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NSW govt's cash-for-containers scheme 'too expensive': industry

09 January, 2015

A plan by the NSW government to begin a cash-for-containers recycling scheme as early as next month has received overwhelming support from environmental lobby groups – though subtle opposition from beverage companies, saying the approach was not cost effective.

Under the plan, the details of which are still being finalised, organisations will be able to receive a 10c rebate for collecting containers. Beverage firms will be permitted to raise drink prices by the amount of the deposit, needing only to pay the deposit on redeemed containers.

As part of the plan, reverse vending machines will be installed at public venues, along with community recycling centres. The machines will be able to hold up to 3000 PET bottles or cans, automatically crush containers, and will not permit non-recyclable rubbish to be deposited. This measure hopes to decrease the risk of contamination which hampers recycling efforts by many local councils.

Gary Dawson from the Australian Food and Grocery Council said while industry remained committed to working alongside the government to reduce litter and improve recycling, the provision of reverse vending machines was far too expensive. Instead, industry recommended funding more recycling bins at beachfront parks.

Further refinement

NSW premier Mike Baird rejected industry's cost concerns, saying his government had received independent advice showing a container deposit scheme would be "cost effective and efficient". He invited industry to "further refine the design principles" of the current blueprint.

Jeff Angel of the Boomerang Alliance, made up of 32 leading environmental and community groups, praised the decision and urged the government to not feel threatened by industry "bullies".

"With a 10 cent deposit you get well over 80 per cent of the drink bottles and cans returned for recycling," he said.

NSW Environment Minister Kerry Stokes said other countries had had enormous success with similar initiatives to reduce waste at public venues.

Fear campaigns

He also said the government was not concerned about a further backlash and potential fear campaigns the beverage industry could run against the scheme in the lead up to the March state election.

"The concern of [this] government is to create good public policy that helps the people of NSW," 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."

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