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New Zealand is preparing to introduce a national container return scheme

A container return scheme (CRS) will soon be introduced in New Zealand, with Associate Minister for the Environment, Eugenie Sage, announcing that work is underway to create a fit-for-purpose scheme.

Speaking at the WasteMINZ conference in Hamilton in late September, Sage said beverage containers would again become something of value and a CRS would see increased recycling and new opportunities for refilling.

“The CRS project will help New Zealanders to make a difference in reducing waste. A CRS would require beverage containers – such as plastic PET bottles – to carry a refundable deposit, for example 10 to 20 cents (or more). The deposit is redeemed when the container is returned to a collection depot or other drop-off point.”

Sage said through the investigation and design stage the government can learn from the best international models, while designing a scheme that meets New Zealand’s geographic and societal needs.

An estimated two billion glass, plastic, aluminium, paperboard and other single use drink containers are consumed each year in New Zealand.

“Overseas experience shows a refundable deposit puts the value back into recycling and results in a big increase in returned containers. A scheme could lift recovery and recycling rates for numbers of beverage containers in New Zealand from around 45 per cent – 58 per cent, to 80 per cent, or more,” Sage said.

The Ministry for the Environment received a joint Waste Minimisation Fund application for the design and development of a national CRS from the Auckland Council and Marlborough District Council. The project will be supported by Government funding of nearly $1 million ($966,000) from the Waste Minimisation Fund.

The successful application will see the two councils work with the Ministry for the Environment and representatives from the beverage, packaging and recycling industries, councils, retailers, charitable organisations, Māori, consumer representatives, and product stewardship groups.

The project will design a comprehensive CRS proposal for New Zealand to be presented to the government by August 2020.

In Australia, Victoria is the only state that hasn’t committed to a CRS. Despite an ongoing recycling crisis in the state, and pressure from local government, the Victorian government hasn’t announced any commitments.