Everyone has seen drink containers littered in our street and parks, caught along creek banks and lying on beach sands, floating out to sea. But did you know that every minute 21,000 bottles and cans are littered or landfilled in Australia?
This massive waste is not only damaging our ecosystems, it is squandering finite resources. The problem began in the 1970s when drink companies like Coca Cola introduced the disposable drink container, terminating the returnable bottle system that put a price on each bottle (Container Deposit System (CDS). As these containers flooded the market, the litter plague quickly overwhelmed parks and public spaces. The community called for the return of the ‘bottle deposit’ but governments and industry effectively blamed the consumer for discarding single use containers, and pursued anti-litter campaigns instead.
Of course littering is anti-social and should not be tolerated. But if recycling had been valued by the beverage industry and government, the problem would not have occurred in the first place.
While South Australia retained their CDS, local councils and communities across Australia continued to agitate with Bring Back the Deposit campaigns.
In 2004 we began another effort working nationally and in each state. There were many twists and turns (see below for a potted history).
We needed one major state to move and then it would be possible for other states to follow.
On 21 February 2015 at Coogee Beach during the election campaign, NSW Premier Mike Baird and Environment Minister, Rob Stokes announced that NSW would begin a CDS on 1 July 2017 – they said they would aim for the best CDS in the world - but also undertook to look at 'better alternatives'. This was an invitation to the big beverage industry to put up another option. They did - a ridiculous scheme called 'Thirst for Good' based on more bins and money for charities to collect litter.
We proved it would have minimal impact and a CDS would deliver far more money for charities - and on May 8, 2016 the NSW government threw industry's plan into the bin and fully committed to a genuine CDS.
The Australian Capital Territory says it will become part of the NSW CDS.
In June 2016, the QLD Government announced a CDS, which was susequently legislated on September 5th, 2017, ensuring a July 2018 start. In August 2016, the WA Government and the Opposition also announced that they support a Container Deposit Scheme, describing it as a much needed measure for litter reduction, wildlife protection and recycling.
We are on our way! Now we have to convince the remaining states – Victoria and Tasmania to do the same.
A Brief Campaign History
Over the last 13 years tens of thousands of people have helped the campaign with letters to and meetings with MPs, petitions, media events and actions, community stalls and cleanups; and we have lobbied governments; countered industry misinformation; and developed a best practise Container Deposit System.
2004 -5: National Packaging Covenant was being renewed, It was the industry alternative to regulation like a CDS. We fought for targets and succeeded – but the NPC was never going to work. Ministers warned a CDS could be round the corner.
2008: WA election, the then ALP government promised a CDS after a positive taskforce inquiry…. but got voted out. The drinks industry ran an effective insiders and public campaign.
Mid-2010: environment ministers meet in Darwin under federal minister Peter Garrett and announce a national study….the first of three. Initially it was into beverage containers including a CDS but then got expanded to all litter – a common tactic to diminish the importance of container deposits.
24 Feb 2011: After a brave campaign by the local community – and our participation - the Northern Territory Parliament unanimously passes its CDS law. The scheme starts in 2012
Dec 2012: Coca Cola, Lion and Schweppes challenge the law in the Federal Court – surely one of the most unpopular corporate actions in recent years.
Feb 2013: QLD signs up to National Bin Network – the industry’s latest alternative to a CDS – the day before environment ministers meet to discuss a national regulatory impact statement into options to deal with beverage and other litter. Despite this potentially fatal move by QLD and the industry – the ministers still proceeded to the formal review process of a broad range of options including a CDS.
March 2013: Coke win in the Federal Court and cancel their participation in the scheme, hoping it will collapse. However the NT government financially backs the CDS by supplying redeemed deposits/handling fees as they seek to remedy the process flaw in the law and obtain mutual recognition from all the other states. Once achieved, there is a full restart in Aug of that year
Mid-2013: Vic Premier Napthine endorses a national CDS and keeps pushing over the year – the possibility of joint NSW/Vic action emerges.
By the Vic election of Nov 2014 – he loses courage, no doubt in face of bad polls and industry threats to campaign on the consumer cost impacts of a CDS
We push on – now fully focussed on getting a state by state approach to a CDS – the Commonwealth path now deemed fruitless.
On the 21 Feb 2015: Premier Baird announces his election policy to implement a container deposits system by 1 July 2017. ALP Opposition give bipartisan support.
2015 QLD election: an ALP minority government is elected and implements its policy to investigate a CDS. LNP Opposition gives bipartisan support in 2016.
20 April 2016 – the Senate Inquiry into Marine Plastic reports endorses our solutions including demanding all states have a CDS by 2020 – otherwise the federal government should do it for them.
8 May 2016 - we win, with the NSW Government announcing a full scale CDS.
22 June 2016 - the QLD Government announces it will start a CDS in 2018, harmonising with NSW.
05 September 2017 - QLD Parliament unanimously passes the Waste Reduction and Recycling Amendment Bill, legislating a Container Refund Scheme for to be introduced into QLD in July 2018 (the bill also contained the plastic bag ban, to be introduced simultaneously).