In coming months, the state government and Parliament are faced with an important decision: how to design the state's proposed new container deposit scheme, scheduled for commencement in 2022.
This decision will have big implications for not just how many beverage containers the scheme collects and recycles, but also how much additional community and economic benefits it can provide.
While it is true that Tasmania is a little late to the party on container recycling, the good news is that because most of the mainland Australian states have over recent years joined the pioneer state, South Australia, in implementing container recycling schemes, there is now a body of real-world evidence showing what works best, and what doesn't.
Broadly, there are two types of container recycling schemes: a Can-Do Community Recycling Scheme, which was recommended to the government by an independent expert in 2018 and is already operating in Queensland and Western Australia; or a for-profit Big Waste scheme, which operates in New South Wales.
The main difference between the two schemes is that under a Can-Do Community Recycling Scheme the scheme is operated by a not-for-profit co-ordinator who contracts directly with individual groups and organisations to operate the return network, whereas under a Big Waste scheme there is a for-profit provider who largely undertakes the collection themselves, such as through reverse-vending machines, and retains the profits for their owners.
In the NSW Big Waste scheme, the operator is Norwegian multi-national TOMRA who largely undertakes container collection through their reverse-vending machines and ASX-listed multinational Cleanaway.
This model limits opportunities for community involvement and job creation, particularly in regional areas, as well as limiting access to the collected containers for recyclers looking to use the highly recyclable materials.
Last year, TOMRA Cleanaway earned over $130 million from the NSW container recycling scheme, almost as much as was paid out in refunds to the general public returning their containers. We commissioned KPMG to crunch the numbers comparing the two types of schemes, and they found that introducing a Can-Do Community Recycling Scheme in Tasmania would deliver superior job creation, community, economic and recycling outcomes for Tasmania.
Specifically, the modelling found that a Can-Do scheme would deliver up to 150 new jobs and up to $8 million a year in revenue for local small and medium business.
Modelling found that a Can-Do scheme would deliver up to 150 new jobs and up to $8 million a year in revenue for local small and medium business.
Very importantly, the modelling found that the benefit to community and sporting groups - either through directly collecting containers, or by operating as an authorised refund point, would be up to $6 million a year. In contrast, the modelling showed a likely benefit to these groups of only $450,000 per year under a Big Waste scheme.
In the recently established Can-Do Community Scheme in Western Australia, over 680 jobs were created across the refund network on commencement and over 120 million containers have been returned in the first 100 days of operation, with over $500,000 donated to charities via electronic scheme accounts to over 3000 charities.
Having said all of this, it is important not to lose sight of the primary reason for introducing a container recycling scheme: to reduce litter and to maximise the amount of drink containers which are collected and recycled. On this important metric, the Can-Do Community Recycling Scheme also comes out ahead.
Comparing the Queensland Can-Do scheme with the NSW Big Waste scheme shows that the rate of recycling/redemption was 14 per cent higher in the Queensland Can-Do Scheme for its first eighteen months of operation, and the rate of containers collected through the network was 37 per cent higher (per capita). It's also worth noting that the new Western Australia scheme is ahead of both NSW and QLD in its short but successful period of operation to date.
A Can-Do Scheme would also provide an open market for the recycled materials, promoting circular economy outcomes and investment in recycling infrastructure in Tasmania. As major beverage manufacturers producing in Australia, we believe that we have a responsibility to capture and recycle as much of our packaging waste as possible, which is why we are actively involved in coordinating and managing every container recycling scheme operating in Australia.
With the Tasmanian scheme now in its critical design phase, we see a really important opportunity for the government to implement a scheme which will provide substantial and lasting environmental, community and economic benefit to Tasmania.
- Jeff Maguire, TasRecycle director. TasRecycle is a joint initiative of Coca-Cola Amatil and Lion Co (owner of Boags Brewery).