Source reduction – consumer behaviour and infrastructure
Submitters and witnesses supported the reduction of plastic debris at
source in order to address the growing problem of marine plastic pollution. The
CSIRO, for example, stated that 'the most effective way to reduce and mitigate
the harmful effects of marine debris is to prevent it from entering the marine
environment: cleaning up our oceans is a much less practical solution'.
Similarly, Professor Tony Underwood commented that, while recognising the
contribution of science to identifying solutions, marine plastic pollution is a
waste management issue.
The committee received considerable evidence on source reduction
strategies with many submitters supporting the banning of products including
microbeads and single-use plastic bags and the introduction of container
deposit schemes. Other strategies canvassed in submissions included
improvements to stormwater systems, improved product stewardship and greater
enforcement of existing regulations targeting waste.
Many of these strategies operate in conjunction with programs and
measures designed to change consumer behaviour, for example, through
anti-littering campaigns, and education on recycling and plastic alternatives.
This chapter will focus on the importance of community awareness and
education campaigns, infrastructure to prevent litter moving into the marine
environment, and beverage container deposit schemes. Chapter 7 canvasses
product stewardship and legislative and regulatory frameworks.
Community awareness and education campaigns
Community awareness and education campaigns on the threat to marine
ecosystems from plastic pollution, key sources of pollution, and source
reduction strategies, have been an integral component of threat reduction
frameworks. These education campaigns have been implemented in schools and
local communities, and there have also been education campaigns targeting
specific user groups. Community-based organisations such as Clean Up Australia
and the Tangaroa Blue Foundation, and state and territory and local governments
have all implemented education campaigns.
The committee received evidence that education campaigns have proven
more effective in reducing marine pollution than clean-up programs. The CSIRO
found that education programs and campaigns against illegal dumping have proven
particularly successful in reducing the amount of debris found in coastal
The importance and value of education campaigns was also supported by
the Sydney Coastal Councils Group which stated that education and behaviour
change programs should be a major focus in developing mitigation strategies. It
also suggested that a national educational campaign for plastic avoidance and
correct disposal should be developed as it has been found that the promotion of
to influence behaviour is valuable in mediating community action and change.
Mr Kiernan AO, Founder of Clean Up Australia, stated that Clean Up Australia
particularly targets young Australians in education campaigns because they are
'the environmental watchdogs' who often encourage parents to make
environmentally positive behavioural changes.
Similarly, Ms Rowan Hanley, Committee member for the Northern Beaches Branch of
the Surfrider Australia Foundation, informed the committee that programs in
schools can be particularly useful because 'it feeds into a much larger
educational understanding and awareness'.
The value of community awareness has also been recognised by the
Australian Government with a number of organisations providing evidence of
educational campaigns being delivered. For example, the CSIRO pointed to its school-based
education campaigns. It stated:
We also developed curriculum content using marine debris as a
teaching tool for science and mathematics to meet the Australian national
curriculum guidelines. CSIRO scientists inspired students to explore their
world through science in ways that were meaningful and relevant, motivated
teachers through innovative learning, and helped increase capacity and networks
for educators and citizen scientists, in Australia and beyond...Overall, we
reached more than one million Australians, helping to educate them about and
increase their understanding of marine debris.
Similarly, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) noted
that under the Reef Trust Fund's Great Barrier Reef Marine Debris Clean-Up
project, funds had been allocated to 'presentations to key stakeholders, school
activities, community clean-up days, source reduction workshops and community
It explained that $90,000 had been allocated to marine plastic source reduction
awareness campaigns with local communities and stakeholders within the Great
Barrier Reef catchment, including source reduction workshops delivered by the
Tangaroa Blue Foundation. GBRMPA also stated that $10,000 had been allocated to
engage with Reef Guardian Schools to promote awareness. A further $94,000 has been
allocated to targeted marine debris communications throughout the operation of
the Reef Marine Debris Clean-Up project.
Local government is also active in increasing awareness of the effects
of litter and debris and reduction at source. Dr Madhu Pudasaini, Manager,
Technical Support from the Liverpool City Council, commented that local governments
regularly provide education programs. However, Dr Pudasaini went on to
note that resourcing for education programs remains a challenge. He stated
One of the agendas in our water quality improvement strategy
is to focus on the community education source control—that is what I call
it—because that is a more sustainable way of reducing litter in our system. If
people are aware of those things it becomes a culture in households. That gets
carried over from generation to generation, so it is a more sustainable way of
reducing litter. We are trying to focus on that. Again, funding can be
challenging for us, but we are trying to look at every opportunity to implement
The committee received evidence in support of education campaigns
targeting particular user groups. For example, the Sydney Coastal Council Group
submitted that education campaigns should be targeted at specific user groups
such as boat users, fishers, and beach visitors.
The National Environmental Law Association also supported the use of targeted
OceanWatch Australia is one group engaged in education campaigns
specifically targeting the recreational fishing community and the issues around
the disposal of fishing line. Mr Brad Warren, Executive Chair of OceanWatch
Australia, stated that the T'Angler Bin campaign was designed to raise
awareness, as well as providing a responsible method of fishing line disposal.
Mr Warren stated that through raising awareness and fostering a sense of
fishing location stewardship, OceanWatch Australia is attempting to influence
people to do the right thing.
