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Comprehensive Container Return Scheme Major Achievement

The Zero Waste Network is thrilled that Cabinet will consider a container return scheme before Christmas.

“We congratulate Minister David Parker and the Ministry for the Environment team in shepherding through the container return scheme to the Cabinet stage. It has huge public and cross party support.* It is a common sense idea already in use in so many places in the world. Now, we just need to get it done and implemented,” said Sue Coutts of the Zero Waste Network.

“A comprehensive container return scheme (CRS) would dramatically improve recycling of the 2+ billion beverage containers used in New Zealand each year with a minimum .20 cent deposit attached to each container.”

“At the moment beverage container recycling is heavily subsidised by ratepayers and councils as well as recyclers. It is reasonable to expect that the cost of recycling is covered by those that benefit from the sale of the product and the packaging it comes in - the producers.”

“A recent Reloop survey showed people are happy to pay 20c and even 30c because they understand this is a deposit they will be refunded. If we are going to introduce a deposit then it needs to be one that gives people a real incentive to do the right thing, take their empty containers back and pick up ones they find lying around. A high deposit rate would ensure that this happens.”

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“Unfortunately vested industry groups are still pushing hard to exclude glass from the scheme. The recent report by Grant Thornton, commissioned by the Glass Packaging Forum, is straight out of the industry playbook. Putting up an alternative at the last minute is a common tactic used by industry to delay progressive policy”

“It isn't surprising that industry groups are advocating for their own solution that would still see local councils and ratepayers subsidising the industry by paying the lion’s share of the cost of glass recycling.”

“Their alternative proposal doesn’t ring true and contains a critical weakness: their model is basing the levy on weight at $200 a tonne when volume and number of units are the critical drivers of cost in the collection system.”

“The important components identified in their report can be used with any scheme: increasing recycled content, increasing use of refillables, requiring separation of recyclables at source, upgrading the beneficiation** plant and reducing the amount of single use glass packaging coming onto the market in absolute terms are all useful strategies and need to be deployed.”

Overseas evidence*** shows a container return scheme is the best tool available for collecting high quantities of glass bottles for reuse and high-quality recycling.

“Leaving one material out creates an unfair, unequal playing field for different industries, increases the cost of the system for communities and councils, and makes any container return scheme less effective.”

“Industry groups say their own schemes are better. But the evidence to date shows industry-run schemes have not worked. The glass recovery rate has remained more or less the same over the past decade.”

“A CRS will lift recycling rates, increase the quality of collected material across the board, shift revenue into the recovery side of the system, and create an opportunity to grow reusable/refillable beverage packaging solutions. All these outcomes will lower emissions, build community resilience, and reduce waste, strongly supporting New Zealand’s essential transition to a low-carbon, circular economy.”

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