Drink bottle recycling

Five billion plastic, glass and aluminium drink containers end up in landfill or as litter. Is a national Container Deposit Scheme the answer?
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04.The National Bin Network


Opponents argue that a container deposit scheme (CDS) is an unnecessary burden on the community - and that current industry-driven schemes have increased the national packaging recycling rate from 39% in 2003 to 63% in 2010, and improved environmental outcomes with smart packaging redesigns.

Teaming up with Schweppes Australia, Lion and the packaging giants Visy and Amcor, Coca-Cola’s preferred beverage container waste solution is the National Bin Network.

The National Bin Network (NBN) is an extension of the Australian Packaging Covenant, an existing waste reduction agreement between government, industry and community groups and the Australian Food and Grocery Council Packaging Stewardship Forum, which runs voluntary industry recycling, litter reduction and education programs.

The NBN proposes installing 30,000 twin bins – with one for recycling and one for rubbish – in public spaces such as shopping centres and airports. The $100m investment needed for the NBN over five years will be paid for by the packaging industry and the beverage brand owners via levies.

However, while the NBN pays for the bins, it doesn’t pay for their installation, maintenance and waste collection costs. Nor does it collect data on recycling rates. That falls to the recipients of the bins - local councils, for example.

One concern about the twin-bin system is the high levels of “contamination” by non-recyclable rubbish and food, which reduces the value of the collected containers as the waste has to be re-sorted after collection.The AFGC says contamination rates can be reduced with effective bin design and clear signage.

However, others argue that while concentrating on commercial locations is a start, it’s not enough to solve the problem. A recent report found that despite having 212 bins, including 37 recycling bins, over four cubic metres of rubbish is manually collected from Bondi Beach every day.

Pro-CDS campaigners have variously described the NBN scheme as “tokenism” and a “smokescreen” by the companies who create the waste.

Of all the options considered, a Council of Australian Governments (COAG) report has estimated that the Boomerang CDS would result in the highest beverage container recycling rates (reaching 85% by 2025).

However, both schemes will increase beverage recycling rates, so can the CDS and NBN co-exist?

Clean Up Australia’s Ian Kiernan - who has strongly criticised Coca-Cola for its stance on the CDS and for the multinational’s interference in domestic politics - concedes that as a broad spectrum approach is required for the problem of waste, he would be happy for the NBN to co-exist with a national CDS.

The AFGC claims the NBN and CDS are “incompatible”, and Coca-Cola declined to say whether it would continue to roll out more NBN bins if the national CDS were adopted.

So what happens next?

A COAG meeting of state environment ministers in April 2013 noted “progress” in the deliberations of their preferred options for managing packaging waste, including beverage containers. A decision is expected to be announced before the end of the year.


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