Finally, the chance to sell your own rubbish

FROM November 1 this year most used cans, bottles and cardboard drink cartons will be worth 10 cents each to anyone who wants to collect.

It has taken a while for Queensland to accept this initiative, designed to reduce litter and landfill.

South Australians are well used to the concept of cash for cans, with container deposit legislation being in place for more than 40 years.

In 2006, the scheme was even declared a heritage icon by the National Trust of South Australia, with the latest figures showing about 600 million drink containers are recycled every year and 80 per cent of the state’s waste is diverted from landfill.

A Clean Up Australia opinion poll conducted 20 years ago found that 86 per cent of Queenslanders supported the idea, but when the argument was raised in parliament there were some very vocal naysayers.

Beer companies and soft drink manufacturers said they would have to up the price on their products to pass the 10 cent deposit on to the consumer, while politicians said we already had a perfectly good council recycling program in place. In 2008, then sustainability and climate change minister Andrew McNamara commented that Queensland should not take action that could “undermine the profitability of those systems by striking out on its own”. 

The refund scheme allows for recycling plastic, cardboard and foil containers but the powers that be seemed unwilling to relinquish their control of recycled glass bottles and aluminium cans, which are worth more.

Recycling firms have in the past sold Australia’s recycled garbage overseas but when China imposed a ban on certain plastic and paper recyclables earlier this year, all that sorting, shredding and sterilising became much less profitable.

How effective is the current recycling scheme anyway, when the current estimates say that nationally about 15,000 bottles and cans every minute are thrown into landfill or end up as litter?

Queensland’s recycling rate is one of the lowest in the land, sitting at 44 per cent  compared to a national average of more than 50 per cent so it is fair to say some of us have failed to embrace the idea.

Consumers should absolutely have the chance to reap the rewards of being ecologically responsible and if the scheme reduces the number of beer bottles and soft drink cans tossed in the gutter, we are on a winner.