Returning empty bottles for a refund could be revived

Source: 1News

The Government has set aside nearly $1 million to help design and develop a nationwide beverage container return scheme as part of ongoing efforts to improve New Zealand's recycling system.

The Government yesterday announced that it would give $966,000 from the Waste Minimisation Fund after the Auckland Council and Marlborough District Council jointly applied for funding to investigate and design a container return scheme, Environment Minister Eugenie Sage said in a statement.

The project would see New Zealanders receive a refundable deposit upon returning their used drink containers to a designated collection area or drop-off point. The project would also aim to make it easier and more convenient to return containers anywhere in the country; design a cost-effective and efficient solution; improve the quality and marketability of recyclables; and create new opportunities for employment, community participation and fundraising for charities.

"Citizens, councils and stakeholders have been calling for a well-designed container return scheme to recover the millions of beverage containers used each year so they can be re-used and recycled," Ms Sage said.

"They would again become something of value, and we would see increased recycling and new opportunities for refilling. When consumers recycle their drink bottles, they would get a deposit back, which incentivises higher recycling rates.

"A container return scheme would require beverage containers - such as plastic PET bottles - to carry a refundable deposit, for example 10 to 20 cents (or more). The deposit is redeemed when the container is returned to a collection depot or other drop-off point."

The project will see the Auckland and Marlborough councils work with the Ministry for the Environment, as well as representatives from the beverage, packaging and recycling industries, other councils, retailers, charitable organisations, Māori, consumer representatives, and product stewardship groups, Ms Sage said.

The scheme is expected to result in a large increase in the number of returned and recycled beverage containers in New Zealand from "around 45 per cent – 58 per cent to 80 per cent or more," Ms Sage said.

Currently, an estimated 2 billion glass, plastic, aluminium, paperboard and other single use drink containers are consumed each year in New Zealand.

There are currently at least 40 container return schemes operating globally, with most Australian states, parts of Europe and the US also offering the scheme.

The project for the design of a container return scheme will be presented to the Government by August 2020.