Container Deposit Scheme

(Parliament House - Private Members Statement)

My constituents of the electorate of Sydney as well as the wider New South Wales community are concerned about the failure of former New South Wales governments to introduce a container deposit scheme. The scheme would add a small fee to the cost of beverages for redemption when the containers are returned for recycling. Australia is second to the United States of America in the amount of waste it creates. While we are recycling more, the amount of waste going to landfill is increasing. In fact, the government-commissioned Public Review Landfill Capacity and Demand report predicts that Sydney landfills will be full by 2016.

Plastic, glass and aluminium beverage containers can be recycled easily, yet of the 12 billion containers used in Australia every year around six billion end up either in landfill or as litter. Rates for kerbside recycling are low because containers often are used away from the home and other recycling facilities. The 2010 Keep Australia Beautiful National Litter Index found that 32 per cent of the total volume of litter in parks, rivers and roadsides were beverage containers. Plastic containers in particular are responsible for the deaths of thousands of birds, marine mammals and turtles—whole bottles have been found inside whales. The Sydney Morning Herald reported on 14 May that 95 per cent of shearwaters on Lord Howe Island have plastic pieces in their stomach. The sharp edges of the debris tear internal organs, and toxic substances like mercury that bind to the plastic end up in the internal systems of birds. Discarding so many beverage containers not only is a waste of valuable resources; it also is unnecessary.

A container deposit scheme would result in at least 80 per cent of containers being recycled, thereby reducing litter and landfill, and preventing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the extraction and conversion of virgin resources. Facilities created to take back beverage containers for refund also could become recycling hubs to take back other types of waste, including e-waste and batteries, which currently contaminate kerbside collections as well as water and land when sent to landfill. Local governments strongly support container deposit legislation because it will reduce costs for councils and ratepayers. Councils will be able to redeem the deposit on containers that end up in the kerbside system, and drop-off centres will reduce council expenditure on electronic waste collection days and clearing roadside litter.

Last year an analysis by the BDA Group and Wright Corporate Strategy Pty Ltd on a national container deposit scheme calculated that it could save local government at least $32 million net each year in avoided landfill costs and kerbside recycling. The Boomerang Alliance estimates that the average waste collection cost per home will be around 20 per cent less if a container deposit scheme is introduced. I understand the beverage industry proposes alternatives to a container deposit scheme, including grants through a packaging tax. I agree with the New South Wales Local Government Association that this proposal will impose costs on councils and ratepayers without major improvements in container recycling. Container deposit schemes provide significant benefits to charities and community groups by raising funds through container collection drives. Container deposits are good for the economy as they provide new employment and enterprise opportunities. Jeff Angel, Executive Director of the Total Environment Centre and Convenor of the Boomerang Alliance, reports:

Recycling produces nine times more jobs per tonne of waste than land filling.

A national poll commissioned last year by Clean Up Australia found that 87 per cent of Australians want a container deposit scheme introduced; only industry is opposed. Delaying a national scheme continues to be the subject of subsequent reviews by the Environment Protection and Heritage Council of all Australian environment ministers. While a national approach is preferable, New South Wales should be a leader. Jeff Angel predicts that a national scheme could take at least four years to implement. South Australia has indeed led the way as it has had a scheme for more than 30 years. The Northern Territory Legislative Assembly supported a container deposit scheme that it expects to introduce later this year. Surely New South Wales could at least do what the Northern Territory has done and introduce its own scheme. Earlier this year in the lead-up to the State election, the then Opposition spokesperson for the environment said that the Coalition would support a State system, and there is strong community support for the Government to do just that. I call on the new Government to establish a container deposit scheme to prevent millions of beverage containers ending up as waste, filling up landfills, littering the public domain and, worst of all, killing animals and birds.