking root.
Under WALGA’s proposed plan, people would be able to bring approved items to a collection depot and receive 10 cents per container.
A central issue in the product stewardship debate has been at what stage of the manufacturing and distribution cycle the cost of deposit is applied to a sold product so that it can later be redeemed.
A further point of contention is what happens to unredeemed deposits and whether the money should help cover the local government costs in picking-up and disposing of dumped cans and containers.
The friction between governments and the packaging industry is not restricted to WA.
Major beverage companies Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), Schweppes Australia and Lion Pty Ltd are now litigating in the Federal Court with the Northern Territory government over the Top End’s “cash for containers” scheme.
While the NT Legislative Assembly supported the scheme leading to its implementation in January 2012, beverage companies have sued the government and complained that Coca-Cola Amatil product prices that have increased as a result of the scheme to cover the government’s costs of running it.
The beverage giants have also taken issue over which state their products are actually manufactured in and whether or not this makes them liable under the laws that govern the deposit scheme.
Coca-Cola Amatil has branded the NT deposit scheme an “environmental failure” and claims two out of three containers sold have not been recycled, thus putting returns “well below the national average”.
However in Western Australia, the local government’s petition to the state government to create a “cash for containers” scheme through its Cash4Containers website has emboldened WALGA to demonstrate the plan’s community support to the state government.
WALGA President Troy Pickard said the campaign had been created to tell the state government that there needs to be a similar scheme to what’s running in South Australia, which has increased recycling rates and increased public awareness.
“To date, over 25 Councils representing one fifth of the State’s population have provided formal endorsement of the campaign,” Mr Pickard said.
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