Mr Warren also told the committee that OceanWatch Australia ran a campaign
regarding responsible crabbing practices which included television ads and
OceanWatch Australia noted that it has engaged with the commercial
fisheries and aquaculture industries in order to influence behavioural changes.
It has developed codes of practice and environmental management systems with a
number of seafood producers. However, Mr Warren commented that at a forum with
representatives from the fisheries sector, there was a lack of understanding of
the potential implications of marine plastic pollution.
Mr Warren stated:
...we held a national fishing and aquaculture forum in June
2014, bringing together 20 representatives of commercial, recreational and
Indigenous customary fishing sectors, and aquaculture operators from around Australia.
While marine debris was identified as a threat to the health of the marine
environment, when participants were asked to prioritise the identified threats
not one vote out of the total of 54 votes cast was assigned to marine debris.
A number of community-based organisations provided evidence that they
are also undertake awareness-raising and education campaigns on the issue of
marine plastic pollution. For example, Ms Heidi Taylor, Managing Director,
stated that the Tangaroa Blue Foundation has an education program on its
website that is aligned to the national curriculum and also runs school
presentations whenever it can. Ms Taylor concluded that education was vital but
it could be not relied upon to 'fix this problem'.
However, the committee received evidence that in order to effect further
reductions in the amount of plastic debris, adequate funding for education
campaigns, particularly those provided by not-for-profit organisations, is
necessary. Australian Seabird Rescue stated:
More funding for non-profit groups to increase education and
awareness is so important and funding has dropped dramatically over the last
ten years. It is difficult for wildlife rescue groups to find the time to
fundraise as well as caring for the creatures affected by plastic pollution.
Ms Susie Crick, Board Member of the Surfrider Foundation Australia told
the committee that the community:
...want funding and subsidising for educational programmes and
advertising. They want state government run advertising, information and
education programs to shine a big light on this program so that everybody is
informed. People will comply with anything once they know the reason why.
Nobody wants to pollute.
Similarly, Ms Taylor noted the funding constraints around providing
education campaigns and commented that 'it is a funding thing for us as well.
We try to maximise our dollars so that they go as far as possible, but we
cannot cover everywhere in Australia'.
Mr Warren stated that as a federally recognised Natural Resources Management
(NRM) organisation, OceanWatch Australia currently receives funding under the
National Landcare Programme. Administration and funding is a joint undertaking
by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, and the Department of the
Environment. However, Mr Warren noted that OceanWatch is the only NRM which
does not receive funding from the Department of the Environment. This is
despite being the 'first and only national marine focused NRM organisation'.
Improvements to infrastructure
Infrastructure such as stormwater drainage systems and rubbish bins are
both contributors to the problem of plastic pollution in the marine
environment, and important source reduction measures. Stormwater drainage
systems in particular are known to facilitate the transport of plastics from
the urban environment into the marine environment. However, the installation of
infrastructure such as gross pollutant traps provides an opportunity for urban
litter to be collected and removed before it reaches the marine environment.
Similarly, litter which overflows from public rubbish bins has also been
found to contribute to marine plastic pollution. However, the provision of
public rubbish bins has also been found to change consumer behaviour, and
reduce levels of littering.
The committee received evidence that stormwater systems provide a well-recognised
pathway for urban litter to reach the marine environment.
For example, Mr Kiernan told the committee that:
...whatever you drop on the ground, whether it be on a
mountaintop or a beach or a riverside, has every chance of ending up driven by
the stormwater system through the rivers and creeks into the world's oceans,
where it accumulates.
Associate Professor Mark Osborn, provided a case study which explained
the extent of litter transported by stormwater systems:
Across Melbourne, stormwater systems (comprising ~1,400 km of
drains around Melbourne, including over 300 stormwater drains emptying directly
into the bay) transport rainwater runoff and flush our litter into creeks,
rivers and ultimately into Port Phillip. The extent of this litter transport is
evidenced by the need for frequent, sometimes daily emptying of
Parks Victoria litter traps on the Yarra River and that the Victorian
government spent $80 million in 2012/13 alone on removing litter, including the
removal of over 7,800 tons of litter and debris (including plastics) from
Since the 1990s stormwater treatment devices designed to remove plastic
pollution from waterways have been deployed by local councils.
These include gross pollutant traps (GPT) which are designed to trap and
isolate pollutants, only allowing filtered stormwater to continue on to the
marine environment. There are a variety of gross pollutant traps available, and
they can remove contaminants such as litter, oil, grit, and sediment.
The stormwater system in Australia is generally the responsibility of
local government with Mr Nari Sahukar, from EDOs of Australia, commenting that local
councils 'are often on the front line' in responding to the issue.
This was supported by evidence provided by Dr Pudasaini who stated that
the Liverpool City Council has installed 114 GPTs, and has assessed that a
further 150 are required to adequately manage stormwater in the Liverpool area.
Dr Pudasaini acknowledged that 'when it comes down to implementation it is
a huge cost burden to council. It is outside the capacity of local government
areas'. Dr Pudasaini commented that:
My rough estimate of 150 GPTs is about $20 million in capital
investment and various ongoing costs associated with cleaning the GPTs. We are
also talking about other devices that can improve water quality in our river
system. That is the sort of cost we are talking about.
Dr Pudasaini explained that the Liverpool City Council currently collects
$1.2 million per annum through a stormwater levy. However this levy is
used to service the entirety of the stormwater system, rather than gross
pollutant traps specifically. Dr Pudasaini estimated that the Liverpool City
Council spends $300,000 per annum (on average) for the installation of new
gross pollutant traps.
