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How to use Queensland’s new container recycling scheme

Chief executive officer Gayle Sloan said the rules setting up Queensland’s collection sites kept changing and software to provide the discounts was in dispute.

“To have 230 collection points up and running in 35 days is going to be quite challenging,” she said.

Some collection centres were yet to lodge development applications with local councils to begin operating, she said.

Alby Taylor, general manager of the Australian Beverages Council.

Alby Taylor, general manager of the Australian Beverages Council.

Alby Taylor, a 30-year  corporate executive and the man “working 20 hour days” for COEX on behalf of the Queensland Government, insists it will be ready.

He is the general manager of the Australian Beverages Council and is COEX’s first chairman.

“We are contracted to provide 232 collection points from November 1 and that increases to 306 by the next year,” he said.

This is Queenslanders being part of the change that they have been calling out to introduce.

Alby Taylor.

He admits some things – like landscaping, cement pours and construction work – are “beyond his control” and says two back-up plans are ready.

“But if we begin with 227, or 228 collection points, will that be a failure? I think not,” he said.

How will it work?

Queenslanders can use a simple mobile phone app – Containers for Change – to have the refund credited to their account.

At some counters in major cities and towns they will receive cash across the counter at a collection depot, or choose to receive a refund as a grocery shopping voucher discount.

But there will be variations across the state, which will be divided into 14 different regions.

In addition to getting cash for containers, consumers will be able to choose to donate to a charity.

A reverse vending machine in action.

A reverse vending machine in action.

Sporting groups, community groups, schools and surf lifesaving associations who contract to companies who have won tenders to operate container refund points across the 14 regions will receive the 10 cent deposit.

“They will also receive a portion of the 6 cent handling fee for each container as a fundraising vehicle,” Mr Taylor said.

“Better still, where a sporting or community groups contracts directly with COEX in their own right, they will then receive the 10 cent deposit, plus the full 6 cents from every container.”

According to COEX, more than 500 groups and associations have signed on to join this fundraising phase.

The company is exploring an option where people will be able to join specific fundraising groups using a six-digit code as a way to directly donate to their charity of choice.

How is it funded?

The Palaszczuk government loaned the scheme $35 million to act as a “float” so it could provide refunds straight away to consumers.

Mr Taylor said this would avoid the problems experienced in New South Wales, where the scheme needed a state government rescue package in its first 12 months

COEX is run by a seven-person board, with representatives from Coca Cola Amatil Lion, the beer maker behind James Squire, James Boag and  Queensland’s XXXX. Independent community representatives on the board include Townsville lawyer Dominique Tim So and Gold Coast accountant Andrew Clark.

Lion and Coca Cola Amatil also contributed a multi-million-dollar sum as a loan to establish COEX.

In Queensland, we use about 3 billion containers every year.

Leeanne Enoch.

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch knows the Queensland scheme is under the spotlight by other states.

“Our scheme has been developed following extensive consultation, and we are proud with the model that has been developed,” Ms Enoch said.

Queensland’s operators will be paid “in arrears” on actual containers recycled, not in advance on estimates of containers recycled as in some other states.

Why is Queensland doing it?

Ms Enoch said the scheme was designed to target waste that should be recycled, not sent to landfill.

“In Queensland, we use about 3 billion containers every year,” Ms Enoch said.

“These containers are the second most littered item in the state, despite the fact they can be easily recycled.

“The container refund scheme, branded Containers for Change, will encourage Queenslanders to recycle and reduce the amount of plastic pollution we see in the environment.”

How well do Queenslanders recycle?

In short, not well. Queensland’s 2017 Waste and Recycling report showed the state recycled only 44 per cent of the containers, cardboard and bottles not meant for landfill.

That rose only 0.5 per cent in 2016-17.

This container refund scheme is a deliberate attempt supported by both major political parties in Queensland Parliament in November 2017 to try to make a difference.

Containers of flavoured milk, pure fruit or vegetable juice, cask wine or cask water that hold more than 1 litre.

Non-eligible: Milk containers between 150ml and 3L.

Non-eligible: Milk containers between 150ml and 3L.

Where do I get my money?

There will be four different ways to swap containers for cash.

At shop-style refund points (roughly 24 per cent), containers will be counted by an operator, either manually over the counter or by a machine. You can receive cash, have the money placed in your account or donated to a local charity.

Bag drops will make up 63 per cent of sites, where  containers will dropped off in identified bags for the operator to count later. Refunds are paid by electronic funds to bank accounts once the return has been processed.

At reverse vending machines (12 per cent of points) containers go into machines, which automatically count them and offer a refund through money transfer or shopping voucher. They could be in shopping centre car parks or industrial centres.

Mobile refund points will make up just a touch more than 1 per cent of sites, mostly for one-off events such as concerts, community events or in regional or remote communities. The refund goes to shopping vouchers, to your account, or to a charity.

Will prices of drinks increase to cover the scheme?

Mr Taylor said beverage companies would increase prices.

“It is a matter for individual beverage companies, but it is likely prices will increase by between 10 and 15 cents per container from 1 November,” he said.

“Some people do not notice because of the wide range of discounts at pubs, liquor barns and retailers.

“The government has said we need to improve our environment and we need to improve our recycling rates.

Mr Taylor admitted not everything would be perfect on day one but said “we’re more than ready to give it a go.”

“We live in a different world now, we we will begin to see ‘cradle to grave’ recycling schemes.

“This is Queenslanders being part of the change that they have been calling out to introduce.”

Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times

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