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Glass Recycling Scheme fails to deliver

Associate Minister for the Environment pedalling industry propaganda as Glass Recycling Scheme fails to deliver


Scott Simpson, the Associate Minister for the Environment, has been called out by waste and recycling experts after falsely claiming New Zealand was recycling 73% at a glass recycling programme function last week.

Product stewardship advocate and recycling expert Warren Snow says New Zealand is not recycling 73% at all and would be lucky to be achieving a 50% glass recycling rate – and less than 40% for all beverage containers.

“Independent research shows the true recycling rate is only just over 50% and it is likely, due to skewed production and importation figures, the recycling rate is probably considerably lower than 50%.”

“The Packaging Forum may be pulling the wool over the Minister’s eyes but I don’t think there’s a council or recycler in New Zealand that believes their numbers,” Snow says.

Sustainable Coastlines CEO Sam Judd confirms the discrepancies in litter data being presented currently by the packaging industry.

"There is a lack of independent data around litter - the only data that's being used at the moment is from studies commissioned by the Packaging Forum; it is commissioned by industry, who have a vested interested in selling packaging," he says.

Snow, who has previously advised government on its waste strategy, says the real solution lies in a nationwide compulsory ‘bottle deposit’ - or ‘Container Deposit’ - scheme.

“A small 10 cent refundable deposit will ensure that over 85% of all beverage containers, not just glass, are recycled.”

“After 20 years of failed voluntary recycling schemes, it’s time the government stopped listening to industry lobby groups and brought in a mandatory container deposit scheme for beverage containers.”

“Such a system will cost the beverage producers less than one cent per container - that’s all they need to pay to keep their products off the streets, and out of landfills and the marine environment,” says Snow.

A recent study conducted by Sea Life Trust found 105 million single-use bottles were used every year in NZ, and an analysis of litter collected by Sustainable Coastlines between 2010 and 2016 showed they had picked up more than 52,691 beverage containers at a cost of around $1.03 per container to collect and dispose of.

Snows claims are backed up by Sandra Murray, Co-ordinator of the New Zealand Product Stewardship Council who says they have the research to show recycling is not actually being done, even if glass is being collected.

“Hundreds of thousands of tonnes of glass is collected at huge cost by South Island Councils, but almost all of it is dumped because the cost of freight back to the Owens Illinois glass works in Auckland is too high,” Murray says.

The Glass Packaging Forum, which represents many large beverage producers, glass manufacturers and importer, was established in 1996 to address New Zealand’s lackluster glass recycling performance and “to protect its members from mandatory product stewardship being introduced through legislation”.

Murray says the the Glass Packaging Forum’s figure, which Minister Simpson has been referring to in his recent endorsement of the forum’s work, came from a report the Forum put out nearly three years ago in an attempt to stem the growing support for bottle deposits among councils and MPs.

In reality, she says, the Packaging Forum’s projects were responsible for recycling less than .04% of all the glass its members put into the market.

“The Glass Packaging Forum only contribute $142,000 per annum for glass recycling – so it’s a real bargain to have a compliant Associate Minister who puts out their 3-year-old press release and expects nothing in return.”

“Meanwhile ratepayers pay almost 100% of the costs of dealing with over 830,000 cubic metres of beverage containers that are discarded into the litter stream, waterways, and landfill each year,” Murray says.
“Most people don’t realise how vast and costly the problem of wasted beverage containers is.”

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