BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA — Australia is moving slowly towards having a nationwide container deposit scheme, with the state of Queensland set to join three other states with existing programs.
By mid-2017, Victoria, Western Australia and Tasmania will be the only states without container deposits.
South Australia has had one since 1977; the Northern Territory (NT) introduced one in 2012, and New South Wales (NSW) is launching deposits next year. The Australian Capital Territory government, which is the national capital and sits within NSW's borders, has said it will follow NSW's lead and participate in its scheme.
The Queensland Government's environment minister Steven Miles said he will work with the NSW government to investigate a complementary deposit plan as well as possible restrictions on single-use plastic bags.
NSW Premier Mike Baird in February announced his government will introduce deposits starting in July 2017, with NSW residents using reverse vending machines to redeem deposits paid on plastic bottles.
Miles said he wants to work with Baird to implement a similar scheme in Queensland, as the two states share a well-populated border.
Miles said Queensland's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection had received a lot of correspondence from the public asking for deposits. He is establishing an advisory group to examine how to implement the scheme.
Miles said while drink bottles are the most common item found in the environment, plastic bags are also found in significant numbers.
“Across the country, between 2003 and 2005, major retailers voluntarily introduced measures to reduce the use of plastic bags, during which time plastic bag use decreased by around 45 percent,” Miles said.
“Unfortunately, in the 10 years since the voluntary action expired, plastic bag use has started to increase again.
“South Australia, NT, the Australian Capital Territory and Tasmania have all banned single-use plastic bags, and I am interested in seeing what may work both at a national and state level.”
Environment groups have welcomed the Queensland Government's stand. Toby Hutcheon, from the umbrella group Boomerang Alliance, said: “In states such as South Australia, where a scheme has been in place for [more than] 30 years, beverage container recycling rates are [more than] 80 percent compared to Queensland's less than 40 percent.”
He said a “cash for containers scheme”, which applies refundable deposits on all beverage containers is “the proven approach” to reducing beverage container litter with schemes in more than 40 other jurisdictions around the world.
The NT government's scheme was under threat in 2013 after three beverage manufacturers — Sydney-based Coca-Cola Amatil (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. (CCA), Melbourne-based Schweppes Australia Pty. Ltd. and Sydney-based Lion Pty. Ltd. — launched legal action in the Federal Court in Sydney. They argued the scheme conflicted with a federal law governing trade between the states and territories.
But in August 2013 the Federal Government took action to make the NT deposits legal.