“We are seeing the intensification of climate impacts. We need real, practical solutions for emissions reductions right now. One of the easiest things we can do is to implement a return scheme on beverage containers that would offer a .20-.30 cent refund for each container returned,” says Dorte Wray, Zero Waste Network general manager.

In December 2022, Cabinet began considering the implementation of a container return scheme (CRS) for the more than two billion beverage containers consumed each year in New Zealand. These schemes operate around the world where they have immediately and positively impacted recycling rates and reduced landfilling and littering. There are also major climate benefits that can be realised from introducing one.

A CRS would create significant C02 reductions and marked reductions in plastics entering our waterways and oceans. There are 2.23 billion beverage containers purchased each year, most made of fossil fuel-based plastics, and energy-intensive processes such as glass and aluminum. Including a requirement for mandatory minimum recycled content in new single use beverage containers would be a game changer.

In California, the law requires plastic beverage containers subject to a deposit to include 15% recycled content by 2022, 25% by 2025, and 50% by 2030. The European Union has a similar plan in place.

Under a mandatory CRS, at least 85% of all containers would be recovered from the litter and waste streams, with the potential to create hundreds of new businesses, up to 2,400 new jobs and large cost savings for ratepayers and local authorities.

No other single waste stream could be managed so easily by such a proven method as a mandatory CRS where recycling rates overseas of 85 – 95% are common.

“We want to see a Container Return Scheme that includes refillables as part of the system because this would further reduce emissions. Recycling valuable materials is still based on single-use containers, and is hugely wasteful of energy. Local refill systems that are easy to use and convenient can become the norm – as used to be the case with milk and fizzy drinks. Building them into the CRS just makes sense and future-proofs the system.”

“There is overwhelming support for a container returns scheme in New Zealand with so many positives. We just need the government to follow through on its plans to deliver on waste and climate change.”