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Saturday, 31 January 2015 23:01

Beverage Container Deposit Legislation – At Last – Almost

Just before Christmas, NSW Premier, Mike Baird, and the Environment Minister, Rob Stokes, announced that the Government favoured the introduction of state-based container deposit legislation (CDL). They seem to favour the current proposal developed by the Boomerang Alliance. This involves the installation of reverse vending machines in shopping centres and public places where people can return drink containers and retrieve the 10 cent deposit included in the purchase price. Council kerbside recycling collections would continue to operate.

There has been a long consultative process but community support has finally pushed the Government into action. Polls have shown that 80 to 90% of NSW residents support the scheme. The main benefit of the scheme will be the reduction in litter. Individuals and community groups can raise money by collecting discarded containers. The scheme also provides a way for people living in small towns or rural areas to recycle drink containers instead of putting them into their general rubbish that ends up in landfill.

The campaign for CDL has been going for more than 10 years. Finally some concerted action started in July 2014 when the Environment Minister held talks about the litter problem in NSW’s parks, beaches and rivers with the major drink companies, recycling companies and Keep Australia Beautiful (funded by Coca-Cola). Baird and Stokes then met the scheme proponents, Clean Up Australia, Greenpeace and the Boomerang Alliance.

In late November, the National Packaging Covenant Industry Association submitted its own recycling proposal to the NSW Government. This followed heavy lobbying efforts by the industry as shown by the publication of the diaries of NSW cabinet ministers in November. The industry proposal was rejected by the Government. The reasons given were that it lacked clear governance arrangements and specific detail. It also did not have the level of long-term funding required to achieve sustained behavioural change. The Environment Minister stated that the beverage giants need to make a ‘far greater commitment’ to reduce packaging waste litter and boost recycling.

The beverages industry has been given one month to improve its offer of an alternate scheme. It is understood the final cabinet decision will be made in February.

On 20 December the Australian Beverages Council threatened to run attack advertising against the Baird Government during the March election if cabinet voted in favour of a container deposit policy. It is understood that Labor will support the scheme so any attack may be pointless.