In addition to capital costs, maintenance costs are also an issue. The
Liverpool City Council is currently undertaking a review of its cleaning
regime. Dr Pudasaini explained:
...we normally clean them every three months. At the moment we
are reviewing that and the effective frequency of cleaning and the costs
involved. We are looking at optimising that process. For example, in the rainy
season we may need to clean more frequently than in autumn or when there is not
While it was recognised that stormwater infrastructure has improved,
witnesses pointed to continued concerns with current systems. Professor
Underwood, for example, commented that:
...we have improved immensely over the last 30 years with
stormwater outfalls, trapping of waste and so on. But I am not sure we are
doing it well enough. Even in those things, if you have a big storm, a lot of
material goes out of the traps and into the sea. It solves a day-to-day running
issue, but I do not know if anyone has evaluated how much is still going out.
So I think there are areas where we still need substantial improvement.
A further issue raised was that of the costs associated with gross
pollutant costs which act as a disincentive for councils. SPEL Environmental
Integrated Water Solutions submitted:
Many Councils are actively discouraging the implementation of
these devices [gross pollutant traps] in their area because they don't have an
adequate budget to empty the litter once it is captured. SPEL feels that this
is a false economy that simply shifts the cost from the catchment management
'silo' to the beaches 'silo'.
SPEL Environmental Integrated Water Solutions recommended that the Australian
Government develop policy to ensure that gross pollutant traps are installed on
all stormwater outfalls, and that the maintenance of these devices be ensured. It
also commented that incentive and grant schemes would encourage the
implementation of gross pollutant trap projects.
SPEL also recommended that effective management of water catchments should
occur at a regional level as this would prevent the 'ad hoc planning observed
with Council boundaries that pay no regard to catchment boundaries'.
The problems with the maintenance of GPTs was also noted by Professor
Smith who commented that while most coastal local councils have protocols for
removing accumulated debris from GPTs, these are not often met due to staffing
and/or funding issues. In addition, Professor Smith commented that recent
research indicated that GPTs were effective in removing larger items of debris
from stormwater but this was not the case for smaller items which are more
likely to be ingested by wildlife.
SPEL Environmental Integrated Water Solutions commented that the
'stormwater industry has a range of innovative measures available for its
practitioners to use to capture plastic pollution and improve water quality'.
These measures were developed in response to the regulatory requirement to
remove gross pollutants from Port Phillip Bay and Sydney Harbour. SPEL
explained that the EcoRecycle and Stormwater Trust NSW funded the introduction
of innovative proprietary designed gross pollutant traps across Australia. SPEL
encouraged the Australian Government to provide leadership and require the
national implementation of innovative gross pollutant traps which comply with
both domestic and international protocols.
Stormwater Australia also stated that 'there should be a level of investment
in complementary technologies that trap and retain litter and make the
management of the water flowing towards marine environments more effective'.
However, as noted by Tangaroa Blue, retrofitting of existing systems is
expensive 'so that it is not as common as it should be'.
The value of gross pollutant traps in reducing pollution, has been
acknowledged by the Australian Government, and the Department of the
Environment committed $1 million over four years from 2014–2018 for the
installation of floating litter traps in the lower Yarra River, and raising
In 2015, the Senate Environment and Communications References Committee
conducted an inquiry into stormwater management in Australia. This inquiry
examined a number of issues including the implementation and management of
stormwater infrastructure, and associated government policy. The committee made
a number of recommendations, including the implementation of a National
Stormwater Initiative and new funding models.
Like stormwater systems, public rubbish bins can be a source of marine
plastic pollution, and an important mitigation measure. The widespread
implementation of infrastructure such as rubbish bins can encourage significant
changes in consumer behaviour, and result in a reduction of marine plastic
The committee received a number of submissions which provided anecdotal
evidence of the amount of plastic pollution which escapes into the marine
environment from overflowing bins, or when rubbish bins are emptied. For
example, Ms Erin Rhoads submitted that:
While there are bins around the [Maribyrnong] river I believe
the fundamental cause of the plastic pollution to be from rubbish brought down
to the river from local households during storms, rain or high winds... Most of
the trash I pick up is either done on a Thursday and Friday after the garbage
and recycling bins have been collected. Bins up and down the street are full to
Similarly, Mr Robert McAlpine stated bins in his area of Wollongong are
frequently blown over and spill rubbish which is subsequently blown into the
Professor Stephen Smith also commented on the problems with rubbish escaping from
bins and submitted that:
...even if people "do the right thing" placing items
in the bins provided, these items may be transported onto the beach through:
strong winds which lift the lids and mobilise lighter items; birds and animals
that scavenge and remove items.
A number of submitters identified that the regular emptying of public
rubbish bins is crucial in reducing the amount of plastic pollution escaping
into the marine environment. For example, Professor Smith stated that the
frequency of emptying bins is a key issue but this is 'often too low to deal
with the rate of disposal leading to the placement of items outside the bins
where they are more likely to be blown/transported into coastal habitats'.
Professor Smith added that 'flexible management by Councils, such as more
frequent servicing during busy periods or at sites where litter disposal rates
are high' could reduce the amount of pollution.
An example of the problems of overloaded bins in popular areas was
highlighted by Mr Dave West, Environmental Economist advising Clean Up
Australia. Mr West told the committee that:
...we have to recognise is that littering is not largely the
'tosser' any more. Government campaigns on that have had a profound effect.
