WA container deposit scheme gathers public support

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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5 thoughts on “WA container deposit scheme gathers public support

  1. The container deposit scheme is a great way to send an educated message to society (children in particular) to view these abundant items as a ‘resource not rubbish’.

    I think that that the financial commitment should come from all manufacturers to ensure that responsibility is taken for the types of packaging they are producing and for what is becoming of their packaging at the end of use.

    It is embarrassing for Australia that this scheme has not been implemented state wide, and remains a contentious issue when it is such a small step towards sustainability and waste management,when compared to the advancements other countries have made.

    Germany have already achieved the highest waste recovery quotas worldwide and aims to achieve almost complete recovery of municipal waste, by 2020. This will eliminate the need to landfill wastes.

    AVOIDANCE, RECOVERY, DISPOSAL, is the hierarchy principle of the waste reduction success, the German Government state that PRODUCT RESPONSIBILITY is at the heart of waste management policy in Germany. It puts the idea into practice that waste avoidance is best achieved by holding the generator of waste responsible.

  2. I want this scheme to go ahead in WA and across Australia. I would also like the ‘buy your plastic bag’ (If you really want one) to go ahead across Australia too. These are only small steps to sustainability, but they heighten the conciousness of everyone producers, sellers and buyers.

  3. Two things South Australia has got right…the 10c deposit on bottles and cans and the banning of lightweight checkout style plastic bags. The reason I say this is that over Christmas we were over in West Australia, specifically south of Perth, in the Rockingham and Fremantle area.
    Whilst we were in Fremantle we stopped, as many tourists did, at the Joes Fish Shack, one of the seaside style cafés which face onto a small harbour filled with fishing vessels. There are statues of fishermen showing the long heritage of fishing and sea trade. It is a lovely and very picturesque place and a very pleasant spot to stop for a fish and chip lunch. One thing I noticed, however, were quite a few plastic bags floating in the water as we, along with many other people, watched fish and crabs in the water along the edge of the boardwalk.
    Most visibly though, most of the roadside rubbish I noticed consisted of bottles and cans, something we just don’t see a lot of here in SA. I believe that the current corporate opposition to a 10c deposit scheme is absolutely unconscionable, and shows corporate greed at its worst. It shows that the company which opposes it places its profits and interests above that of the country, worse of all, above that of the environment.
    At a period in time when we are all being urged to think and act in the best interests of the environment, this opposition is a slap in the face to all Australians and the corporation responsible should be held up as a pariah of society.
    Now, I’m not saying SA is perfect, but we seem to have got at least two things right, in my opinion at least.

  4. Of course we should this scheme, it has been running sucessfully in SA for years and it was how we did it in the old days here in Perth. We have a terrible track record here in WA and it keeps getting worse, the onus should be put back on the manufacturers for the types of packaging they use. Big business has got away with it for too long and we need to make it clear to the pollies that it is not good enough.

  5. When I was a child and even as recently as 1990, I remember taking cool drink bottles to the deli for a refund. If it worked for so many years before then what is the obstacle now? I have been travelling a lot and Japan is one of the cleanest countries that I have visited. I’m embarrassed every time that I come home to WA and see the extensive litter along our roadways. So much of it is cans and bottles! If we had a deposit scheme then I believe that it would go some way towards helping the problem. Too often our corporate leaders abrogate their responsibities and need to step up to the mark!

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