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Australia debating national bottle bill

By: Kate Tilley

March 7, 2014

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA — An academic has attacked a push to implement a national container deposit scheme (CDS) in Australia, but the leader of a coalition of environmental groups says criticism of the proposal is wrong.

Dick Gross, a lawyer and a tutor on climate change at the University of Melbourne, told Plastics News the economics of a cash-for-containers scheme do not “stack up.”

He said CDS is popular among environmental activists, but will “increase expenses; lead to a duplication of systems; target a small part of [the waste stream]; undermine curbside recycling; and create two streams of litter and a complex array of deposits.”

Under CDS, consumers receive a refund for each recyclable container they take to a collection depot.

Gross said CDS is “environmental vandalism” and will cost about A$680 million (US$615 million) to implement nationally.

“Even if people don’t care about the cost of a CDS, it could crowd out good ideas,” Gross said. “People who are pro-CDS tend to ignore other proposals.”

Jeff Angel, executive director of Sydney-based Total Environment Centre, disagrees. He said claims that a CDS would cost consumers more “wrongly assume no one redeems their deposit.”

South Australia (SA) and the Northern Territory (NT) are the only Australian states or territories with deposit programs. Angel said SA has an 80 percent return rate.

Angel also heads a network of 27 environmental groups called the Boomerang Alliance, which is campaigning for the national deposit proposal.