You would be staggered at the level of what we call 'bin
bounce'. Go down to Darling Harbour at lunchtime. You cannot empty that bin
fast enough, and bottles go 'ptoing!'. They hit the concrete and then they are
down there. Or people put their bag down to eat their lunch and it blows away.
However, despite the evidence that rubbish bins may be contributing to
marine plastic pollution, the committee also received evidence that targeted
infrastructure can in fact reduce pollution levels. Coca-Cola Amatil highlighted
the 2008 Litter Management in Australia report published by the then
Environment Protection and Heritage Council which found that of those surveyed,
the most common reason given for littering was 'no bin nearby'.
Similarly, the Australian Food and Grocery Council submitted that 'research and
studies have found that littered areas attract more litter'.
The CSIRO told the committee that research into state, territory,
regional and local government infrastructure, policy and expenditure has
identified that coastal rubbish bins have been found to significantly reduce
the amount of plastic pollution reaching the ocean. The CSIRO also explained
that further research is being conducted in order to assess the
cost-effectiveness of local, regional and state initiatives. 
Container deposit schemes
Container deposit schemes (CDS) refer to programs for the collection of
used beverage containers in exchange for a small amount of cash (for example,
10 cents per container). Containers can be returned to manufacturers via
retailers, collected at designated depots, returned though reverse vending
machines, or recovered as part of existing waste or recycling collection
systems. Both South Australia and the Northern Territory have successfully
implemented container deposit schemes.
Previous iterations of the Environment and Communications Committee have
conducted inquiries into the implementation, and management of container
deposit schemes. These inquiries received evidence both in support of, and in
opposition to, container deposit schemes. The committees found that there was
widespread community support for such schemes and that there was generally
evidence to support the claim that the schemes reduced litter in the
environment. However, there were concerns raised regarding potential associated
costs of operation both to manufacturers, retailers, consumers, and the broader
community. There were also concerns regarding a lack of consensus on an
appropriate model for implementation.
The committee accepts the findings of these previous inquiries and has
chosen to examine the evidence provided in the context of identifying
mitigation strategies to reduce the threat of marine plastic pollution.
Container deposit schemes work on littering behaviour by providing 'an
incentive for people to change their behaviour to try and redeem the reward'.
Not only is the person consuming the beverage encouraged to hold onto the empty
container for later redemption, but also other people are provided with an
incentive to pick up littered containers to receive the redemption. This
increases the number of beverage containers entering the recycling stream
rather than landfill or litter, and ultimately the marine environment.
The following discussion canvasses the effectiveness of CDSs in reducing
marine plastic pollution and community and government support for CDSs. The
various models of CDSs are outlined and the evidence provided by industry is
Effectiveness of container deposit
The Total Environment Centre submitted that the single largest source of
marine plastic pollution is beverage sector waste, with plastic bottles, lids,
straws and cups representing about half of the material (by volume) in the
litter stream, and 60 per cent of all plastic rubbish recovered from
beaches and waterways.
Similarly, Dr Britta Denise Hardesty, CSIRO, commented that beverage containers
make up a significant proportion of litter found in coastal areas. Dr Hardesty
Globally, it is approximately 40 per cent of all the litter
that is found in coastal areas. That is based upon several decades of clean-up data
through the International Coastal Cleanup. Within Australia, we find similar
amounts that are beverage industry associated.
Apart from South Australia and the Northern Territory, 'the predominant
form of recycling is kerbside collection...which captures material that is
consumed largely at home'. Mr Ian Kelman, Executive Officer of the Association
of Container Deposit Scheme Operators, commented that kerbside recycling 'does
not capture material consumed in clubs, pubs, entertainment and sporting venues'
and this material generally goes into landfill or is littered.
As has previously been noted, the CSIRO has conducted an analysis of
litter found in Australian coastal areas. The results of this analysis indicate
that in states which have implemented beverage CDSs there is a noticeable reduction
in this type of litter. Dr Hardesty stated:
We used the Clean Up Australia Day data from 2012 and did an
analysis across all the different sites and all the states and territories.
What we find is that there is a highly significant difference in the number of
beverage container items in South Australia, compared to the other states and
territories. For example, in some of the other states and territories, one of
three items that you pick up on the beach would be a beverage container—we
limited it very strictly to caps, glass bottles, plastic bottles and aluminium
cans. When you look in South Australia, it is one in 12 items that you find.
That is a very notable difference, and it is a highly statistically significant
difference. It would appear that that could be correlated with the existing
container deposit scheme in South Australia.
The CSIRO concluded that South Australia's CDS was 'very successful,
reducing the number of beverage containers, the dominant plastic item in the
environment, by a factor of three'.
CDSs have been implemented in forty other jurisdictions around the world.
Professor Smith commented that 'container deposit schemes have been shown to be
effective everywhere they have been introduced'.
Mr Angel added that CDSs provide a means to address a large percentage of
marine plastic pollution quickly and effectively as overseas schemes have
Witnesses commented on the expected benefits of the implementation of a
CDS by all states and territories. Mr Kelman explained that a national CDS
could be estimated to remove an additional 35,000 tonnes from the waste stream.
This material is currently either littered or disposed of in landfill. Mr
Kelman stated that globally, CDSs achieve a recycling capture rate of between
80 and 96 per cent of beverage containers. This is in comparison to the overall
recycling rate of 42 per cent currently achieved in Australia.
