The New Zealand Product Stewardship Council (NZPSC) welcomes Minister Eugenie Sage’s announcement this morning that work has started to design a container return scheme (CRS) for New Zealand, following an application from Auckland Council and Marlborough District Council earlier this year.

“Alongside community groups and many in the zero waste sector, the NZPSC has been advocating for a nationwide bottle deposit scheme for Aotearoa for years. The announcement this morning takes us one big step closer, especially because it ties in so well with the Government’s recent proposal to declare beverage packaging a priority product under the Waste Minimisation Act” says NZPSC Coordinator, Hannah Blumhardt.

“This is a big deal – New Zealand uses about 2.23 billion beverage containers a year. Yet only about 40 percent get returned for recycling. A mandatory nationwide bottle deposit scheme could push bottle return rates as high as 90 percent. This would mean far better recycling rates and much less plastic escaping into our environment.”

In her announcement this morning, the Minister also noted that CRS could mean new opportunities for bottle refilling.

“We’re really pleased to see the Minister acknowledge this side of CRS because it’s not just about more recycling. If we can increase reuse rates of bottles, this will move New Zealand’s waste management practices higher up the waste hierarchy, meaning better energy, resource and economic efficiency.”

The NZPSC welcomes the details of the Minister’s announcement about how the CRS will be designed.

“While we welcome this announcement, we note that not all CRS are created equal. Earlier this year the NZPSC released a report, Happy Returns, which outlined our preferred model for a scheme” says Blumhardt.

“One of the most important things for ensuring we get the best scheme possible, is who is involved in designing it. We are encouraged by the Minister’s express statement that the scheme will be designed with a wide range of groups, not only the beverage, packaging and recycling industries, but also councils, retailers, charitable organisations, Māori, consumer representatives, and product stewardship groups.”

“This really increases the chance that we’ll end up with a scheme that maximises bottle return rates and community benefits, alongside economic and financial efficiency.”

“However, removing cost barriers to participation for some stakeholders, such as community groups, will be essential for ensuring the community voice is heard. A proportion of the funding for this project must go towards funding these stakeholders to take part on an equal footing to others” says Blumhardt.

The Minister’s announcement makes clear that in addition to minimising waste and increasing recycling, the project also aims to create new opportunities for employment, community participation and fund-raising for charities.

“By including this focus, it means that not only will the CRS shift greater responsibility towards the beverage industry to deal with the waste caused by their products, but we’ll also see the CRS create positive outcomes for communities too.”

“The Minister’s expectation that the proposed scheme will be presented to Government by August 2020 is also very heartening. Although the road to this point has been a long one for the community groups, organisations and individuals who have worked tirelessly to bring bottle deposits to New Zealand, it seems that the Government intends to prioritise this now.”

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