A deposit and refund system for used beverage containers is a simple concept and one that makes sense from almost every point of view. Therefore, it is an absolute disgrace that a 30-year battle has been waged to have one reinstated in New South Wales. The simple step of putting a 10¢ deposit on a beverage container which is refunded when the container is returned is one which worked well in the past in New South Wales and which should work in the future. A container deposit scheme would create about 1,000 jobs across the State. I am sure that many members of this House have fond memories of collecting drink bottles from parks and beaches as children and cashing them in to supplement their pocket money. Others will remember that community groups such as the Scouts and Girl Guides used the scheme to help raise much-needed funds. However, not only children and community groups but also the entire community and of course the environment will benefit from the reintroduction of container deposit legislation in New South Wales.
South Australia has had a container deposit scheme for well over 30 years and now has the highest rates of recycling of bottles and cans in Australia and the lowest rates of littering. Containers covered by the legislation comprise just 4 per cent of litter in South Australia compared to more than 30 per cent in the rest of Australia. In June 2011, PricewaterhouseCoopers International released a report on reuse and recycling of beverage packaging. It found that the benefits of recycling beverage containers resulting from the implementation of a mandatory deposit scheme produced outstanding results with collection rates of between 80 per cent and 95 per cent. That should be compared with kerbside collection recovery rates of about 40 per cent.
Despite the clear benefits, the multinational beverage industry has waged a 30-year campaign against any government that has dared even to consider the idea of placing a nominal deposit on beverage containers. Coca-Cola Amatil has been using the Keep Australia Beautiful Council as a means to gain access to members of Parliament to put forward its views in several States. In the Northern Territory Coca-Cola and its allies ran a well-funded misinformation campaign against the cash-for-container scheme. The beverage industry and other container deposit opponents frequently argue that container deposit schemes undermine the viability of kerbside recycling services. Kerbside recycling became unviable as soon as the beverage and packaging industry subsidies on the payback price for recyclable materials were withdrawn. As a result, ratepayers have been left with the burden of recycling their products.
In 2005 the Boomerang Alliance said that industry contributed just 1 per cent of the total cost of kerbside and public place recycling. Yet it is proposing to have new street recycling bins, which are notorious for cross-contamination. That would simply be another financial burden on the community whereby councils would be required to pay for collection without any greater chance of success than the current system. It is the community that pays for the cost of landfill disposal and kerbside recycling systems through damage to the environment and higher council rates. Kerbside recycling costs on average $41 a year per household. Every container that is recovered through combined container deposit refund and kerbside recovery costs about 2¢ to 3¢. However, for every container that is sent to landfill it costs us all about 8¢ to 9¢, including environmental costs. Where is the economic sense in that?
The Boomerang Alliance has found that a national refund scheme of 10c per container would lead to an additional 4 billion—yes, that is right, billion—containers or an additional 440,000 tonnes of material recycled each year. The weight of the steel arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is some 35,500 tonnes. That means a huge number of containers are not being recycled. Can we afford to keep doing this? Container deposit schemes already exist in 11 States of the United States, in all provinces but one in Canada, in Sweden, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark and, of course, in South Australia and the Northern Territory. The average rate of recycling is 80 per cent and it is as high as 95 per cent in some countries—the higher the deposit, the higher the return rate. Internationally, deposit-refund systems are the most effective mechanism for achieving high container recovery rates.
In 1995 the incoming Carr Government promised to introduce a container deposit scheme but then bowed to extreme pressure by a powerful industry lobby led by groups such as Woolworths, Schweppes Cottees and Coca-Cola Amatil, all under the umbrella of the Beverage Industry Environment Council. If that name is not the epitome of greenwash I do not know what is. The groundbreaking report produced by the Institute for Sustainable Futures and commissioned by the Carr Government in 2000 was kept hidden by that Government and released only in response to The Greens call for papers in February 2002. It was kept hidden because it told the Government what the industry did not want it to hear; that is, that a 10¢ refundable deposit on bottles and other containers in New South Wales would create 1,500 jobs while easing Sydney’s landfill problems. Local government emphatically supports a container deposit scheme. The time has come for the New South Wales Government to stand up to the beverage industry lobby and to reinstitute a tried and true method for saving money, reducing waste, reducing resource and energy use, creating more jobs and reducing environmental harm.