Mr Kelman also noted that in New South Wales, 44 per cent of the volume
of litter recorded is estimated to be waste associated with the beverage
container industry. The introduction of a CDS could reduce the volume of litter
by up to 40 per cent, in line with the New South Wales Government litter
The benefits of introducing a CDS are also seen in the differences in
recycling rates between South Australia and New South Wales:
In South Australia the recycling rates are as high as 85 per
cent. In the Northern Territory the diversion from landfill is coming to
millions and millions of containers. In New South Wales we are lucky to get 35
per cent. In Tasmania you are lucky to get 30 per cent.
Clean Up Australia noted that improved recycling rates with CDSs are due
in part to addressing 'the most problematic aspect of the waste
stream—providing both the collection infrastructure and interface with
consumers to address away from home consumption i.e. hospitality outlets,
public venues and recreational consumption'. In these areas recycling rates are
very low, often less than 10 per cent.
Community support for beverage
container deposit schemes
The committee received over 100 submissions supporting the introduction
of a national CDS. In addition to the submissions, the committee also received
approximately 700 form letters calling, in part, for the introduction of a
Clean Up Australia submitted that market research conducted by Newspoll
for both Clean Up Australia and the Boomerang Alliance has shown high levels of
community support for CDSs over the past decade. It commented that the most
recent poll conducted in February 2015 showed that 85.10 per cent of
respondents supported the introduction of CDSs.
Clean Up Australia also submitted that in follow-up activity conducted
with clean-up volunteers, discontent has been expressed in the perceived lack
of leadership in developing and implementing plastic pollution mitigation
measures, including CDSs. Ms Johnson commented further:
There is petition after petition being run around the
country...for the integration of container deposits. They are looking for
assistance on being able to bring in preventative measures, because there is a
level of fatigue on cleaning it up. We are actually working with people now on
preventing it in the first place.
A number of witnesses also highlighted the additional benefits arising
from the introduction of a CDS. Mr Sahukar told the committee that container
deposit schemes have been proven successful because they 'internalise the costs
of littering and create community incentives to recycle more'.
The encouragement of widespread community-based litter collection and recycling
was also noted by Mr Angel from the Total Environment Centre, who stated:
The point about container deposits that attracts us very
strongly is that you are essentially creating hundreds of litter collectors out
there every week looking for the empty containers that have a 10 cent refund on
them. You do not actually have to pay anybody—the system motivates that
collection and the 10 cent refund changes behaviour, where some people may say,
'I am not going to throw it away anymore, because I want my 10 cents back.
Mr Kelman also commented that in South Australia the introduction of a
CDS has resulted in a 'cultural phenomenon' where:
...individuals...perhaps pensioners or homeless people in those
areas, have an area of the state which is their turf, as they describe it. It
might be a couple of beaches or a few parks. That individual generally goes
through the area and collects whatever empty containers they can. They obviously
make some additional income for themselves.
Community groups have also benefited from the implementation of
container deposit schemes. In particular, Beachpatrol Australia pointed to the
Scouts in South Australia who have been able to generate significant profits
through engagement with CDSs.
State and territory, and local
government support for container deposit schemes
As has already been noted, South Australia and the Northern Territory
have both established state-based CDSs. Other states are currently
investigating the implementation of such schemes.
South Australia established a CDS in 1977, which is now administered
under the state's Environment Protection Act 1993. In 2011, the Northern
Territory also passed legislation to establish a CDS which commenced in 2012.
The Northern Territory scheme was designed to operate in alignment with the
South Australian CDS. In 2011, an Intergovernmental Agreement was signed
between the South Australian and Northern Territory governments which provided
for mutual assistance, and where possible, alignment of each jurisdiction's
CDS. This Agreement also called for the promotion of consistency in the
regulation, development and administration of the schemes, in particular
ensuring that similar types of containers are regulated.
On 12 February 2015, the New South Wales Premier, the Hon Mike Baird MP,
announced that New South Wales will implement a CDS by July 2017. The CDS is
designed to complement litter reduction strategies currently implemented under
the $465.7 million project, Waste Less, Recycle More.
The NSW Government is currently exploring CDS models, governance, and alignment
with other state and territory jurisdictions.
Similarly, the Queensland Department of Environment and Heritage Protection
established an Advisory Group in 2015 to investigate state-based options for
the implementation of a CDS. Recommendations from the Advisory Group are
expected to be released in early 2016.
Support for the implementation of CDSs has also come from local
governments. Dr Pudasaini commented that the Liverpool City Council is:
...actively lobbying to get a container deposit scheme
implemented. We really want to get that implemented ASAP, and the state
government has got a plan to do that from 1 July 2017. We are actively
participating in the discussion on how that could be implemented effectively.
Any forum that gives us an opportunity to raise this and talk about what we
experience we participate in.
In discussing state and territory support for the implementation of
CDSs, Mr West noted that over the past 12 years, 'every single opposition [party]
has been pro container deposits' however once in government, they continue to
express support for such schemes but:
...play a disingenuous game of "We would like a national
scheme. Oops—the national scheme did not get up!" The national
leadership—rightfully—says it's the state's responsibility and we didn't get an
accord.' And it bounces backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards.
Container deposit scheme models
The committee received evidence on the relative effectiveness of a
variety of CDS models. The committee also received evidence on the costs
associated with these models.
