‘Stop Trashing Australia’ Greenpeace campaign
Plastic pollution is a major issue across our country today. Australians use between 13 – 14 billion drinks containers each year, and unfortunately the recycling schemes aren’t in place to re-manufacture or re-use the plastic bottles. Recycling does take place, but only for less than half of the containers we use, and only South Australia has a scheme in place for container collection. The rest ends up filling space in landfills, littering the streets, parks, and oceans.
What’s the problem?
These plastic containers become hazardous to many marine animals and birds. Not just in Australia, but all the world has been affected by marine plastic pollution. Up to a third of the plastic comes from the beverage industry. For the birds and animals, the plastic is known to be the cause of their injuries and deaths when they mistake it for prey and eat it. This includes whales, dolphin, turtles, seals, and many others.
According to Dr Jennifer Lavers, whose research focuses on the impacts of plastics on marine life, up to 85% of Australian marine birds are affected by plastics.
Is there a solution?
There is a solution to the problems caused by plastic pollution, and it is as simple as a container deposit scheme (CDS) – also known as ‘cash for containers’.
With a container deposit scheme in action, there is an incentive for returning those containers for recycling. It’s just as easy as purchasing the drink, you pay a 10 cent deposit which is included in your purchase price, and then you return your container to a designated recycling agent to receive your cash back.
“Beverage container recycling rates are appallingly low in most states. 40% of the rubbish we collect on Clean Up Australia Day is bottles and cans, but in South Australia, where they have container deposits, they are just 8.4% of the rubbish we collect” – Ian Kiernan AO Founder of Clean Up Australia and past Australian of the year.
South Australia has had this program in place for over 30 years and today, 81% of their bottles are recycled, around twice the rate of other states.
According to CleanUp Australia, the community service sector will earn around $70 million a year to re-invest into local communities if we adopt this approach nationally. A Newspoll survey from 2012 showed cash for containers is supported by over 80% of the Australian public.
So why isn’t the scheme in place?
The major soft drink companies like Coca Cola, Lion and Schweppes don’t want the deposit scheme put in place and spend considerable resources lobbying and on advertising campaigns fighting the imposition of these schemes. Coca Cola has even gone so far as to take the North Territory Government to court in order to shut the NT scheme down. The Northern Territory launched their scheme in January 2012 and was reporting that millions of containers were being diverted from landfills and the environment, however earlier this year Coca Cola successfully launched a legal challenge against the scheme, with the reasoning that they didn’t want Northern Territory households to have to pay up to 20 cents extra for their drinks.
It is unclear what is the real reason they would be opposed, given all the benefits of the scheme, but it is possible that it is due to a perception within Coke (and there are anecdotes confirming this) that any interference with its operations, packaging, etc, is an unnecessary government intervention, or perhaps these beverage companies want to avoid the complexities of having to adjust to a new system, believing they have other commercial priorities, preferring the simplicity of current arrangements where councils take the responsibility.
Coca Cola have gone so far as to create myths about the increased costs for the consumer, and other misinformation about CDS, to try and scare consumers away from the idea. In fact, according to CleanUp Australia, a national recycling refund program would cut current local government waste and recycling costs by $32 million.
You can read more on the myths created by Coca Cola and the truth about them on the Greenpeace site: http://www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/news/oceans/The-benefits-and-well-benefits-Your-12-step-guide-to-effective-recycling-in-Australia/
What can we do to help?
This year, state governments are coming together to discuss implementing a recycling refund scheme nationwide. We can help out by telling Coca Cola and the beverage industry to stop trashing Australia and let our leaders know how much we want a scheme to keep our streets and beaches clean and to protect our oceans and animals.