Cash for Containers - the powerful drink container recycling strategy - will go ahead in NSW.
Early this month premier and local MP Mike Baird announced a cash-back scheme for drink bottles and cans. Customers will be required to pay a 10c "deposit" when they buy a bottle or can, which they will then be able to reclaim at a reverse vending machine or community recycling centre. Schools and charities are likely to benefit too, by collecting containers and cashing them in to raise funds.
The decision is the result of a long-running campaign local government and green groups including the Boomerang Alliance, with the Manly community playing a major role.
Manly Greens Councillor Cathy Griffin mounted a sustained and powerful campaign of her own. Almost every day for the last 12 months Cr Griffin has picked up bottles from the beach at East Esplanade and presented them to Mr Baird's office - just 100m away.
Her technique demonstrated the almost unbelievable size of the problem. Australians buy a whopping 15 billion bottles or cans every year. And every hour we throw away or send to landfill almost one million of them. Drink containers are now the most commonly littered item in our parks and beaches with tourist areas, like Manly, particularly feeling the pain.
In NSW we recycle less than 50% of our drink containers. In comparison South Australians, who have had a cash back scheme for decades, recycle 80% of theirs. With Cash for Containers, it's expected that NSW will get to an 80% recycling level too.
That's great news for Manly - both from an aesthetic and financial point of view. Popular East Esplanade Reserve is just one place that's littered with bottles and cans every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. At the moment it costs the Council a fortune to clear it away - hours of council workers' time, and then $110 per tonne tip fees.
The new scheme is a great start although it is expected that it will be sometime before legislation is in place. Meanwhile Australia's recycling industry still has a long way to go.
Our existing recycling capability is so limited that a lot of our used PET plastic bottles are sent to China, where their ultimate fate is unclear. Green groups hope the Cash for Containers scheme will provide a much-needed impetus to help our recycling industry grow.
Candy Bingham, Manly Ward Councillor on Northern Beaches Council. Background in marketing, public relations and community engagement. Author of five business books. Former Lady Mayoress of Sydney. Aka Candy Tymson.