Western Australians are among the biggest consumers of resources in the world and one of the biggest factors contributing to this unsustainable consumption is the lack of recycling activity here in WA. Just about everything we throw away can potentially be recycled, but in WA we send thousands of tonnes of packaging, building materials and other valuable resources to rubbish dumps around the state every year.
According to the WA Waste Authority, less than a third of the waste we produce in WA ends up being recycled - this is the lowest in the nation. Much of this waste stream is toxic or hazardous, including thousands of tones of electronic waste and other hazardous waste generated by industry.
With waste management and recycling in crisis in Western Australia, action is urgently needed by government and industry.
Cash for Containers
In Western Australia, we have a shockingly low rate of recycling drink containers, a large amount are used away from home and end up littered or in landfill.
By placing a 10-cent recycling refund on bottles and cans, the State Government can lift recycling rates almost overnight.
Where around 20% of drink containers are recycled in WA, this figure is closer to 80% in South Australia due to their 10-cent recycling refund scheme.
Polling shows that close to 90% of Western Australians support a Recycling Refund Scheme and more importantly 84% are willing to pay an extra refundable 10c per container for the program.
Local Governments also strongly support a 10-cent deposit on beverage containers because it will increase the efficiency of kerbside recycling and reduce cleanup costs for litter.
To date, big beverage companies including Coke, Lion and Schweppes have worked to prevent a recycling refund scheme from being put in place in WA and many other parts of the world. These companies employ lobbyists and use other tactics to avoid taking responsibility for the waste they produce.
South Australia has had a recycling refund scheme in place for many years, and their network of container drop-off centers also act as a collection system for many other recyclable materials including scrap metal and electronic waste. Not surprisingly, South Australia is home to most of Australia's material preprocessors, who take the empty beverage containers and recycle them or turn them into other useful products.
The Northern Territory Government has also introduced a recycling refund scheme in January 2012. In February 2013 Coke and it's allies took the NT to court to stop program saying it was in breach of the mutual recognition act. They won the court case but before that happened the NT had already secured an agreement from all other states for an exemption of the act.
So far all of the major political parties in WA have shown their support for a Cash for Containers program.
Until now, many have relied on plans for a national scheme. But the investigation into a national program is now entering its fifth year. It’s time we stopped waiting, did what was best for WA and started paying cash for containers.
Under the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2007 Minister Jacob could introduce a 10 cent refund on drink containers immediately in WA.
Many other countries around the world have successful Cash for Containers programs, with many using 'reverse vending machines' in shopping centers and public places as a convenient way for people to claim their deposits when they recycle.
How does it work?
The central principle of this program is that the manufacturer puts 10 cents into a refund trust for every drink they sell. They pass on this cost to the retailer, who passes it on to the consumer, who recovers it when they drop off their can for recycling. Obviously there would be processing costs, which would be paid for by unclaimed deposits. Even with an incentive to recycle, some containers are still going to wind up in landfill or as litter, and the unclaimed deposits on those bottles and cans will be used to administer the program.
Think of the following advantages....
By having a cash value, the glass or plastic bottle, can or cardboard carton is no longer seen as just rubbish. Even discarded empties are likely to be collected by somebody else to reclaim its value. Multiply such small acts many thousands of times, and think what this fundamental change in behavior could mean in terms of resource stewardship!
Increased dink container recycling by 400%
Litter reduction by over a third
Financial gain. Less “rubbish” in kerbside collections means reduced gate fees at tips and reduced landfill costs for local councils. This new revenue (plus savings from reduced litter ) can be used to improve recycling education and facilities.
Fundraising opportunities. Charities, community groups and sporting clubs can benefit greatly by collecting drink containers for refund. Annually, Scouts in SA raise millions by running collection points, enabling their membership fees to be the lowest in Australia.
Sustainable job creation. For every 1000 tonnes of waste dealt with, 36 jobs are created when it’s recycled, 6 when it’s taken to landfill, and 1 job is created when it’s incinerated. (US EPA estimates)
Water saving. A Recycling Refund Scheme would save enough water to permanently supply more than 4014 Perth homes. A serious advantage for water-stressed WA.
Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and improved air quality. Making a new can from recycled aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make a can from raw materials.