› 
Message in a discarded bottle

Ian Keirnan's picture

As politicians debate the formation of a national container deposit scheme, container manufacturers are as determined to stop it as environmental groups are to support it. Ian Kiernan says it is time we had in place new behaviours that benefit the environment.

State and Federal ministers are to meet mid August to consider the establishment of a national container refund system.

CDS has been in place in South Australia for more than thirty five years. In states and territories without CDS recovery rates for containers are around 35%. In South Australia rates are at least 80%.

The Northern Territory government showed true leadership introducing their scheme in January this year. To date Territorians have returned nearly eight million containers and the scheme continues to expand into remote areas.

Refund programs see a huge reduction in rubbish discarded in landfill or the environment, increased recycling, the effective management of finite resources, and a substantial reduction in electricity consumption. An example of this is that the embodied energy to produce one aluminium can from ore will make seven cans from recycled material.

I firmly believe that in this changing world we have to replace yesterday’s methods and systems with new behaviours that benefit the environment. We also need to support developing and emerging technologies that will benefit the environment and financially reward the corporations that provide them.

There is strong community support for container refunds. Nationally, 88% of survey respondents agree that a ten cent deposit and refund scheme would encourage more people to recycle bottles and cans.

There is a need to encourage producer responsibility. CDS would help establish this while engaging public participation.

The beverage industry has jumped onto the ‘tax’ bandwagon’ by releasing a scare campaign designed to position container deposits as a demon tax.

There’s no doubt about it – this industry knows how to spin a yarn.  They are proud to make millions of dollars from consumers who are enticed to buy over-packaged products we generally don’t need, most often in single use containers, the transportation of which is at our cost. The height of their hypocrisy is to then leave us with the dilemma of how to dispose of the packaging when it’s empty.

To add insult to injury, the industry is investing millions into a so called ‘public education campaign’ to further hoodwink we consumers into thinking a 10c deposit on a beverage is going to cost us 20c. This claim is based on figures AFGC members are charging under the NT program. A program they have publicly attempted to derail since it was announced. And one from which they are profiting.

Beverage containers as a percentage of rubbish removed by volunteers on Clean Up Australia Day continue to rise. In 2011 they represented 49%, an increase of 16% over 2010.

I'm concerned that the industry continues to push public place recycling as a solution to the growing beverage container rubbish problem across Australia. Claims that current public place recycling schemes are working just don’t add up.

Contamination rates in unsupervised public place recycling are reported to be as high as 10-20%. When 5% contamination means rubbish goes to landfill – how does the industry propose to supervise national public place recycling? How do they think this is going to deplete the amount of containers that end up in landfill or remove the ever increasing level of bottles, cans and lids that volunteers are removing from our parks, bushland, beaches, waterways and streets? Recent reports about rubbish washed into Sydney Harbour demonstrate how well current public place recycling is working. Events such as this are happening all over the country.

Claims by the industry that a container deposit scheme will cost jobs are unsupportable. Independent research undertaken by PricewaterhouseCoopers clearly shows that container deposit schemes create jobs – what’s more they’re local jobs that contribute to the green economy. Claims by the beverage industry that labour costs increase under a deposit scheme need to be independently substantiated.

We’ve seen industry sponsored misinformation campaigns before – in Western Australia and more recently in the NT. The industry seems to think the community is stupid. I urge all of my fellow Australians to join with me to show them we’re on to their tactics.

If you’d like your voice to be heard, go to our website and follow the prompts.

Ian Kiernan AO is the founder and Chairman of Clean Up Australia and Clean Up the World – a community based organisation which aims to inspire and work with communities to clean up, fix up and conserve our environment. He is also chairman of capital C and is patron of the Central Coast Mariners Football Club, the Australasian Chapter of the International Erosion Control Association, the Sydney Agricultural, Rural and Public Land Trust, the Enviro-Finance Association of Australia, Mens Shed, the Sapphire Coast Discovery Centre in Eden NSW, Spirit Sports Leisure Group Mosman Rowers and the Sydney Flying Squadron. In recognition of his leadership in the environment and the community, Ian was named 1994 Australian of the Year. Ian holds the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) and on Australia Day 1995, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO). Ian was also awarded the prestigious Banksia Foundation Fellowship in the same year.