A City of Sydney trial of reverse vending machines that could form the backbone of a state-wide container deposit scheme has proved a resounding success, attracting enthusiastic reviews on social media.
Just two of the machines that provide a monetary or other reward for bottles and cans – one at Circular Quay and another at Haymarket – have collected over 40,000 bottles since July.
The news will not please the beverage industry, which has been lobbying furiously against a scheme which would require a 10¢ payment for the return of bottles and cans. Such a scheme has operated in South Australia for 37 years.
Coca-Cola Amatil unsuccessfully challenged in court the recent introduction of a container deposit scheme in the Northern Territory. A NSW Liberal MP has claimed she was threatened by the drinks industry with an adverse advertising campaign in the 2011 election if she supported a deposit scheme.
The Baird government is actively considering a container deposit scheme and has met in recent months with Coca-Cola, Lion Nathan and CUB as well as Clean Up Australia, Greenpeace and the Boomerang Alliance.
A container deposit scheme is estimated to save Australian councils $78 million a year in waste management costs. A billion plastic bottles go to landfill in Australia each year. One in three pieces of litter are bottles and cans – every year 30,000 are left on Bondi Beach.
The Sydney machines being trialled offer as the reward a food truck voucher, a chance to win tickets to Dawes Point on New Year's Eve or a donation to charity. One person in five chooses a charity. The trial will run for another nine months with the city then to consider permanently installing machines at littering hotspots.
"It's terrific that Sydneysiders have embraced the idea," Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.
"That's 40,000 containers that can now be recycled, turning rubbish into a resource and keeping our streets and waterways clean and beautiful."
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