New Zealand: A Proposal to Reduce Packaging Waste

In their report “The InCENTive to Recycle” Milford-based (Auckland) advocacy consultancy Envision recommends bringing back bottle refunds (cash for containers) to lift recycling rates in New Zealand.

According to Envision, the report, funded by a number of councils and businesses, calls for the reintroduction of a mandatory container deposit scheme (CDS) – where empty bottles can be returned to recycling centers or shops for a small refund. “You won’t see bottles lying in the gutter, tossed over banks or drifting out to the sea when they are worth ten cents,” said the report’s lead author Warren Snow. “There’s nothing like a financial incentive to get people to recycle.”

The authors estimate that bringing back a “bottle refund” or “Container Deposit Scheme” would cost the beverage industry half a cent (0.5 cents) per container, but would increase beverage container recycling every year by 45,000 tons. The move would create thousands of jobs and divert 180,000 cubic meters of waste from landfill – saving New Zealanders between 26 and 40 million NZ dollars (about 16.9 to 26 million US dollar) per year in waste disposal costs. But, despite the scheme enjoying success in other developed countries, the report suggests corporate packaging and beverage industry groups are fighting to stop container deposits being introduced in the country. Since 2008, the New Zealand Government has given out nearly seven million NZ Dollar in taxpayer funded grants for initiatives to recycle beverage containers.

“In spite of this taxpayer support, New Zealand’s beverage recycling rates are low compared to progressive countries like Canada, South Australia and countries in Europe – which have mandatory deposits on drink bottles,” the New Zealand company said. In these places recycling rates of 85 to 98 percent were routinely being achieved compared to New Zealand’s significantly lower estimated rates of between 25 and 40 percent. “These countries also enjoy less litter, new recycling jobs and reduced costs for local governments.” Envision New Zealand has developed a model for a Nation-wide Bottle Deposit Scheme and found it would lift recycling rates to 85 percent, create up to 2,400 new jobs and enable businesses to set up 200 or more drop off points where people can claim their refund. “Many of the drop-off points would be start-up businesses spread right across the country as seen in South Australia, British Columbia and all through Europe”, the consultancy underlined.

The key recommendations of the report are that:

  • Government declare beverage containers a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act 2008 with a national recovery target of 85 percent.
  • To achieve the target, the Government would require the establishment of a national Container Deposit Scheme (CDS) requiring producers to put a minimum refundable deposit on beverage containers to ensure they are recycled.

The report also calls for local government, recyclers, environmental organizations and responsible beverage companies to work together to make the case to Government to introduce a Container Deposit System for New Zealand starting in 2017.

Photo: Envision New Zealand Ltd