An open letter to Victorian Ministers and all Victorians
8 September 2020
Victoria will soon have its very own container deposit scheme (CDS), taking Australia closer to a national network, providing an essential service and benefit to communities across the country. This is a significant step for Victoria, and it is one that the waste and resource recovery sector supports; the advantages of a well-run CDS are numerous and proven – it maximises recovery and recycling, reduces litter and plastic pollution, creates jobs, and generates new revenue opportunities for householders, community, and charity groups.
Victoria has an edge many other states that have gone before it did not - it has the advantage of hindsight. Victoria can leverage off the experience - some decades-long - of the jurisdictions with similar schemes, including SA, NSW, the ACT, Queensland and the NT. And it is imperative that Victoria learns from these jurisdictions by picking the very best elements of existing schemes to ensure the state has a best practice CDS while avoiding some of the pitfalls. It is an opportunity we hope will not go to waste.
Two (2) significant features of a best practice CDS that will drive the increase in the return of containers are the ease of access to redemption sites and facilities, and community engagement. Both of these can best be achieved if the scheme design reflects and supports the same goals as the Victorian government and the community – and that is recycling and maximising access.
There are multiple important players with distinct responsibilities in a best practice CDS, including the beverage industry, which can play a part in the governance arena and ensure equitable distribution of costs across the sector. However, to drive accessibility and community engagement, a strong scheme requires a recycling-driven approach where the governance body establishing and administering the scheme is not conflicted by a primary objective of minimising costs to beverage suppliers.
Victoria should take this opportunity to develop a scheme that is fully aligned with the government and community objective of delivering the highest quality, most accessible scheme. The most expensive scheme, from a customer’s perspective, is one in which they cannot easily redeem their container for the refund amount. Those involved in the design and administration of the collection network must have a natural incentive and desire to publicise and grow the scheme, including its network of redemption locations.
The NSW/ACT scheme provides an example of a structure designed to manage the inherent conflict of interest associated with higher return rates leading to increased costs for beverage suppliers. In both these schemes, the network operators are incentivised to maximise container return rates and have exceeded minimum collection point targets.
It is only when the players who have complementary objectives to the Victorian government and community are matched to the right roles through an open and transparent appointment process will we see the biggest impact of a CDS for the Victorian community. The Victorian government has a responsibility and obligation to its people to provide the best possible CDS for Victoria. It should not simply be handed to the beverage industry to design and deliver.
Chief Executive Officer
Waste Management and Resource Recovery Association of Australia