The national introduction of the much debated Container Deposit Scheme seems more certain with NSW recently announcing a container refund scheme from 2017, and Queensland, one of Australia’s most littered states, committing to investigate the scheme.
This momentum is hardly surprising when considering the alarming volumes of beverage waste, coupled with Australia’s increasing focus on sustainability, fostered by campaigns with moving images of wildlife impacted by such litter. Australians use 13 billion containers every year, and at 48% of reported rubbish, beverages are the most common type found on Clean Up Australia Day.
South Australia has had a container deposit legislation (CDL) since 1977, which was initially aimed at litter reduction. Ahead of its time, this legislation introduced principles considered best practice today, such as ‘polluter pays’ and ‘product stewardship’. With the CDL, an individual littering forfeits the right to a refund, which someone else picking up the waste can benefit from, eg polluter pays. In addition, in terms of ‘product stewardship’ the beverage suppliers were obliged, not only to adjust their packaging to promote the program, but also to take a greater responsibility for their packaging after it’s sold by ensuring recovery and recycling systems were in place.
So what are the benefits?
According to the South Australian EPA, last year, nearly 583 million containers (45,000 tonnes) were returned to container depots. As a result, South Australia leads the nation in the recovery, recycling and litter reduction of beverage containers with a current, overall return rate of 79.5%. With the refund scheme, beverage containers make up only 2.2% of litter. According to Keep Australia Beautiful, this litter rate is significantly lower than other states, and in contrast, is still reducing. Compared to 2.2% of litter, beverage containers account for 4.1% in the Northern Territory, 4.7% in Queensland, 7% in Victoria, 7.5% NSW and 13.2% of litter in Western Australia.
The impact of such CDLs is most marked in public places, where beverage litter is prevalent. By contrast, in the workplace, many organisations across Australia have already established recycling programs, driven instead by environmental outcomes, and the increasing cost of waste collection with landfill levies. As such both litter and recovery rates in the workplace are significantly better than in public places.
However, for many progressive organisations, the CDL schemes have been leveraged to promote their corporate social responsibility credentials. Partnering with community
groups, sporting clubs and charities, these workplaces have encouraged employees to divert beverage containers into a separate recycling waste stream, which is then collected
by the charity. If investing in best practice recycling bins, the introduction of a new waste stream for 10c refundables can be seamless, even with minimum training. Best practice
recycling bins, make recycling easy with educational information, Australian Standard colours and differentiated apertures.. Indeed some recycling units can be even
customised to promote the charitable program, which helps achieve increased staff engagement and so diversion rates.
In South Australia, many organisations have benefited from the CDL programs, both in the public place, in which groups like Scout Groups are commonly assisting at events, and through partnerships with organisations who encourage waste diversion in the workplace. According to the EPA, the program returns approximate $60 million each year, so why not get your workplace engaged in diverting waste and so, raise money for your local community groups.