Op Ed - Other states see through Victoria’s plan for households to bear cost of glass recycling

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Let communities cash in.

That’s the message the Municipal Association of Victoria (MAV) is sending the Victorian Minister for Environment and Climate Action ahead of the Environment Ministers’ Meeting in Brisbane today.

With harmonisation of container deposit schemes (CDS) on the agenda, the Victorian Government is rumoured to be the only state or territory opposed to expanding schemes to include more beverage containers, including wine and spirit bottles.

Having dragged its feet as the last state to commit to a container deposit scheme, the Victorian Government now appears to stand alone in opposition to improving schemes nationwide.

The MAV and Victorian councils strongly support the expansion of CDS and have consistently argued that the Victorian scheme should include more container types – such as wine and spirit bottles – when it commences in 2023.

While ignoring this, the Victorian Government also wants councils across the state to provide all households with a fourth kerbside bin for glass, regardless of the costs and benefits for individual regions.

The focus on a fourth bin – as opposed to an improved CDS – means ratepayers will bear the cost of recycling these glass items, instead of it being on the beverage industry.

A number of councils are already being forced to consider what important community services they would cut or where they can raise fees to fund the Victorian Government’s mandated additional bin.

No other state in the country has a preference for a separate household bin for glass, and the Victorian Government has repeatedly refused to share any analysis that informed its decision, despite the multimillion-dollar cost to councils and communities.

Last weekend, NSW became the second state, after South Australia, to publish a cost benefit analysis that clearly shows expanding their container deposit scheme to include more bottle types provides a far better return on investment than a separate kerbside bin for glass.

In its discussion paper, the NSW Government noted that the costs of a separate kerbside bin for glass would be “significantly greater” than expanding their container deposit scheme, with the costs “being almost equal to the benefit, leaving a marginal net benefit overall.”

Likewise, an economic analysis by the South Australian Government in 2021 found that an expanded container deposit scheme is “a more efficient and beneficial way to remove glass containers from the kerbside bin system, reducing material going to landfill, and increasing more recovery to high-value products”.

With deliberate lack of disclosure in Victoria, it is very clear to us that the State knows their approach doesn’t deliver, yet they are willing for communities to bear the cost, rather than face the facts.

Victorians already facing major cost of living pressures. Governments need to focus on the most efficient way to recycle glass, and that is clearly a comprehensive container deposit scheme.

The MAV will continue to call on the Victorian Government to follow the leadership of New South Wales and South Australia in committing to a more ambitious CDS, and leave it to councils and communities to decide where and when a fourth bin makes sense.