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MAV Opinion Editorial - Call to improve recycling and reduce litter

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With the shift to takeaway dining, especially during lockdown last year, it seems a lot of the messaging about avoiding waste and using reusable cups and containers has been forgotten.

Councils have observed an increase in waste and recycling in kerbside bins as well as in public place litter bins. There has also be increased contamination within recycling bins and increased illegal dumping.

It’s now time to remind everyone that recycling is more than just putting something in the recycling bin. We also need to think about what we are using.  Too many products, and too much product packaging, are still made from virgin materials.

We need education campaigns from both Federal and State governments about the importance of waste avoidance, especially now that COVID-19 restrictions have eased.

We also think it's critical to introduce product stewardship programs for waste-producing products. These place the responsibility for waste impacts on manufacturers and importers.  It ensures there is a financial incentive to avoid waste through better design.

Product stewardship is an area the Commonwealth Government could make a huge difference. To date they haven't done enough.

A step in the right direction will be the implementation of a Victoria-wide Container Deposit Schemes (CDS). A CDS is one form of product stewardship that has been successfully implemented around the world and throughout Australia.

They are popular because they make sense. They improve recycling behaviour, reduce litter, and provide recyclers with a clean stream of material.

A well-designed and implemented CDS can increase the proportion of material recovered and available for reuse, remanufacture and recycling, and attach a price to products that better reflects whole-of-lifecycle impacts as well as provide opportunities for community organisations to generate revenue.

In recent years, the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) has taken an increasingly active role advocating for waste and resource recovery.

China’s decision to severely restrict importation of recyclable materials sent shockwaves through Victoria’s and several other jurisdictions’ recycling sectors, ultimately impacting kerbside recycling services.

So, it’s not surprising that the MAV and Councils have long advocated for a CDS in Victoria.

This scheme is so important that the MAV made sure the introduction of a container deposit scheme was one of the five key actions called for from the State Government as part of our Rescue our Recycling Action Plan.

We welcomed the release of the Victorian Government’s discussion paper late last year on the design of the scheme and are keen to ensure the scheme’s design maximises recovery of containers and provides for a network of accessible and convenient collection points right across the state.

The State Government’s draft plan ensures that the design of the scheme provides for a network of accessible and convenient collection points right across the state.  Ease of access to collection points is regarded as the number one factor in the success of any CDS.

We think the Victorian Government should also negotiate with their New South Wales and South Australian counterparts for equitable arrangements for border communities to access a CDS.

The government’s proposal for a network operator that is independent of the beverage industry and incentivised to collect as many containers as possible is positive and in line with the MAV’s preferred model for the scheme.

This is because we want to see the scheme capture as many different types of containers as possible, including wine and spirit bottles – so that we finally move toward a system where the costs of recycling are borne by those producing and consuming the goods.

Victoria has a great opportunity to learn from the experience of others and as we’ve said before, build a CDS that is the envy of the nation.

This opinion editorial was published on the 13 February and appeared in the Ballarat Courier, Bendigo Advertiser, Border Mail and the Warrnambool Standard.