Public funds fail to reduce packaging waste
In our latest report, The InCENTive to Recycle, Envision recommends bringing back bottle refunds (cash for containers) to lift recycling rates in New Zealand.
Millions of dollars worth of government grants, to boost beverage container recycling have made little impact on New Zealand’s poor recycling rates with Kiwis wasting (not recycle) enough beverage containers to fill 700 Boeing 747 Jumbo Jets each year.
Funded by a number of councils and businesses, the report calls for the reintroduction of a mandatory container deposit scheme (CDS) – where empty bottles can be returned to recycling centres or shops for a small refund.
“You won’t see bottles lying in the gutter, tossed over banks or drifting out to the sea when they are worth 10 cents” said the report’s lead author Warren Snow. “There’s nothing like a financial incentive to get people to recycle.”
The report estimates bringing back a “bottle refund” or “Container Deposit Scheme” would only cost the beverage industry half a cent (0.5 cents) per container, but would increase beverage container recycling every year by 45,000 tonnes. The move would create thousands of jobs and divert 180,000 cubic metres of waste from landfill - saving New Zealanders between $26 and $40 million dollars per year in waste disposal costs.
But, despite the scheme enjoying success in other developed countries, the report suggests corporate packaging and beverage industry groups are fighting hard to stop container deposits being introduced here.
It says since 2008, the New Zealand Government has given out nearly $7 million in taxpayer funded grants for initiatives to recycle beverage containers, but that most of that money has ended up in the hands of groups representing corporate packaging and beverage industries with a vested interest to retain the status quo.
In spite of this taxpayer support, New Zealand’s beverage recycling rates are low compared to progressive countries like Canada, South Australia and countries in Europe – which have mandatory deposits on drink bottles.
In these places recycling rates of 85% to 98% rates are routinely being achieved compared to New Zealand’s significantly lower estimated rates of between 25% and 40%. These countries also enjoy less litter, new recycling jobs and reduced costs for local governments.
Envision New Zealand developed a model for a Nation-wide Bottle Deposit Scheme and found it would lift recycling rates to 85%, create up to 2,400 new jobs and enable businesses to set up 200 or more drop off points where people can claim their refund.
Many of the drop-off points would be start-up businesses spread right across the country as seen in South Australia, British Columbia and all through Europe.
According to Envision, the wasted containers are currently heading to landfill and each year take up as much space as an eight-story building.
The report concludes New Zealand should no longer continue with voluntary measures after 20 years of poor outcomes and that it’s time to introduce a mandatory container deposit system.
“A lot of people fondly remember when they could earn pocket money by collecting bottles to take back for the refund”, said Marty Hoffart, Chair of the Community Recycling Network. Our network of 60 social enterprises wants to see bottle deposits brought back as do a lot of Local Authorities”.
The key recommendations of the report are that:
- Government declare beverage containers a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 with a national recovery target of 85%.
- To achieve the target, Government would require the establishment of a national Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) requiring producers to put a minimum refundable deposit on beverage containers to ensure they are recycled.
The report also calls for local government, recyclers, environmental organisations and responsible beverage companies to work together to make the case to Government to introduce a Container Deposit System for New Zealand starting in 2017.