Credit: Caitlin Howlett
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Around 15 billion bottles and cans are consumed every year in Australia, yet fewer than half of these are recycled – they either end up in landfill or littered.
The City of Sydney's Lord Mayor Clover Moore says that container deposits, where people are rewarded for recycling, is a simple solution to the problem of plastic pollution. “Container deposit schemes significantly increase recycling, reduce waste, and protect wildlife and the environment from plastic pollution.”
To show the city's support for a Container Deposit Scheme, a giant 10-cent coin sculpture has been positioned outside Customs House near Circular Quay.
The Lord Mayor says that, “we’re taking what action we can to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill, but will continue to lobby state and federal governments for reform on this issue.”
Earlier this week, the City’s Director of Operations, Garry Harding, launched a trial of two reverse vending machines, offering the public rewards for recycling.
At the launch, Harding made it clear that a main reason for the trial machines is to show that, “the City is calling for the introduction of a National Container Deposit scheme as a long-term, sustainable solution to this terrible problem we have.”
“Around the world, container deposit schemes have produced record recycling rates,” said Harding. “South Australia and the Northern Territory have record-high recycling rates by offering a simple ten-cent refund on bottles and cans, which are returned to reverse vending machines across their cities and towns.”
A study by the Local Government Association of NSW found that councils could save up to $183 million under a National Container Deposit scheme.
In addition, recycling rates are more than 90 per cent in states that have introduced container deposits. “That’s double what we have here in NSW,” says Harding.
“There can be no question – container deposit schemes significantly increase recycling, reduce waste and protect wildlife and the environment.”
“What we’re trying to do is to send a message to the NSW government to do what the Northern Territory and the South Australian governments have already done, because there are so many benefits of having a container deposit scheme," said Harding.
“Our newly installed 10-cent piece sculpture located in the front of Customs House is a stark reminder of the importance of introducing such a scheme in NSW,” said Harding.
Ian Kiernan from Clean-Up Australia was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1991 for his environmental efforts, and was named Australian of the Year in 1994. He explains how well reverse vending machines work when there are rewards: “In the Northern Territory, it’s just amazing to see the Aboriginal kids coming up with armfuls of containers, punching them all in, and then going across to the convenience stores to get their reward.”
“So instead of being a bit of rubbish on the street or on the beach, you’re seeing a resource being pushed through and being recovered,” said Kiernan.
Jeff Angel is from the Total Environment Centre, and leader of the Boomerang Alliance of 28 environment groups that have been campaigning for over ten years for national beverage container recycling.
“The benefits of a National Container Deposit system are enormous,” said Angel. “Not only do they reduce litter and increase recycling by 80 per cent, they help raise funds for charities – as they pick up litter or people donate to charities – and, they will save local government money."
Angel adds, “with the evidence mounting about the ugly litter and the enormous level of resource wastage from our beverage containers, and the amount of material that’s being wasted, we call on the NSW government to implement a container deposit system, to join with Victoria who already want to do it, and to bring about one of the biggest environmental advances this country will have ever seen.”
The eye-catching sculpture is made by Paper Moose productions, where over 50 per cent of the staff ride their bikes to work, even in winter. The structure is made with Thankyou Water bottles – where each bottle contributes to one month's supply of water to a developing country. The rest of the structure is steel, wood, and LED lighting for a low-energy night-time display.
"We're excited to be part of a great initiative and proud to be working alongside such a progressive council," said Reese Geronimo from Paper Moose. "We're also currently working with City of Sydney on a Zero Waste campaign, using recyclables as puppets to promote more effective recycling."
There's talk of the sculpture being donated to a non-government organisation or loaned to other states to promote the same initiative.
The structure will be on display outside Customs House in Sydney until 3 July.