Bottled up eco warrior

Green Lifestyle magazine

Few people take on an issue so intensely that it envelops them. But Lisa Wriley was so fascinated by beverage containers that she became one – a character called Bev the Bottle.


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Fighting tirelessly for a container deposit system, Lisa Wriley saw a way to get people’s attention, and got well out of her own comfort zone to do it.

“I don’t remember who told me this, but when I was a child I was told to ‘get my boots dirty and get involved’, and it’s always stuck with me,” muses Wriley in our chat at the Total Environment Centre (TEC) offices, where she has worked for just over two years.

And get involved she has, going to extraordinary lengths in her support of a national system for 10-cent refunds on drink containers. In the past 18 months, Wriley has distributed 60,000 postcards for people to sign and send to state environment ministers to show their support of a country-wide scheme.

Bev the Bottle’s first appearance was in Darwin in 2010 when the environment ministers met to discuss a national refundable deposit scheme. “I don’t know why, but I just thought that I had to go as a bottle!” says Wriley.

“I’m not really an acting kind of person, it’s just the most effective way to get people’s attention. And I could never have got as many postcards signed if I was just out there myself. So it serves a purpose, and it’s fun. It gets people smiling. Even if they are embarrassed for you, they’ll smile at you.”

“Our key campaign message is ‘eight billion wasted’. At the moment, even though we think we’re pretty good recyclers, only around 40 per cent of our containers, on average, get recycled. And because we consume and sell 13 billion, that leaves eight billion unaccounted for. So they’re ending up buried in landfill, or littering our landscape and beaches and washing into the ocean.”

South Australia started a beverage refund scheme in 1975 and their recycling rate is the best in the country – up to 85 per cent. “When the Northern Territory brought in their container deposit legislation last year, the beverage companies lobbied against it. But I figure if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. Can you imagine if Coca-Cola wanted to be part of the solution? It’d change everything! Every vending machine could also collect empties. Doing Bev the Bottle, I meet people from overseas who say, ‘Oh, it happens where I live, why don’t you have it here?’ So why are we in the dark ages?”

“Since pretending to be a bottle, I have this perspective that a refund on bottles is like an insurance policy that I’m going to be recycled,” says Wriley. “It guarantees that I will live forever, which is what recycling is all about.”

Wriley is a woman of conviction, too. “If it’s not this year, it has to be sometime, because we can’t just keep endlessly throwing away these bottles,” she says. “And now is the best chance we’ve had in a lifetime.”

Of the five national options currently being looked at by the environment ministers, two are container deposit systems. TEC supports the Boomerang Alliance’s submission, which you can check out and show your support for, at www.boomerangalliance.org.au. The ministers are expected to make a decision in April 2013.