The glass bottles clink as they hit each other on the turns around the corners as they head to the Container for Change depot in Queensland – what we would call “pant” in Norway. I grew up recycling bottles, so it has bothered me living in a country without a scheme for it (until now). November last year saw the inception of the “Containers for Change” scheme, and here I am today, trialling it for my first time.
It’s called a Container Deposit Scheme, where the polluter pays for the beverage containers, and by returning the empty containers to a collection depot or a reverse vending machine, 10 cents is refunded by the beverage suppliers to the recycler. In this scheme, it cost more to produce litter and the motive of collecting bottles with a monetary value is an incentive to reduce our waste, which in turn means less to landfill (Planet Ark, 2018).
There are different schemes (or lack of) in the different states and territories of Australia. At one end of Australia in Victoria, they have trialled a scheme but have not moved forward with it to make a difference to our planet. However, in South Australia their recycling scheme has been going since 1977, and the results are phenomenal showing a 76.9% recycling rate. For more information on the other states and territories recycling schemes, you can view them here.
I live in Queensland, where up to 3 billion beverage containers are used every year and is the second most littered item (Queensland Government, 2019). At 1 November 2018, the state got their refund scheme Containers For Change, which has a current recycling rate of 44%. That is the lowest rate in the country (Envirobank Recycling, 2019). To put this into perspective: Norway, the country where I grew up, recycles 97% of plastic bottles and less than 1 % of the plastic bottles end up in the environment (Taylor, 2018).
It would show, that if I had done my research well enough, I would have known that there is an easy way, and a hard way to recycle my bottles. I am on my way to the “hard” one. There are a few people outside the recycling station and I am told to sit down in the waiting area. A few minutes pass before it is my turn. I step up with my single bag, and the bottle collector sorts my bottles in different boxes they are counted. First the plastic bottles, then the cans and then the glass ones. The quantities and categories are written down on a piece of paper as they are put away and I get the receipt when the job is done. I am sent to the counter where the cashier gives me the refund. Usually I have sent the bottles away into a machine, and never seen them again – today it felt a bit like stepping back in time (at least in to the machine).
I drive home, $2.40 dollars (14 NOK) richer. Out of curiosity I check how much value the bottles would have been in Norway: $7.85 AUD, which is the same as 48 NOK. Not that it matters. I drive home, feeling a bit richer after all but more satisfied that I have done good for the planet and knowing that we recycle bottles now. Better late than never.
A few days later I found out we have machines here as well (could you imagine – it’s worth checking out Tomra). Thanks to my local recycling friend, Bree, I know where to go next time. Bree is great by the way, and in the next post you can read about her bottle-project, lifestyle and thoughts about our environment – don’t miss out on that!
Envirobank Recycling (2019). Bottle and Can Recycling Queensland.
EPA (2019, 27 Feb). Container Deposits. https://www.epa.sa.gov.au/environmental_info/container_deposit
Planet Ark (2018). Container Deposit Schemes.
Queensland Government (2019, 18 jan). About Containers for Change. https://www.qld.gov.au/environment/pollution/management/waste/recovery/reduction/container-refund/container-refund-about
Taylor, M. (2018, 12 jul) Can Norway help us solve the plastic crisis one bottle at a time. The Guardian.