CDSs operate through a system where a deposit value is added to the cost
of a beverage, and this deposit is redeemed when the container is returned to a
collection point. In South Australia and the Northern Territory the deposit is
10 cents per container, but in Europe the deposit is much higher, up to
25 Euro cents, about A35c to A40c.
Mr Kelman described the deposit as the 'primary mechanism' of a CDS. The
deposit is 'an incentive to retain that container' rather than letting it enter
the waste stream or become litter.
Mr Kiernan similarly stated 'instead of seeing some waste on the beach, beside
the road or in the park, you are seeing money'.
Ms Johnson commented that incentive-based models are 'world's best
practice' and that:
It is a well-worked model and it encourages people so that
even if you leave it to one side you can be sure that some smaller person will
go and collect that for you because they want that 10c. It puts a value on the
Mr Kelman highlighted the importance of establishing infrastructure for
the collection of containers, and the ability for consumers to redeem their
deposit. The operation of return mechanisms such as reverse vending machines,
and container recycling depots can either fall under the jurisdiction of the
beverage industry, the retail sector, or private sector operators. Mr Kelman
provided examples from a variety of jurisdictions. For example, Norway sets:
...a target rate for recycling, and if the industry does not
achieve that target rate then the industry is taxed a certain amount. So the
industry have an incentive to make sure that they reach their target, which is
in the range of 90 per cent return rates. The industry then manage the scheme
on their own. They run the scheme and have a private organisation that operates
it. That organisation then buys reverse vending machines from the market. They
have other people operate those systems and, again, they apply a handling fee
for that service by the recycling sector.
This is in comparison to what Mr Kelman described as jurisdictions which
apply a 'retailer obligation' which requires retailers having an obligation to
recover containers which have been purchased wholesale from producers and brand
owners. For example:
In Europe...you will generally find that reverse vending
machines and automatic collection centres are established inside the Aldi or
the Lidl supermarket itself. Consumers will go in and dispose of their
containers through the reverse vending machines. At the back of the machine are
a whole lot of sorting and compaction conveyors et cetera which put the
materials straight into a certain bin—an aluminium bin, a three colours of
glass bin et cetera. They get a coupon, which they then take to the checkout,
and they get that redeemed amount of deposits—if they put 10 bottles in, let's
say it is 2.5 euros, and they will get that discounted off their shopping.
Globally, CDS infrastructure is paid for through private sector
investment. This investment is achieved through the payment of handling fees.
Mr Kelman stated that:
Every container has a 10c deposit placed on it that the
consumer pays and gets back. In addition to that, in New South Wales there is
likely to be something like 3½c to 4½c per container that is recouped by the
private sector operator via either a manual depot or, potentially, an automated
reverse vending machine or some facility like that...Every scheme in the world
has a payment system to the private sector to collect.
There are a number of different ways to set handling fees under CDSs. In
some jurisdictions, handling fees are mandated by legislation, while others are
negotiated between beverage manufacturers and recycling companies. However,
Mr Kelman argued that a CDS can be managed at a neutral cost through
unredeemed deposits, and offsets to handling fees through the sale of collected
material. Mr Kelman stated that:
...for 100 per cent of containers that are sold, the consumer
pays a deposit. An 80 per cent return rate, as occurs in South Australia, means
that you have got 20 per cent of deposits that have been paid but not redeemed
by the consumer. That is a considerable amount of money. In New South Wales I
think they are working on the basis of 4.5 billion containers; that is $450
million worth of deposits. Twenty per cent of $450 million is $90 million worth
of unredeemed deposits. That then offsets the producer's handling fees.
Mr Kelman explained that in South Australia, collected material has been
valued at 2 cents per container. This money, in addition to the amount
collected through unredeemed deposits, can result in a scheme which should be
cost neutral to the producer.
Costs can also be reduced through technological efficiencies. Mr Kelman
told the committee that the net handling fee in South Australia (after the use
of unredeemed deposits) is 5 cents per container as 'it is a manual scheme and
it has not automated...with all the efficiencies and cost gains as a result of
Mr Kelman told the committee that there are currently 100,000 automated reverse
vending machines operating globally, and that the majority operate on a coupon
system. Coupons are able to provide a refund while reducing the risk of
vandalism to the machine which may occur if cash refunds were provided. Reverse
vending machines also play a pivotal role in data collection as they are able
to scan a barcode and report back to a central system which allows for the
invoicing of the brand owner.
The committee received evidence that the Australian beverages industry
'recognises that marine plastic pollution is a complex and very real problem
and therefore needs an informed and considered approach to any solutions
However, there is widespread industry concern that 'in 2016, we must be beyond
litter and recycling models that are nearly 50 years old'.
Mr Kelman told the committee that in relation to the implementation of
container deposit schemes, 'Coca-Cola are very much a driver of the opposition
In particular, Coca-Cola Amatil raised concerns with the associated
costs of refund-based container deposit schemes and commented on the proposed
CDS in New South Wales. While stating that 'the first priority of any waste
solution must be a cleaner NSW', it went on to comment that:
...we believe it must also minimise the cost impact on
consumers and industry, avoid duplication of existing waste collection and
disposal infrastructure and ensure NSW remains an attractive place to do
Coca-Cola Amatil submitted that the introduction of a CDS in New South
Wales would have set-up costs of approximately $120 million and annual
operating costs of approximately $200 million. Coca-Cola Amatil was also
concerned that it will increase the cost of beverages to consumers.
The Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) also estimated that there will
be a $63 million impact on the beverage industry through reduced consumer
The AFGC went on to submit that the reduction in demand will effect investment
and employment in the sector. The AFGC stated:
Modelling by ACIL Allen forecast a national Refund CDS to
result in the loss of 1,700 jobs (or 3.5%) from the Australian beverage and
related packaging industry. This equates to a reduction in cumulative labour
incomes of $2.6 billion or a net present value of –$1.0 billion and a reduction
in cumulative gross value added of $6.3 billion or a net present value of –$2.6
The beverages industry, represented by the AFGC, has developed a program
which offers an alternative to the proposed introduction of a refund-based CDS
in New South Wales. Coca-Cola Amatil submitted that the Thirst for Good program
...funding bin infrastructure, collection and litter clean
collection and litter clean-up activities in hotspots such as roads and public
places, Reverse Vending Machines (RVMS) in convenient areas and donations to
local charities and community groups when individuals return their drink
The Boomerang Alliance challenged the beverage industry's assertion that
Thirst for Good would provide a more cost effective initiative than the
introduction of a refund-based CDS. The Boomerang Alliance stated that from its
analysis of the Thirst for Good program, it is 'apparent' that the
initiative 'operates at a rough cost of 95c per container recovered ($8983.20
per tonne)' which is 'around 4 times the current cost of litter abatement
($2900/tonne)'. It concluded that 'it is clear that Thirst for Good is less
cost efficient—coming at a cost some 20 times greater (per unit recovered) than
the gross operating costs of a modern CDS'.
The 100 reverse vending machines proposed under the Thirst for
Good program will offer non-financial incentives such as movie vouchers or
tickets to sporting events.
However, Mr Ian Kiernan from Clean Up Australia criticised this initiative as
it will remove 'the commercial incentive' from container deposit schemes.
Ms Johnson added that internationally, schemes which used donation rather than
a direct commercial incentive have been shown not to work.
The Boomerang Alliance further noted that globally, the two most successful non-financial
based schemes—the Reimagine program rolled out in Texas, and the Tesco
rewards program in the UK—were 'better researched and supported' than Thirst
for Good, but still ultimately failed. Both of these programs were
abandoned after four years, and recorded low participation rates with Reimagine
only achieving 20 per cent of its monthly target at its peak. The Boomerang
Alliance described the reverse vending component of the Thirst for Good program
as 'basically pointless and will have little impact other than a visible face
to promote the beverage industry'.
Mr Gary Dawson, Chief Executive Officer of the AFGC, told the committee
that the program provides a viable alternative to a refund-based CDS and that
it meets the five criteria that the New South Wales Government has set for the
introduction of a CDS. Mr Dawson stated:
It is particularly targeted at those five criteria...that it be
cost effective, use financial incentives, target away-from-home consumption,
not undermine kerbside, and use reverse vending machines and modern technology.
Over the last year, that Thirst for Good package has been developed to
specifically target that. We believe it can deliver that target that New South
Wales has set faster than any alternative scheme. It is an example of very
constructive engagement on this broader challenge around litter and recycling,
which contributes to the issues around marine pollution...
Similarly, the Australian Beverages Council submitted that:
...action must first start with identifying the exact nature of
the problem, targeting strategies to where they are most needed and addressing
consumer behaviour. This last piece must include initiatives like education
programs, greater penalty enforcement, targeting coordination of hotspots and
more away-from-home recycling options of unique, innovative and tailored models
for reducing litter and increasing recycling, like the industry-funded Thirst
for Good scheme in New South Wales, which achieves these objectives.
The AFGC argued that 'while a refund CDS incentivises people to
clean up beverage containers, it does not address the existing stock of
non-beverage container litter'.
Ms Tanya Barden, Director of Economics and Sustainability explained that:
...to be effective in the litter space you need to be really
active across a number of areas: cleaning up existing litter, because litter
acts as a magnet and will attract other sources of litter; education to try and
get behaviour change amongst consumers; enforcement of littering behaviour when
it occurs; and infrastructure...Under a CDS, if only beverage containers are
cleaned up, then remaining litter could still be a magnet for attracting other
types of litter, including beverage containers.
The AFGC submitted that the Thirst for Good program seeks to
'reduce not only beverage litter, but all litter'.
Mr Dawson told the committee that 'any effective approach has to be broader
than just beverage containers'.
Similarly, Mr Geoff Parker, Chief Executive Officer of the Australian Beverages
Council, commented that 'to focus on just one part of the waste system is
antiquated, inefficient and ineffective'.
However, the Boomerang Alliance criticised the litter collection
component of the Thirst for Good program as being insufficient to
recover an amount of litter that would 'make a meaningful difference'.
It also submitted that litter would build up between litter collection
activities, and expressed doubt that additional bins would have a significant
impact, noting that the existing widespread availability of public bins in New
South Wales has done little to prevent littering.
