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Container deposit legislation: a can of worms?

The green aims of container deposit legislation (CDS)
As more of Australia’s states take strides towards a container deposit scheme, early founder of “Cash for Cans” Rick Ralph highlights some of the issues and opportunities in such programs.

Trends can be cyclical in waste, recycling and litter prevention, but container deposit legislation (CDL) has come back into fashion in Australia with a bang.

The Western Australia (WA) Government unveiled its plans to introduce a container deposit scheme (CDS) by mid-2018 on 17 August. This follows the Queensland (QLD) Government’s announcement in July confirming its intention to bring in a CDS in 2018, after a 2015 poll revealed 86 per cent of Queenslanders would support such a program.

These commitments were declared as the New South Wales (NSW) Government was holding a public consultation on aspects of its CDS as it works towards the launch of its scheme in July 2017.

Although South Australia (SA) has successfully delivered a CDS since 1977, Northern Territory (NT), Victoria and Tasmania have all experienced challenges with, stopped or failed to get off the start line with schemes.

Rick Ralph, CEO of both WRIQ and WRINT, is ideally placed to comment on such programs and legislation. He was one of the architects of Australia’s world-first, community-based recycling program, Comalco Aluminium’s ‘Cash for Cans’ initiative. Launched in 1979, the commercial initiative was based on environmental responsibility for the package.

With his up-to-date knowledge of issues around waste management, recycling and secondary resource activities in the country, his expertise, experience and longevity in the industry, Rick has a fundamental understanding of the issues at play in the current landscape.

“CDL is principally a vehicle partly to tackle litter and partly to improve recycling. But if we’re truly trying

to achieve these goals, we should be putting these same efforts and policy redesign into the bigger picture rather than focusing on materials that already have a very effective system in place to recover them.

It’s an observation, but if litter in our waterways and general environment is such a big problem that we need to introduce new measures to recover bottles and cans, why is the focus on just two items? The ‘elephant in the room’ in this debate is what to do about coffee cups and takeaway food packaging, which you see discarded more often. That must be addressed if litter is the reason for introducing CDL.

However, that said, what the existing system doesn’t do well enough is cater for the whole of Australia on a social equity basis, such as providing practical solutions for recycling and reducing waste in rural communities.”

To read more see page 54 of Issue 8.

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