The New South Wales government is set to introduce a drinks container deposit scheme, similar to those in the Northern Territory and South Australia, within the next few weeks as part of a plan to clean up the state's beaches and parks.
The full details of the scheme which will provide cash for containers scheme are still being finalised but the ABC has reported that it is likely to feature a rebate of 10 cents per item.
The NSW Government has been negotiating with the drinks industry to introduce the system and Environment Minister Rob Stokes said similar initiatives had proved highly successful in reducing waste in public spaces around the world.
“The beverage industry obviously has a responsibility in terms of the extent of producer liability for their products,” Mr Stokes said.
It is believed that reverse vending machines will be placed in public areas along with community recycling centres and that schools and charities would be the main beneficiaries of the new scheme.
The main aim of drinks container deposit scheme is to reduce glass and plastic bottles and cans which are typically consumed away from home and left to pollute beaches, parks, waterways and public areas.
The NT Government said its drink container deposit scheme resulted in an extra 35 million containers being returned in the first 12 months.
But in 2013, drinks giants Coca-Cola, Schweppes and Lion Nathan took Federal Court action against the Northern Territory Government following the introduction of the 10 cent container deposit. The companies initially won the challenge but failed to remove the scheme which still continues.
Mr Stokes told the ABC that the Government was not concerned about a possible backlash from the drinks industry over the scheme, in the lead up to the state elections in March but that the Government had been in ongoing talks with the industry about the deposit plan.
“The concern of [this] Government is to create good public policy that helps the people of NSW,” Mr Stokes said.
“We’re not terribly concerned about scare campaigns or those sorts of things. We’ll do what we believe is right in the public interest.”
The federal Greens and recycling campaigners have welcomed news of the cash for containers scheme.
According to Ian Kiernan AO, chairman and founder of Clean Up Australia, the announcement from the NSW government is the culmination of more than 10 years of community funded lobbying and support for waste management reform.
“This announcement has been a long time coming and is particularly welcome with Clean Up Australia celebrating 25 years in 2015.
It’s a major win for the people of NSW. It’s wonderful knowing that all our hard work, particularly that of our volunteers, is paying off.”
According to Clean Up Australia, one in three pieces of litter in Australia is beverage related and now under the NSW scheme 10 cents will be redeemable on beverage containers – a scheme that has worked successfully in South Australia for many years.
Coca Cola Amatil (CCA) confirmed that on 31 December 2014 it received a copy of a letter addressed to the National Packaging Covenant Industry Authority (NPCIA) and signed by the NSW Premier and the NSW Minister for the Environment which said the government had received advice on a Container Deposit Legislation and viewed it as a being likely to increase recycling and reduce waste.
However CCA said in a statement that as no final decision has yet been made on the program to be implemented in NSW, it was not in a position at this stage to quantify the financial impact on its business of such a scheme being introduced.