By ERWIN CHLANDA
The jury is still out in the debate whether the environment will be the winner in the introduction of the new container deposit scheme.
The Alice Springs Town Council’s cans and bottles buy-back initiative makes way next week for the government mandated container deposit scheme which started on January 3.
At the moment the council pays 5c for any can or bottle people drop off at the council’s depot, although some conditions apply.
The new scheme, paying 10c per item, doesn’t cover containers sold before January 3 nor does it accept wine and spirit bottles.
But Stewart Pritchard, the owner of the depot set up for the new scheme, says the range of containers is greater than the council’s scheme.
He estimates that the bottles not covered by it amount to just 5% of the container volume.
Under the new scheme containers are accepted only if they bear the markings 10c SA, 10c SA/NT or 10c NT. This will include beer and soft drink cans, plastic and cardboard containers, including mixers and energy drinks, glass stubbies and beer bottles, but not, for example, wine and spirit bottles or two litre milk containers. Mr Pritchard estimates his firm will be receiving 12 million to 14 million containers a year, paying out $1.2m to $1.4m.
The council’s scheme has received 17 million cans and bottles since its scheme started in July, 2009.
Many of these items were collected from public places, making a significant dint into the town’s litter problem. The collection point for the new scheme is provided by Territory Recycling Depot in 106 Smith Street.
Mr Pritchard says the scheme is modeled on the one long in use in South Australia. The consumer pays an extra 20c per container. He gets back half of that if he takes the empty container to the depot. The other 10c is split between the manufacturer and the depot operator. It’s a work in progress, says Mr Pritchard: For example, to apply the SA scheme in the NT isn’t entirely fair, because here the containers have to be separated into 24 categories whereas in SA there are only eight separations. The new scheme has no significant financial input from the NT Government whereas it financially supported the council’s scheme, contributing $600,000 over the scheme’s life. The council put in $346,000, says council CEO Rex Mooney.
This includes, from the 2008/09 financial year to the present, $56,000 in salaries and $89,000 in overtime.
The total cost of the scheme was $1.066m, including $834,000 paid out to the collectors – 5 cents for each of the nearly 17 million items.
The income was $119,000 for selling the cans as scrap and the NT Government’s $600,000.
Will there be more use for the glass crushing machine bought especially for the council scheme at a cost of $800,000?
“The glass crusher will remain an important component of council’s facilities at the landfill, particularly with the upcoming redevelopment. This facility will play a vital role in council’s future recycling strategy,” says a council spokesman.
Some people are unhappy about the new scheme. A woman, who spoke to the News on condition of not being named, says she and her husband collected 50,000 cans.
All had been dumped in public places. They won’t get $5000 for them, as they expected, because these cans may not have been bought before January 3, and may not carry the required markings.
They can still – until March 3 – get $2500 from the council, provided that they can get 100 friends to drop in 500 cans each (the maximum allowed per person), and provided that all these friends live in the Municipality of Alice Springs and the cans came from the Municipality of Alice Springs of Alice Springs.
The conditions attached to either scheme seem to take little account of that fact that the couple’s work has liberated Alice Springs of a huge amount of rubbish. If protecting the environment is the objective, why attach all sorts of conditions?
The question of dates under the new scheme is causing tensions.
For example, does a use-by date of January 2, 2012 printed on a can prove it was bought before January 3, 2012?
Could it not have been old stock in the liquor store, purchased on January 3?
For that matter, could the same not have been the case with a use-by date of December 1, 2012 – or whatever?
There are also batch numbers on the cans, which can be tracked to stores and purchases, but how long would it take to check the batch numbers of 50,000 cans? Mr Pritchard says clients generally accept the new rules but some try to pass off old cans for new ones – including some that are faded from exposure to sun. How quickly does a VB can fade?
Mr Pritchard says his firm is giving a fair amount of latitude at the moment, and most customers are reasonable.
Up to 20,000 containers a day have been redeemed.
At least one client was not happy: “I’m going to take the stuff to the f…ing dump,” was his answer after an argument over old vs new cans.
A compromise has now been found, says Mr Pritchard, and it will all be easier when the pre-January 3 stock is used up and only clearly qualifying containers will be handed in.
What will not change is that many bottles cannot be redeemed: those not qualifying under the new scheme can be taken to the Smith Street depot or the council dump. But you won’t get a cent for them.
How many will re-appear as dangerous litter, again blighting this town?
Meanwhile the government’s project manager Craig Ingram said: “We are disappointed the beverage industry in the Territory has chosen to increase its prices and blame the scheme.
“Territorians are encouraged to shop around for best prices.
“If you have questions about a price increase on containers as a result of the Cash for Containers scheme and feel that a retailer is providing misleading or deceptive statements about why the cost of a beverage has increased under the scheme, please contact Consumer Affairs on 1800 019 319 or visit us online.”
Photo: Tony Satour delivering empties to the council recycling scheme closing next week: Many glass bottles will not attract a refund under the NT Government mandated scheme.