Coca-Cola Amatil argued that in New South Wales, where 4.2 billion
beverages are sold per annum, 'ninety-six per cent of beverage containers are
already collected through existing systems'
and that a container deposit scheme fails to address other types of litter. The
committee notes that the remaining four per cent of beverage containers not
captured through landfill or recycling are littered, and in New South Wales
alone, this constitutes an estimated 160 million containers entering the
environment annually. This is a significant number of containers and in New
South Wales, beverage containers represent 44 per cent of the litter volume,
almost twice the volume of the next largest category—take-away cups and food
Further, the committee notes that a capture rate of 96 per cent
includes both 32 per cent entering landfill, and 64 per cent entering existing
recycling systems. The New South Wales Government has stated that the objective
of a CDS is to make sure that 'containers that are diverted away from litter,
or that would have otherwise been landfilled, are recycled'.
The committee is unconvinced that the Thirst for Good campaign would
achieve such outcomes for recycling given the apparent focus on increasing rates
of litter collection.
Evidence of industry support for research specifically targeting the
threat of marine pollution was also provided to the committee. The AFGC
explained that that the National Packaging Covenant Industry Association
(NPCIA), as the service delivery body for the Australian Packaging Covenant is
contributing to research efforts understand the pathways of land-based litter
into the marine environment. The NPCIA is jointly funding a study with the
CSIRO that will use spatial statistical modelling across the Australian
coastline to evaluate likely routes for debris to move into the marine
environment. The study will also examine the effectiveness of government
initiatives in reducing marine plastic pollution.
Coca-Cola Amatil also submitted that it is 'committed to working
collaboratively with industry, government and environmental groups to help
reduce litter and increase recycling outcomes across Australia'.
It provided evidence of its commitment to seeking new technologies and
initiatives to reduce its environmental impact across the supply chain. These
include a reduction in the amount of PET used in the production of bottles,
increasing the amount of recycled content in PET packaging, the introduction of
lightweight label packaging, and the self-manufacture of bottles at all
Australian manufacturing facilities.
Impact on kerbside recycling
The beverage industry raised concerns that the implementation of new CDSs
would have negative effects on existing kerbside recycling schemes. For
example, the AFGC submitted that a Refund CDS would divert a substantial number
of beverage containers from the kerbside system into the new scheme. AFGC
argued that a CDS, by its nature, 'provides an incentive for people to change
their behaviour to try and redeem the reward' but the incentive does not
distinguish between containers consumed at home versus those consumed away from
home and potentially littered. It concluded that 'a 10c deposit would devastate
the existing kerbside system, with only an estimated 7% of containers remaining
in the system'.
Ms McNamara, Group Head of Public Affairs and Communications for
Coca-Cola Amatil similarly expressed concern about the 'cannibalisation of the
existing kerbside system' through the introduction of a CDS. Ms McNamara argued
that consumers will hold the container and return it directly rather than through
the kerbside system.
Mr Jeff Maguire, Director of Statewide Recycling, a subsidiary of
Coca-Cola Amatil, pointed to the rates of kerbside recycling in South Australia
to support this argument and commented that:
My organisation only receives about 12 per cent of its
recycled content from kerbside in South Australia because the CDS system has
been there and has been entrenched in South Australia for a long time. If we
were to introduce a CDS system in New South Wales, it would certainly
cannibalise what is an existing low-cost system in kerbside, to a large extent.
However, this view was challenged by Clean Up Australia and the
Boomerang Alliance. Clean Up Australia noted that currently, in states and
territories that have not implemented a CDS, 'we do not have any incentives for
recycling' and as a result, only 20 per cent of items are recycled—and this is
largely achieved through kerbside recycling.
The Boomerang Alliance pointed to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers
conducted in 2010 into ways to recover used beverage containers. Systems in
Europe, North America, Japan and Australia were evaluated. The findings
Deposit Systems are more sustainable than kerbside collection of
Deposit Systems for beverage containers enable higher collection
rates and better recycling;
One way deposit systems are not necessarily more expensive than
Deposit Systems are more cost effective than kerbside collection;
Deposit Systems and kerbside collection can co-exist very well.
The committee accepts the evidence that source reduction rather than
clean-up should be the focus of mitigation strategies. Source reduction
encompasses changes in consumer behaviour, implementation and maintenance of
infrastructure such as gross pollutant traps and public rubbish bins, and waste
management initiatives such as beverage container deposit schemes that both
change consumer behaviour and provide a disposal mechanism.
Community awareness and education campaigns which provide information
designed to change the choices and behaviour are crucial to effective threat
mitigation. These campaigns are frequently conducted with limited funding by
non-government and community organisations, and local government. Similarly,
the implementation and management of infrastructure such as gross pollutant
traps and rubbish bins have associated financial impost on local government.
The evidence indicates that such infrastructure is critical to reducing the
amount of urban litter moving into the marine environment. The committee is of
the view that education and awareness-raising campaigns, and infrastructure
should be adequately funded and supported by Commonwealth, and state and
Evidence that CDSs provide a simple, cost-effective mechanism that will
reduce the number of beverage containers found in urban litter, and in marine
debris, was presented to the committee. Such schemes create behavioural change
as containers are diverted from landfill and litter by those seeking to redeem
the deposit. Further, it was argued that they reduce costs associated with
clean-up activities and landfill management.
The committee notes industry concerns regarding costs associated with the
implementation of refund-based schemes. The committee also notes the
alternative models proposed by the beverages industry.
However, the committee accepts the evidence that CDSs provide a
cost-effective and efficient mechanism to successfully reduce the volume of
beverage containers found in the marine environment. The committee is of the
view that the Australian Government should actively encourage the
implementation of container deposit schemes by states and territories which
have not already done so.
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