'Return and earn': Kiwis may soon get money back when recycling drinking bottles

Kiwis may soon receive 10 to 20 cents every time they recycle a used drinking bottle.

The news comes after the Government agreed on Wednesday to front up almost $1 million for the design and development of a beverage container scheme, in which people would get a deposit back when they recycle drinking bottles.

The scheme would apply to beverage containers such as plastic PET bottles and glass, Associate Minister for the Environment Eugenie Sage announced.

"Citizens, councils and stakeholders have been calling for a well-designed container return scheme to recover the millions of beverage containers used each year so they can be reused and recycled," says Sage.

The funding comes after Auckland Council and Marlborough District Council made a joint Waste Minimisation Fund application to the Government.

The two councils will now work with the Ministry for the Environment to develop the scheme right across the country. 

"If realised, this will be a major win for the environment, and an additional tool used to fight the growing waste problem in New Zealand," says Noel Jhinku, founder and trustee of Our Seas Our Future, an environmental group.

"We need systems that encourage and incentivise Kiwis to look at their trash through a different lens, one where waste becomes a commodity."

It is estimated around two billion glass, plastic, aluminium, paperboard and other single-use drink containers are sold each year in New Zealand. And while some of these are recycled, many are not. 

"Placing a value on containers means people ‘return and earn’ instead of disposing of containers, and councils receive a cleaner, less-contaminated stream of recyclables," says the programme's project manager George Fietje.

He says the two councils will present a comprehensive proposal by August 2020, and if approved the scheme would be ready for implementation in 2022.

Similar programmes overseas have been proven to reduce litter and increase the quality of recycling, says Marty Hoffart, chair of the Zero Waste Network.

"This may be one of the few times that Kiwis will be happy to embrace an Australian tradition as our own.

"Much of New Zealand’s recycling is still collected in commingled wheelie bins and public recycling bins, which can produce damaged and contaminated recycling. Introducing a container return scheme will help us shift to a better system in which the value of the recycled materials is protected."

According to the Government, the current recycling rate for beverage containers sits at around 50 percent, but that is hoped to rise to 80 percent or higher if the scheme is successful.


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