The delay was attributed to a need for further consultation with industry and councils on the scheme’s roll-out to avoid issues such as cannibalising kerbside recycling programs and determining what the end product of the recycled material would be.
The announcement is expected to be welcomed by municipal and industry bodies, who have been pressuring the government to introduce a scheme for many months. That push came to a head in August after recycling giant SKM was woundup, unable to repay debts of more than $5 million.
The City of Melbourne was among the more than 30 Victorian councils forced to dump more than 45 tonnes of recycling in landfill every day because of the SKM collapse.
Some councils had already been trialling their own schemes, including the City of Wyndham, which introduced a reverse vending machine where consumers could deposit drink cans and plastic bottles in exchange for rewards including movie tickets and prizes.
What form the state-wide program will take is not yet known.
A scheme has already been backed by the Victorian Waste Management Association and Coca-Cola Amatil.
But it attracted major opposition from the powerful hotels and gaming lobby, the Australian Hotels Association, arguing such a scheme would hit beer drinkers’ hip pocket by increasing prices.
A scheme was one of a number of recommendations out of a parliamentary inquiry into recycling and waste management.
A Parliamentary Budget Office analysis estimated the scheme would cost $9 million over four years and return $253.5 million though uncollected deposits.
South Australia’s cash-for-cans scheme, running since 1977, returned 80 per cent of cans and bottles in 2016/17.
NSW residents returned more than 900 million bottles and cans by November last year, the ABC reported, hampered by a slow rollout of reverse vending machines.
Jeff Angel, the director of environmental group Boomerang Alliance, previously told The Age the recycling programs were operating well interstate with unclaimed deposits funnelled back into operating the scheme.
He said figures showed the average price for non-alcoholic beverages increased by about 10¢ after the container deposit scheme was introduced in NSW while alcohol beverage prices rose by about 5¢.
“It’s working just as predicted and recycling of the resulting high-quality material is supporting new jobs and economic activity,” he said.
Tammy Mills is a Crime Reporter for The Age.