Friday, February 4, 2011

Recycling Incentives

In the 'good old days', we kids used to make pocket money by collecting empty soft drink bottles, taking them to the local dairy and getting the refund money. In the '70s, it was 4c per bottle - a princely sum!
The budding capitalist in me saw a golden opportunity to make even more dosh: instead of scanning gutters and footpaths for empties, I went directly to The Source! I'd seen that the railway station cafe had an unlocked rear yard, where crates of returned empties were stacked. So I'd head there on the way home from school, fill my panniers with a dozen bottles or so, nonchalantly take them into the cafe and head home feeling quite rich! Yeup, I'll rot in hell for that misdemeanour!
The point I'm making is that these days there's little incentive for recycling. We shouldn't actually need an incentive but, unless users are kindly disposed towards Mother Nature, bottles and cans are often either thrown in a bin or simply dropped where they're used. The idea is get these bottles and cans back into the recycling loop, not buried in a landfill...
I notice in Sth Australia, a 10c refund is offered for return of V cans. Thanks for that, Frucor ! But why is this in only one state of Oz, and why it doesn't happen in New Zealand too?
Ok, so kids today may not give a rat's arse about 10c but, in bulk, cash-strapped schools and charities might...and any help to get cans and bottles off our streets is surely worth considering.
Any chance of expanding this scheme, Frucor?


G.Cartwright said...

The 10c deposit you mention is an example of Container Deposit Legislation (CDL). There has been a fairly rigorous debate raging on both sides of the Tasman for some time now on whether CDL is the best system to use.

The short answer to your question is industry believe that CDL is very expensive to set up and operate, and does not give a big enough return. There is evidence that some materials do get recycled at a higher rate given CDL but the cost:benefit does not stack up. This is especially the case given that CDL only works at improving the collection rate. If the infrastructure for actually recycling the material is still not very well developed, then we get little increase in total environmental performance.

Industry argue that voluntary agreements can work much better in terms of achieving good collection and subsequent recycling rates. The best example in NZ is the Glass Packaging Forum. Over 90% of those involved in the glass industry (for food or beverage containers; including manufacturers) pay a voluntary levy that is used for;
· Funding R&D within the community and local government for end of life uses (preferably getting it up to the OI furnace in Auckland for reuse)
· Administering the Glass product stewardship scheme (accredited by the Government) – over 65% recycling rate and OI have one of the best reuse rates for cullet being put back into bottles (between 50-70% depending on the colour)
· Administering the public place recycling initiative – ‘Love NZ’. This is a majority Government funded $2 million project to improve public place recycling (including plastic and cans) for more than 30 council territories throughout NZ; in time for the RWC. The GPF was given $1.6 million (stumped $400k of its own) out of the Waste Minimisation Fund to run this project.

It is fair to say that other material sectors are not as well organised or funded as the GPF but this is a working model for what they could look like, at a fraction of the cost of CDL. A work in progress to get all sectors involved.

Feel free to ask for further clarification. For the purposes of being balanced, Envision is the group that is championing CDL in NZ.

Gareth Cartwright
Environment Manager

writer of the purple sage... said...

Dear Gareth:

Thanks for the reply - obviously it's not as simple as "the good old days" when you'd just walk into a dairy with your empty soft drink bottle, and get 4c back!!!
Appreciate the background.

G.Cartwright said...

Good old days certainly had something going for them, no argument there. We live in complicated times!