8 reasons Australia needs a national ‘Cash for Containers’ scheme

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Feature Story - 15 February, 2013
Did you know that Australians use a whopping 14 billion drinks containers every year? All those bottles and cans add up to a lot of rubbish if they’re not recycled -- much of it ending up in landfill, on our beaches, and in the ocean.
Rubbish on Lord Howe Island© Ian Hutton

But South Australians have found a way to keep it under check: by offering a simple 10 cent per container deposit refund for consumers, recycling rates there are now double those across the rest of the country. They’ve been doing it for 30 years, and a similar scheme just launched in the Northern Territory. Here are 8 reasons other states and territories should catch up:

1. Less than half of the 14 billion drinks containers consumed every year are recycled. That means 8 billion cans, cups, bottles, caps and seals end up in landfill, on beaches, in rivers and oceans.

2. Loose rubbish that could otherwise be recycled can be deadly for birds, whales, dolphins and turtles. Shockingly, this rubbish is estimated to affect up to 85% of Australian seabirds. Some mistake the plastic for food and feed it to their chicks, like the Flesh-footed Shearwaters of pristine Lord Howe Island. When they swallow too much, their tiny stomachs become so full they’re unable to ingest any food -- literally starving to death on a full stomach.

3. A 10 cent deposit on containers is the only proven scheme globally to achieve high rates of recycling and massively reduce the deadly effects of littering on wildlife.

4. It can drive long term behavioural change by incentivising rubbish collection in public spaces.

5. Clean Up Australia estimates that 45% of the rubbish collected every Clean Up Australia Day is beverage industry related. Recycling cans and bottles are an ongoing environmental menace despite 30 years of promises from the beverage industry to fix the problem.

6. The beverage industry’s proposed alternative to the deposit refund scheme is to put more recycling bins in the street. This is nowhere near as effective or efficient because much of the recovered material is contaminated with food and other waste. It imposes additional costs on local councils who have to pay for collection, processing and transportation.

7. A modern and efficient scheme will place no additional cost beyond the deposit on consumers and drink companies. The ‘unredeemed’ deposits and sale of glass, PET and other materials cover recycling costs -- so the system breaks even!

8. It could create thousands of new jobs in the recycling industry, plus earn the community service sector as much as $60 million every year. By creating hundreds of new ‘drop off centres’, problem waste like batteries, computers and white goods can also be dropped off.

So, you’ve heard our side of the story. What do you think - would you support a national Cash for Containers recycling scheme?

TAKE ACTION NOW: Show your support for a national 'Cash for Containers' scheme