20c bottle return scheme gets a boost

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The Kiwi Bottle Drive, New Zealand’s community campaign for bottle deposits, is calling for public submissions to the government’s consultation on a proposed beverage Container Return Scheme, which was released on 13 March as part of wider recycling reforms.

Allied organisations Zero Waste Network, Para Kore, Greenpeace Aotearoa and the New Zealand Product Stewardship Council have contributed to a template that addresses the main points being proposed.

These organisations are urging everyone that wants to see a fair, comprehensive and Tiriti-led scheme to make a submission using the pre-prepared template at www.kiwibottledrive.nz

“We are pretty happy with many aspects of the government proposal, and this is reflected in our submission template. All materials are included, the 20c deposit amount is great, and the mixed returns model gives customers the choice and convenience of taking containers back to retailers or a network of community recycling centres,” says Olga Darkadaki, Campaigner at the Kiwi Bottle Drive.

But there is room for improvement. Fresh milk is the only type of beverage currently proposed to be exempt from the scheme. “We don’t think that’s fair,” says Darkadaki. “Why should one industry get a free ride?

“Exempting milk would disadvantage existing refillable milk bottle schemes. It would also mean that the wider community continues to bear the costs of collecting milk bottles for recycling, with many plastic milk bottles continuing to go to landfill, particularly from the commercial sector where there is a known collection gap.”

A small section of the beverage industry is claiming that a bottle deposit scheme will add to the cost of living. However, financial modelling by PriceWaterhouseCoopers shows the cost impact would be minimal and would actually cost less than the current approach of collecting bottles and cans at kerbside.

“If consumers redeem 100% of their deposits, then they will only be paying an extra 3-5c per drink, max. In return, New Zealand will get a more effective recycling system that ensures over 85% of containers are returned – that’s almost double the current rate of 45%”, says Darkadaki.

The cost benefit analysis by Sapere found that the benefits of a container return scheme exceed the costs by 61%, with society projected to be $1,391 million better off with a container return scheme compared with the current situation.

“Developing a beverage container return scheme is also a great opportunity to transition to more reusable and refillable beverage containers, which is another area of the proposal that should be strengthened. This would also contribute to meeting our waste and climate targets and facilitate the transition to a circular economy,” says Darkadaki.

“Additionally, we don’t agree with the proposal to have an industry-led scheme. This will result in a scheme that suits industry groups, who won’t make decisions in the best interests of the environment and the community.

“Environmental advocates have campaigned for 20 years to see a beverage container return scheme in New Zealand. This is our best opportunity to ensure a scheme that is efficient, equitable and that brings wider social, economic and environmental benefits to our communities.”

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