Environmental vandalism or magic bullet? Panellists debate CDL at KNSWB Congress: Less Litter, Live Better
Like the imperishable plastic it haggles over, the debate over Container Deposit Legislation just won’t go away. Dubbed the ‘undead zombie’ of recycling by Keep Victoria Beautiful representative Dick Gross during a panel discussion hosted by Keep NSW Beautiful at their 2014 Congress: Less Litter, Live Better, it reared its head again.
However this was not the hostile atmosphere which has characterised acrimonious discussion on the topic up to now, but a climate of measured debate.
Panellists with diverse opinions and experiences – from South Australia which has had a Container Deposit System for decades, to Victoria, the cleanest state in the country without one – came to the table to nut out the gritty details.
Attending the discussion in support of CDL were: Jeff Angel, Executive Director of the Total Environment Centre and Convenor of the Boomerang Alliance; Geoffrey Webster, Treasurer of KESAB in South Australia; And Julie Hegarty, representing LGNSW.
Speaking out against Container Deposit Schemes were Dick Gross, Director of Keep Victoria Beautiful; and Chris Jeffreys, General Manager of the Packaging Stewardship Forum.
“CDL is tantamount to environmental vandalism, in that it really undermines the long term trend of improvement in both litter and recycling in Australian society.” Said Dick Gross. “Victoria doesn’t have CDL, and long may that reign.”
“There is a limit to the number of bins, there is a limit to the amount advertising that can be done,” countered Jeff Angel. “You have to accept the fact that if we get rid of a big part of the litter stream, the stuff that’s easily recyclable, you can use resources we spend now on the really difficult litter.”
Those supporting CDL pointed out that a user-pays system, with costs passed on to industry, reflects environmental justice and cited the 96% recovery rate of South Australia’s Container Deposit Scheme. It was also said to enable community groups and charities to turn a profit from cleaning up the environment.
The implicit tolerance of littering under the assumption that others – those very community groups, charities, Scouts, and underprivileged citizens – will pick it up, was a key concern for those who think there is a better solution available.
This flies in the face of the anti-litter culture which current efforts in raising awareness are working towards creating in Victoria and NSW, they said, advocating a National Bin Recycling Network and its accompanying education and awareness campaign instead of CDL.
Also raised was the prohibitive cost involved in setting up the infrastructure: $680 million, as cited by an independent study. The costs involved stem from a re-haul in recycling infrastructure to account for the new separation of litter streams, and necessary changes to processing methods.
Chris Jeffreys also pointed out that the ongoing costs would mean an increase of $300 to the average family’s yearly grocery bill.
Whether the effects of a CDL are worthwhile boils down to opinion on the psychology of a dollar-value incentive, along with concern for how to apportion costs which are still highly speculative.
As Clr Julie Hegarty said, “this is just another example of cost shifting to local governments… If people are going to drop it on the ground then it doesn’t matter what kind of bin you have, it still isn’t going to make it into the bin.”
It is too complex an issue for one debate to finally put the ‘zombie’s to rest, but at least the combatants were able to leave their stakes at home this time.
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